For Retail brands, the decision how much to post around during the coronavirus outbreak is a nuanced one. You don’t want to belittle the struggles of those affected are going through (which is at some level everyone at this point), but on the other hand many people are looking on anything else to focus on right now, and people do still need to shop. There’s also the additional wrinkle of brands needing to figure out how much they should discuss the coronavirus specifically in social media posts.
Here are some guidelines to help Retail brands navigate which content they should be posting on social media and how often, including around the outbreak specifically.
Retail Social Best Practice #1: Store Updates & Support
Social audiences showed their appreciation for retail brands’ social media updates on stores closing and employee financial support, as well as grocery stores’ cleanliness standards and priority shopping for senior citizens. Dollar General generated 2,356 new fans on Facebook on March 16, a day over day increase of 813%, from a post that strongly encouraged that the first hour of store operations would be dedicated to senior shoppers. There’s certain messaging that needs to be shared no matter what, but by monitoring how posting about the coronavirus positively or negatively impacts follower acquisition, you get another key indicator on the audience’s appetite for non-coronavirus posts from your brand.
Retail Social Best Practice #2: Donate Essential Supplies
In terms of best practices, it’s not enough to stay safe and send customers your thoughts and prayers, people want to know how your brand is going to pitch in and help. Brands like Nordstrom, Hugo Boss and Eddie Bauer are either donating or making and donating masks while Crocs is donating their extra comfortable shoes to healthcare workers. Showing on social media that your brand is part of the solution will help build brand loyalty in a time when most retailers are having less direct interaction with their customers.
Retail Social Best Practice #3: Call Out Specific People You Want to Thank
There are a lot of people putting their own necks out on the line to keep people safe during the pandemic and while in a broad sense we want to thank everyone, it will stand out more for the audience if retail brands express that sentiment in a way that’s more specific and personalized. For instance, Clarks Shoes crowdsourced for stories of everyday heroes that should be thanked, Meijer showed how their workers donated their time to feed truck drivers, while Skechers asked for nominations of essential works they should give gift cards to.
Retail Social Best Practice #4: Retailers On The Front Lines Need To Post More Often About The Coronavirus
Since March 14, all Stater Bros Markets’ posts on Instagram have been directly related to coronavirus related issues. Meanwhile since March 20, all Save A Lot posts on Facebook have been coronavirus related. Likewise, all Petco videos uploaded on YouTube since March 10 have been information about COVID-19. That’s not to suggest that there is any brand that should be posting exclusively about the coronavirus, but for retailers that still have physical locations open; information about how to visit the store safely and changes in hours needs to be communicated.
Retail Social Best Practice #5: Showing You Are Doing The Right Thing Needs To Become A Default Reflex
As social media PR becomes more central to how brands communicate, especially with store locations closed, brands need to be in the mindset of showing how they’re working towards the greater good, even in posts that are sometimes about slightly different topics. For instance Levi’s in promoting a free live from home DJ set also emphasized how they’re donating to MusicCares COVID-19 relief fund, while J.Crew in announcing their stores closing also pointed out that they’ll still be paying their employees… a question that would come up otherwise in the comments.
Retail Social Best Practice #6: Response Rate Can Also Be Indicative of a Problem
Between March 9-22, 2020 the response rate for GameStop was 0.04% which was a 68% increase from the previous two weeks. Their post that generated the highest response rate, with a 98% response rate was a YouTube video showing off April release calendar. The comments were almost completely unrelated and complained how GameStop had declared themselves an essential business and wouldn’t shut down their physical stores, putting their employees at risk. When brands are getting a spike in unrelated comments on content, brands need to stop sharing new content until the issue is addressed.
Retail Social Best Practice #7: Track Brand Sentiment Around Coronavirus
On March 15, 2020 Lululemon announced that they were closing their physical stores because of the coronavirus. On the day there were 3,692 Tweets mentioning the brand, with Twitter sentiment around Lululemon being 38% Negative and 18% of the Tweets expressing the emotion of Anger. By March 17, 2020 there were 10,791 Tweets mentioning Lululemon, with only 12% of the tweets being negative and 4% of the Tweets expressing Anger. After the initial shock of store closings, the audience was satisfied with the brand’s explanation of why they were closing and that their employees would be compensated, and there was no reason not to resume posting about items that could be bought online.
Generally speaking, there’s no cookie cutter explanation of what’s appropriate to post about during the coronavirus outbreak or how frequently brands should post. However, by using the right social media measurement tools, retail brands can get a better picture of how the audience is responding to their content and what content strategy will make the most sense for their specific audience during the pandemic.
These best practices were featured in ListenFirst’s Retail Special Report: Social Media in the Time of Coronavirus. Download the report here to get the full picture of what the rapidly changing environment looks like, how social audiences are feeling, what they care about, and what comes next.