COVID-19 presents so many challenges for companies struggling to stay afloat in these uncertain times.

For her SEJ eSummit session, Beanstalk Internet Marketing President Mary Davies shares tips on how you can use social media to build strong connections and lasting relationships with your user base and customers that will stand the test of time.

Here is a summary of their presentation.

Use social media in difficult times

When you connect with people and focus on the human element, it can result in brand loyalty that will last not only through troubled times but also for years to come.

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Here are three ways businesses can do this.

1. Be a person

Talk to – not to – your followers

Followers are friends, not "food".

Remember, you will connect with them as a person.

You will neither devour them nor try to sell them all the time.

A great way to do this is to speak to your followers – not them.

Social media is their space, not yours.

You are simply a guest and you have to respect that as a brand.

This is a place where people love to get together, share pictures of their babies, watch cat videos, post what they ate for dinner, and the like.

This is not a space that people go into to be sold.

We have ads that we throw at them, but that's not what they're there for.

Implement a 50/50 rule: half of your content is connection-based and the other half is promotional.

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To find that balance, try the following:

  • Your sales are pushing your paid ads.
  • Content of the connection type in your profile or page.

When you are in the ad space, you can put a little strain on this sales pitch. People expect that.

However, when they get to your page, you want to create an environment in which they can actually be part, seek out, and communicate with.

You can do this by:

  • Discussions about tips on specific topics.
  • Hosting competitions.
  • Post fun, engaging content that people will want to comment on.

Empathize and relate to struggles and frustrations

When we are a person, we also need to take the time to empathize with struggles and frustrations and relate to them.

There is a lot of complaint on social media.

There are many people who have a lot of great feelings about what went wrong.

You need to make sure that as a social media manager you need to take the time to find the areas to connect and relate to.

This makes them feel like they are being heard and that you are not just the brand.

You are actually talking to someone on the other end.

If we take the time to let them know that we understand and that we relate, that barrier will be broken.

We can have a communication that can create lasting, actual connections and relationships.

Also, remember that your long day is not their problem.

They likely have a long day grumbling.

There are times when you probably feel the same way and aren't really in the mood for it.

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However, when you are in business it is your job to take a step back and make sure you represent the company well and take the time to relate to the battle you are experiencing.

Here is an example of how we can make that strong connection when we show empathy and relate to a fight.

Empathize and tell

In her recommendation, one customer commented "super-fast shipping even in difficult times".

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Similar to business, you can take this opportunity not only to say thank you but also to relate to them.

This is a time we can go. Hey, I'm a person and yes, I fight just like you. And we're in it together.

Be part of the group / discussion

Comment and like / love user comments and ratings.

That way, you can see the time it took them to communicate with your brand.

Knowing and using their language is also a great way to be part of the discussion.

Also, remember to let go. A little humor goes a long way – and your followers will appreciate that.

Use language that affirms that you are a person

You can do this by:

  • Use personalized salutations (e.g., "Thank you for sharing your photo with us, Mary!")
  • Using terms like "community," "group," "family", etc. (e.g., "We're so thankful for our amazing community!")
  • Introduce yourself and use your name for messages (e.g., "Hello Dave! This is Mary, how can I help you?")

Talk to them where they are

Leave your own profile and "like" your posts if you are able.

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Be part of the larger community through sponsorship or donations for events, competitions, etc.

2. Be a source of joy

Many people are probably already fed up with negativity.

Try to help make social media a happy, positive place.

Here is how.

Offer people the opportunity to partake in positivity

At the start of the pandemic, some brands were reluctant to launch competitions.

This happened to a Davies customer.

They found hosting a competition too solemn, a little too joyous and offensive because of the situation.

But she was sure it was something her followers wanted to see.

The result?

Great responses from attendees.

Social media competition

Never react to negativity, find a positive way to react

There will always be cases where customers come to us with complaints or negative comments.

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If necessary, take a break before answering.

Make sure that you are in a good mood so that you can jump into this conversation and be ready to accept whatever is to come.

Always start with gratitude.

You can either say, "Thank you very much for taking the time to contact us." or "We look forward to your feedback!"

Acknowledge each of your concerns point by point.

This makes them feel like you read, hear, and understand their concerns.

You also need to keep your answers simple and easy to digest.

This will help them realize that you are aware of their concerns and are listening to them, treating each of their individual concerns with respect.

Adopt a positive and supportive brand voice

This is hugely important and can be incredibly lucrative.

Maintain a calm, constant, and positive style of communication, even when there is a lot going back and forth.

Be understanding and real – customers will appreciate this.

positive and supportive

Share positive feedback from your community with your community

This is a great way to keep that positive attitude on your profile or on your page.

positive feedback

When people see that they are recognized, they will be delighted to see their review up there.

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They will also see when they are not up there and they will say, "Oh, I have to write a recommendation because I want to be featured in it."

This also shows them that other people see you in a positive light and enjoy you as a brand.

We don't want to be happy about it.

This is different from highlighting a review or a testimonial, as it can almost look like a sales tool.

If we do this in this regard, people will see the post and think that it is a community that they want to be part of.

3. Go beyond that

Sacrifice where you can to support your current customers

We want to focus on keeping our current customer base happy.

Here are some ideas:

  • Offer coupons and discounts.
  • Make one-time exceptions to rules.
  • Offer payment plans.
  • Give freebies.
  • Invest in your customers' appreciation.

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Highlight what you do that others don't

We want to find out what obstacles customers are faced with in competition.

To find out what they are, you can:

  • Check out the comments and questions about the competitor profiles.
  • Search related groups for mentions of competitor names.
  • Read the latest Google, Yelp, Facebook, reviews, etc.

If you are already addressing these concerns, this should be highlighted.

In e-commerce, shipping times are a common problem for online retailers.

This example shows how a brand is highlighting this on their social media cover photo.

fast delivery

What else can you do?

Mary also shared how she runs her business during these troubled times:

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  • Lowering prices for long-term customers, even free for some.
  • Improve services to promote customers as much as possible during difficult times so that they can thrive when things start again instead of playing you catch up.
  • We are available to talk not only about our services, but also as co-entrepreneurs who can empathize with the current pressures.
  • She does everything possible to maintain strong connections with our customers, who are also “friends”.

Summary

Here's a cheat sheet that will help you survive and thrive through difficult times using social media.

Be a person

  • Talk to – not to – your followers.
  • Empathy and relationship to struggles and frustrations.
  • Be part of the group / discussion.
  • Use language that confirms that you are a person.
  • Talk to them where they are.

Be a source of joy

  • Offer people the opportunity to partake in positivity.
  • Never react to negativity. Find a positive way to respond.
  • Adopt a positive and understanding brand voice and use it consistently.
  • Share positive feedback from your community with your community.

Go beyond that

  • Sacrifice where you can to support your current customers.
  • Highlight what you do that others don't.

Check out this presentation

You can now watch the video of Davies from SEJ eSummit's full presentation.
How to Use Social Media to Survive and Thrive in Troubled TimesMore resources:

Photo credit

Featured image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots from the author

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