It’s safe to assume that around the COVID-19 pandemic, we can all agree that business as usual is out the window. What does this mean for brands and social media? How often should brands post and what should brands be posting?
To answer those questions, ListenFirst looked at 5 different sets of brands to see if they’re posting less since the coronavirus outbreak entered our lives.
Posts By The Russell 3000 Were Down With Some Notable Exceptions
Looking at the brands in the Russell 3000 Index, used to benchmark the entire U.S stock market, the volume of posts those brands shared between March 2-8, 2020 decreased by -12% from that same time a year ago. Meanwhile, between March 9-15, 2020 there were -18% less posts shared by the Russell 3000 brands than there were during those same days in 2019.
Essentially what happened is as the coronavirus spread, top brands across industries have become slightly more hesitant to post on social platforms with some notable exceptions. For example, March 9-15, 2020 was the period when every sports and entertainment event under the sun was being canceled, meaning The New York Times Company and CBS Corporation which are on the Russell 3000 had a lot of news to post about. The New York Times posted 1,183 times during that week, up from 969 posts between March 9-15,2019 while CBS shared 18% more posts in the same time period.
Also notable on the Russell 3000, Trip Advisor posted 157 new social media posts between March 9-15, 2020 compared to 68 posts during that same week in 2019. What they’re doing is sharing a pinned Tweet or post on Facebook and Twitter on what you need to know about the COVID-19 outbreak, and otherwise primarily keeping to their normal schedule of sharing content about travel destinations.
It Appears Movies Are Going To Be Posting A Lot Less On Social Media
At first it looked like the coronavirus was having no effect on how often movies would post on social media, for instance between March 2-8, 2020, posts about films were up by 36% compared to the same time period in 2019. However, between March 9-15, 2020 there were -28% less posts published by film studios than during March 9-15, 2019 and there’s every indication that the volume of posts is going to plummet going forward.
Some major cities have already banned movie theaters from operating, and at this point, the base assumption is that social media is no longer a tool for promoting new releases so much as a platform for sharing the best available information about when a film might come out, assuming the need for social isolation ends. Some films have definitely been more active in updating their social media fans than others.
On March 12, Fast 9 shared the news with fans the release will be delayed one year on platforms like Instagram. However, the release of The New Mutants was delayed indefinitely on the same day and their Twitter page is still listing the movie’s release date as April 3, 2020 while their Facebook page is using a previous release date of August 2, 2019. Meanwhile, Mulan has shared a note by director Niki Caro about the movie being delayed by the coronavirus, even though a pinned Tweet still has March 27 still listed as the release date.
With the stream of new releases being halted without any advance notice or preparation, it will take some time for movie marketers to regroup, and create a new strategy for social media messaging. Movie marketers should focus on creating a clear and consistent message on social media, so consumers have as much correct information as possible as when these anticipated movies will actually be released.
Fashion Is Posting Slightly Less Often Around The Coronavirus
During the week of March 2-8, 2020, ListenFirst analyzed 2,461 fashion brands and found that they posted 20,918 times on social media, which is -16% less than the volume they posted during that time in 2019. Similarly, between March 9-15, 2020, these fashion brands shared 16,043 social media posts, which was down -11% from those dates in 2019.
March 9-15, 2020 was the period when fashion brands have been most vocal on social media about the coronavirus, in many cases about the necessity of having to announce their stores were closing for the time being. Glossier’s Instagram post that generated 133,278 responses was representative of how fashion brands are communicating around the outbreak. The brand shared a picture of the text message announcing all their retail stores would be closed for at least two weeks, and clarified in responses to comments that they would be paying their retail employees during the closure.
Other variations in the approach to coronavirus-related communications included Reformation asking their fans if they want a break from hearing about new collections in an Instagram post that generated 31,548 responses. Versace added on Instagram a picture and personal message from Donatella Versace thanking a Chinese delegation arriving in Rome with medical equipment in—this post generated 133,475. ASOS, Free People and Victoria Beckham urged people to take care of each other and stay safe.
