The COVID-19 / coronavirus crisis is dealing a swift and potentially fatal blow to many small businesses, hurting you, your team, your customers and ultimately your community. Social media can help mitigate the damage.
Before we launch into your potential strategy, you must recognize that this is not a time for business as usual. The spread and impact of this virus is disruptive in way that will alter the course of human history, and in the U.S. it will change everything even more than the way 9/11 changed everything for a generation. This is not the time to carry on with your usual social media strategy. You are going to have to decide how to face this crisis one way or another, even if your business is not as directly or deeply impacted as some others.
The first thing to do is to post about what you are doing or changing as a result of this crisis. Ask yourself these questions:
- How exactly is your business impacted by COVID-19?
- How does it directly impact you, the business owner?
- How does it potentially hurt your staff, not just in terms of getting sick but the financial impact of losing business?
- What are you doing to help your employees?
- Are you closing temporarily or indefinitely?
- Are you modifying your hours?
- Are you implementing new cleaning procedures?
- Are you implementing new procedures to maintain distance between customers?
- Are you adding new services (takeout, delivery, curbside pickup) or suspending others (no more large crowds or crowds of any size)?
Each of these answers could be a post in and of itself, but you might have to put together a detailed “state of the union” message that might be longer than you would usually post but is appropriate given the situation.
Most importantly, you must also address two more critical questions:
- How can your business help the community in this time of need?
- How can the community help your business?
These last two questions are what will drive your strategy through the COVID-19 pandemic. If you come up with good answers to each, it will help your business weather the storm while doing your part to stop the spread of the virus and help your community.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the service industry is facing a tough test with difficult decisions to make. Some have chosen to stay open and offer limited service (limited or no seating, takeout, delivery and curbside pickup as mentioned earlier) to make sure their employees can support themselves and their families. Others have closed outright for the rest of the month or indefinitely. We have seen both decisions critiqued on social media, but as long as you are clear on what you are doing and why, you’re building good will that will help you in the long run.
For other industries, it might make sense to simply go dark on social media for a while. There are some businesses that have seen little to no impact from coronavirus compared to others (for now) and so they might be tempted to simply continue business as usual with their posts. If you don’t have something to offer in this time of need, it’s a completely valid strategy to say nothing at all until a more appropriate time in the future.
If you put aside this specific situation for a moment and look back at the advice included here, what we’re really doing is crisis management using social media that could be applied when any disaster hits (whether it only hits your business or a much broader area). In either case, focus on what you can offering your customers and the community during this crisis as well as what your business and your team needs to get through it, and you’ll have a better chance of success over the long term.