Social Media: How To Plan Amid Uncertainty

Businesses, large and small, have had to rethink their marketing tactics these last few months. For many companies, that meant scrapping well thought-out social media strategies they had planned for 2020.

Social marketing – just like everything else in a pandemic – has become all about being flexible.

That’s been tricky because it runs counter to the very nature of how social media is typically managed, a strategic process based on planning and known variables.

“The reality is we are all trying to navigate a situation with no clear roadmap or playbook,” writes Sprout Social content strategist Katherine Kim in a blog post. “None of our previous experiences could have prepared us for COVID-19.”

Changing Engagement Metrics

The pandemic has reshaped behavior across all aspects of life, including the way people are using social media, making it important for businesses to refine tactics for creating high-quality content and opportunities to earn social media engagement.

“As daily routines changed overnight, more of people's daily and work lives shifted to online, and social media became an even more important tool for connection,” writes Elizabeth Arens, an SEO Lead at Sprout Social.

The shift has meant changing metrics around social media engagement, including best days and times to post.

“If you’re creating content for social media at any scale, you know that a key challenge is rising above the noise and getting eyes on your posts,” Arens writes.

Social media algorithms are increasingly moving away from the reverse chronological timelines of the past and towards relevance-based curation, she says.

“Knowing when to post on every social platform is one important way to stay a step ahead and make sense of the content overload that seems to be occurring on many channels,” Arens writes.

Sprout Social, a social media management software agency based in Chicago, reviewed data from its 20,000-plus customers to get a sense of social media usage changes, including changes in audiences’ priorities and interests, during the pandemic.

For example, where the agency previously found that Wednesday from 11 a.m. and 1–2 p.m. were the best times to post on Facebook, and Wednesday was a peak day overall, their updated review showed that activity was more consistently high throughout every weekday.

A Sprout Social review showed the best times to post on Facebook are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10–11 a.m. In fact, every day at 11 a.m. was a slight peak compared to the rest of the day, according to the blog post.

Rethinking with Empathy

Social marketers are advising businesses to re-evaluate their strategies with an informed, broader view of what their audiences could be experiencing right now.

“Knowledge, empathy, purpose and agility are core to successful brand positioning right now,” writes Sprout Social content specialist Lauren Cover.

Pay attention to how your audience might be affected by various aspects of COVID-19, as well as economic and cultural conditions and events.

“Right now, people are particularly sensitive, and emotions are heightened,” she notes. “Evaluate your content with that in mind so well-intentioned messages on social don’t come off as tone-deaf.”

‘Read the Room’ and Continue to Audit

You may have already pulled or delayed content you had planned – marketing that seemed so relevant and brilliant in pre-COVID times has become irrelevant or even inappropriate.

“As brands planned their strategies, they could not have predicted the way current events have quickly swept up global markets and conversations,” says Cover.

It’s important for businesses to continue to audit. Make sure what you’re sending out “chimes” with the current mood and adjust it if necessary, writes content marketers Grace MacDonald and Jane Fleiming in a guide posted by LinkedIn.

Continue to “read the room” to gauge consumer sentiment – identify what’s top of mind for your audience and its community, Cover says.

It may be a great time to reach a broader, receptive audience – consumers are online more during the pandemic – but they’re reacting to messaging differently.

“Always put yourself in the shoes of your audience,” writes Cover. “How would you feel if a company sent a sales pitch your way right now? How would you feel about a brand making a joke at this time?”