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Social media marketing during the coronavirus

Covid-19 support and 1 other category | 14 May 2020 | Emily Lowery

It’s no secret that coronavirus has had a massive effect on the industry. The government earlier this week suggested that the hospitality sector will not look at opening until earliest July; that’s a long time to be away from your customers. But you don’t have to be completely apart from them. Using social media at this time is a great way to keep in touch and stay engaged.

There has been a surge in digital media consumption, and this shows no signs of abating as people find themselves at home, missing that sense of community and communication, on top of not having a lot to do that occupies their time. In reality, despite it not being the traditional method, now is the perfect time to truly connect with your audience.

Content is everything, but make sure it’s meaningful

The number one rule of brands using social media is to not do the “hard sell”. If you think how you personally use the various platforms, it’s not to see posts from people telling you to buy their product or shop at their store. It’s to connect with your family and friends and keep up to date with the latest news. The “avoid the hard sell” rule applies more than ever in this current climate. You need to show you care. You need to show empathy and you need to have a meaningful connection.

Talk to your audience

The best content will be engaging and two way. Listen to your audience and give them what they want… and get them talking with each other; get them to connect. Could you ask them what menu item they are most excited to have once everything is back to normal? This not only brings back memories for your audience of your food, but it generates conversation (engagement!).

KFC were fantastic at this as they shared their audience’s attempts at cooking their own KFC recipes at home, whilst they weren’t able to enjoy the brand’s food.

Try and listen to your followers and understand what they are missing and what you can potentially do to fill that gap in their lives. Be playful and keep your voice present on their feeds. Consumers will remember you and the conversation about your food will build the anticipation for them to step through your doors when this is all over – or order that first takeaway with you, if you look at starting that up.

Experience still matters

Your food offering is important but, these days, so is the experience that you offer. It’s no secret that Generation Z value experience; eating out was not only about the food, it was about the social currency of the picture on their Instagram feed.

Doughnut Time were able to reach their audience in exactly the right way with their DIY Doughnut Home Kits. The at-home decorating kit is sent directly to a consumer’s door and generates a fantastic amount of conversation and user-generated content (UGC) for their Instagram.

Pizza Pilgrims also did something similar with their frying pan pizza kit which gave their audience the basic ingredients to build their very own pizza… and cook it in a frying pan for the extra experience. Again, this at-home kit is easily shareable and builds brand loyalty as the customer is able to remember your brand and engage with your brand.

This is quite a niche approach and obviously won’t work for everyone… but are there other ways to bring your experience to those at home? Could you go live on Instagram or Facebook and cook up a favourite recipe? Could you offer weekly step-by-step recipes for menu favourites, asking your audience to have a go at re-creating them whilst sending pictures of their creations? This will be well-received as an education piece, inspiring your audience to learn new skills whilst at home and trust you, as the experts, to teach them.

The opportunities for content at this time are endless. Just make sure you remain engaging and listen to what your audience want; don’t go silent on them.

Build your community

Social media is the perfect way to keep in touch and really strengthen your communities. Connecting and engaging with like-minded people is at the heart of social media so make sure you are always thinking of your community when you post on the platforms. An empathetic approach to your content will always be more valued than the “hard sell”.

Be open and honest

As I said previously, you want to make sure your brand is connecting with your audience; the best way to do this is to let them see behind the scenes of your business… emphasise the people and the human side of your brand. Create posts that let your customers see how your teams have been affected and how you are adapting. Build a strong employer brand, showing what you are doing to support your team at this time. This will build trust and loyalty with your audience. If consumers can see the human side to your brand, they are much more likely to want to spend with you once things are back to normal.

Chef Paul Ainsworth posted a video of himself via Instagram TV, where he was open and honest about how closing his business felt. This allowed his community connect with him, and his restaurants, on an emotional level; his audience truly saw behind the scenes.

Tell your story

People connect with stories so make sure you tell them. If you’re supporting your local community at this time in any way… share this on social media. You could be a local pop-up shop, selling products to those that are struggling to get hold of them in the supermarket. You could be cooking and delivering meals to those in need. Whatever you are doing, tell the story on your social media. The story and the emotion will draw a real connection between your audience and your brand.

Your audience will be watching you closely at this time and making sure you are looking after your communities. Don’t ignore them and keep your brand front of their mind. They will be there to welcome you back when the time comes.

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