More than ever, social has become our source for news, our community centers, our water coolers, our town squares, and our shopping malls. In addition, social media companies including Facebook and Twitter are offering critical public infrastructure, helping government agencies, hospitals, and healthcare organizations coordinate fast responses and inform citizens.
But we are also seeing the benefits individually, as social media becomes an irreplaceable tool for connection during this time of #socialdistancing.
Personal and Professional
We as marketers now find ourselves at a critical juncture. Yes, COVID-19 has shaken up how people connect, shop, and interact. Yet the crisis has offered us an unprecedented opportunity to embrace more digital and social ways of being. And not just now—it’ll likely have a deep effect on our future.
Where before companies used social media in their marketing and sales programs mix, in a matter of just weeks, it has been thrust into the front seat, becoming a full-fledged remote sales and support platform. It is used to educate consumers about where to find products, how they can purchase, and to provide customer support—all from a distance. The benefits of social are really becoming clear.
Use Social To Protect Human Connection
As I see it, the term “social distancing” should really be replaced with “physical distancing”—because we all still have a deep-seated need to be social.
As a result, the role of social media has become crucial for individuals and brands. According to Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger usage has more than doubled since the start of the crisis.
We’ve seen the same happen at Hootsuite. Our product Inbox, used by enterprise customers to manage inbound social media messages, has been seeing the highest usage in our history.
Yes, relationships with customers will be tested during this crisis. But it’s during these exceptional times that deep bonds and long-term loyalty also can be rooted. Having an active, open, and authentic voice on social for customer communication can make all the difference now—and for years to come. Lululemon is one great example of this, reaching out to customers via social media to let them know how it was handling operations due to the coronavirus.
Use Social To Mitigate Business Disruption
In a recent survey by Econsultancy, 87% of marketers in North America predicted an increase in consumers’ use of online services during the virus’ outbreak, and 75% predicted an increase in e-commerce. Successful brands are going to have to be nimble, and we will see more and more brands turning to digital-first strategies.
Virtual technologies are rapidly being deployed. We are already seeing an exponential increase in artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). Virtual clothing try-ons, livestream demos, live chat tools—you name it, brands are doing it. For example, in reaction to COVID-19, British luxury fashion house Burberry recently launched a new AR shopping tool that lets customers embed its products into their virtual environments as a way to experience and shop Burberry products.
I predict these new digital capabilities and increased demand for online and social interaction by customers will outlast this epidemic and quickly become the “new normal” once this is behind us.
Use The Disruptive Lessons Of The Present To Build For The Future
While it’s imperative brands be agile in these uncertain times, organizations must also think longer term. What lessons from today can build lasting competitive advantages in the months ahead?
For me, it is clear organizations should be building new capabilities, such as brand protection monitoring, social listening, and tighter internal controls for digital publishing. It’s also an opportunity to ensure social data—that instant insight into what global consumers are thinking—is properly connected to other sources of digital intelligence for a unified customer view.
I’m already seeing how brands with digital transformation efforts well underway are coping better than organizations still too firmly rooted in the physical world. In our post-COVID reality, slow-to-adopt is no longer an option.
Undoubtedly, difficult days remain ahead. But I believe brands have an incredible opportunity to take what we learn from this time and translate these lessons into new strategic capabilities that will serve us well into the future.
For more on how Hootsuite sees the future of modern brand-building unfolding, click here for our new, interactive research.