The social media audience is still responding to fashion posts focusing on style and luxury, but given the high level of engagement that posts relating to the coronavirus are receiving, it appears that fashion brands should also acknowledge the events happening around them. Focusing on empathy, clearly and plainly explaining closure plans and compensation for employees, as well as highlighting online options have shown to be best practices for fashion brands talking about the coronavirus on social media.
Retail Is Posting Less, But More About The Coronavirus
Looking at 88 Top U.S. Retailers, 1,812 posts were shared on social media the week of March 2-8, 2020 which was down -16% from the amount of posts they shared during March 2-8, 2019. Additionally, Top U.S. Retailers uploaded 1,581 posts during March 9-15, 2020, which was -19% less posts then they shared during that time in 2019. However, as these are all brands that have brick and mortar locations, they have for the most part been very communicative on social media about their coronavirus-related policies.
Whether it’s IKEA sharing that they’re closing down their Conshohocken, PA location and their supervised children play areas, Petco offering information if pets can get the Coronavirus, or AT&T reminding people to wipe down their phones; there’s a lot of information that retailers are sharing both about the safety of their stores and around their area of expertise.
For stores that sell food or supplies, there have been many updates about new schedules, such as Walmart reducing hours so they can clean and restock the stores, or H-E-B reminding people to take what they need and leave some for their neighbors. Almost every post from supermarkets, like this one from Kroger, also emphasized the steps they’re taking to protect customers and employees. Meanwhile, pharmacies like CVS have also been communicating the availability of COVID-19 testing and that the testing will occur in parking lots, not in the physical stores where other customers can get exposed.
Above all, the key for retailers using social media to talk about the coronavirus is to emphasize how they’re working to keep employees and customers safe; so if people do need to venture out for supplies they don’t feel scared doing so.
TV Posting Less Even Before New Content Faucet Is Turned Off
ListenFirst analyzed 4,742 episodic English language TV shows and found they posted 15,251 times on social media between March 2-8, 2020 which was a decrease of -9% compared to those dates in 2019. During March 9-15, 2020 there were 14,089 social media posts by those TV shows, which was down -8% from 2019.
That decrease will only become more dramatic over the next couple of weeks at least, as many of the episodic shows that share the most posts are comedy shows that have announced they’re going on coronavirus hiatuses. Between March 9-15, 2020, The Daily Show uploaded 202 posts, Late Show with Stephen Colbert shared 185 posts on social media, and Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen shared 159 posts, with all of those shows and almost every other talk show going dark for at least the next two weeks.
One option for those talk shows is to just put up throwback content on social media. For instance, The Tonight Show reposted an old segment featuring Demi Lovato lip-syncing popular songs which generated 171 comments and 354 shares within the first hour it was shared on Facebook. With the amount of content these talk shows produce, many of these segments will be new to audiences, making it a great way to keep shows top of mind during the hiatus.
While late night talk shows and programs like The View, (which shared 313 posts on social media during March 9-15 and will continue taping without a studio audience) have been talking about the coronavirus a lot on social media, scripted dramas and comedies have not. There’s essentially no need to, even as scripted drama and comedies are having their production schedules disrupted by the coronavirus. Audiences generally aren’t aware months out when additional episodes of an in-season show are expected to drop, and don’t need updates on that changing.
When it comes to episodic TV shows, there doesn’t seem to be any additional need for social media messaging around the coronavirus at the moment.
Overall, the guiding principle for brands about posting during the coronavirus health scare should be: do you have anything relevant to share with your social media audience? Relevant can mean updating patrons about your new store cleaning policies, but it can also be sharing a new shade of lipstick. People haven’t stopped being interested in the products and services they’ve always wanted and to the extent that brands can still responsibly offer those things, it’s still okay to post about them.