Business Unusual: Adjust Your Social Media Strategy for COVID-19

By Gaby Doman

manekineko beckoning cats in tokyo
Avoid crowds and be true to yourself

It’s a curious time to work in inbound travel. In fact, just about every aspect of life is curious right now. Events have been canceled, flights are mostly grounded, people are holed up at home, and we don’t know when life will start to return to some form of “normal”. 

But that’s no reason for digital marketers to hide away. On the contrary, there’s never been a more critical time to stay in touch, and travel is vital to economic recovery. On the surface, it can feel pointless to market tourism when nobody can travel. But this is where good strategists and writers shine, and a home-bound population is spending more time than ever on digital devices and social media. 

How to adjust your digital marketing strategy for COVID-19: 

Don’t pretend it isn’t happening or go silent

It might be tempting to adopt a ‘fingers in ears’ approach and carry on as usual, or stop posting altogether, but these two (non) strategies can really harm a brand. The first is irresponsible (you cannot suggest people hop on a flight and come and explore right now), and the second makes it easy for a brand’s hard-earned audience to forget them. Instead, the key is to pivot. Talking to your audience in the right way has never been so important. 

Stop selling, start connecting 

Marketing is usually driven by the goal to sell, but coronavirus has turned everything on its head. Pivot your thinking from selling to connecting with what your audience is feeling right now. For travel, that is likely to be a blend of welcome escapism and the reassurance that some semblance of normality will return. We don’t know when this situation will end, so move away from CTAs aimed at booking trips. Focus on content that sparks happy memories and daydreams about future holidays, or share messages of support and solidarity. Build trust, and then, when the time is right, responsibly switch gears again. 

Be considerate and empathetic

For many people, booking a holiday is going to be the last thing on their mind for a long time. People are losing loved ones and jobs, and poorly executed humor or a tone-deaf social post suggesting they book a winter break could easily be construed as insensitive. People are understandably more sensitive than usual, so consider your approach carefully. 

Conduct social listening and stay agile 

When this period of self-isolation ends, the world won’t go back to normal immediately, or maybe ever. The world today is something we couldn’t have predicted a few months or perhaps even days ago, so your social media strategy has to be flexible. Things change quickly, so be prepared to keep on top of the mood and adjust your strategy accordingly, daily or even hourly.

At some point, we can assume that travel brands will appeal to cautious travelers once restrictions begin to lift, perhaps with flexible bookings that can be refunded should the situation change again and advice about how to travel safely. The key to staying a step ahead is to listen and learn continually. 

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