Social Media Advocacy in the Age of COVID-19
By Andrew Otazo, Strategic Projects Manager at JeffreyGroup
The ongoing pandemic and its associated lockdown and recession fundamentally altered how most corporate communications professionals operate. COVID-19 forced many companies to curtail or cancel joint projects with governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders as the pandemic response has taken priority. Such programming changes were often accompanied by drops in revenue and staff furloughs. In an age of social distancing, social media is often the only effective tool corporate communications teams have left to stave off their initiatives’ decline into irrelevancy.
Luckily, in some ways, target audiences are more accessible and responsive than ever. According to a Hootsuite study, 76% of individuals spent more time on mobile devices since the start of the pandemic. The GlobalWebIndex (GWI) reported that 23% are dedicating substantially more time to social media. People are hungry for new content. Because the pandemic so severely circumscribed other outlets, audiences are also more likely to engage than before the outbreak.
Tactically, unless you work in public health or health care advocacy, there is no pithy mantra for how or how often to integrate COVID-related messaging into your content. Completely ignoring the pandemic and posting as before is ill-advised, as it will make you appear ignorant of or apathetic to the ongoing crisis. Drowning followers in a torrent of coronavirus posts divorced from your mission and initiatives will lead to message dilution and audience confusion. Finding a happy medium will differ for each organization. Regardless of their frequency, ensure that posts referencing coronavirus authentically relate to your strategic messaging and operational objectives.
Now is the perfect time to conduct a comprehensive review of your website and social media analytic tools. What content elicited the greatest engagement? What drove the highest number of target conversions? Make sure to differentiate between pre- and post-pandemic posts, as audience preferences and priorities may have changed. That said, do not be afraid to repurpose successful older content or use it as a template for future material.
This is not the time dig in, pull up the drawbridge, and fortify your fiefdom. Collaborate with like-minded NGOs, companies, and officials whose missions and/or followers complement your own. This leads to audience cross-pollination, allowing participating institutions to organically grow reach with little upfront investment. Pool resources to design and create new content. Share posts directly from partner profiles. Craft calls to action directing your audience to sign up for allies’ initiatives. Beyond short-term boosts in engagement, such actions help build social capital and strengthen allied networks that can be leveraged in the future.
In terms of programming, most in-person events have been cancelled for obvious reasons. However, you can keep your audience engaged and informed by utilizing videoconferencing for panels, expert interviews, initiative rollouts, and townhalls. Social media livestreaming functions should be integrated into such efforts, though ensure to properly promote live events beforehand to assemble the largest possible audience. You may experience a significant rise in attendance over in-person events, as unmuting a livestream is a much easier conversion than scheduling the time to commute to and participate in a rally.
COVID-19 completely disrupted our ways of life, business operations, and communications plans. Nevertheless, changes in audience behavior present opportunities across the issues spectrum to use social media to grow bases of support, increase visibility, and become more effective policy champions.
Founded in 1993, JeffreyGroup is exclusively focused on serving multinational companies and global brands in Latin America, providing a full range of marketing, corporate communications and public affairs services with a full-time staff of more than 250 employees across the region. www.jeffreygroup.com