Social media and social distancing

Inez Zimakowski
Inez Zimakowski
April 6, 2020 . 5min read

Social media has been a source of good – and bad – information around the spread of COVID-19, disseminating everything from official government advice, police updates, conspiracy theories, and of course, memes. There’s likely not a newsfeed in the world that doesn’t have some mention of the new C-word. Of course, with sales either plummeting or skyrocketing depending on the industry, brands have been (largely) quick to jump on a response plan and pull out their crisis management guidelines. Who’s doing it best? Read on!

LVMH – show don’t tell

Though a holding group, every brand under the LVMH umbrella has been putting out fantastic comms, and actually doing fantastic things during the COVID-19 crisis. From the perfumeries that have been converted to hand sanitiser factories, monetary donations, Rimowa’s ‘seat’ luggageTag Heur’s logo flip and #stayhome messaging, through to Dior’s mask manufacturing, LVMH is nailing its response. Unlike brands who are just talking the talk with uplifting comms, LVMH is running the walk. Their actions have been thoughtfully promoted, in the least ‘look at me, look at meeee’ way possible, and the creative across the group is on-brand and distinctive to each maison. Dior’s use of roses, Fendi’s hand-drawn logos, and the inclusion of poignant quotes from founders and past designers also speak to the brands’ heritage, aesthetic, and longstanding relationships with some of the hardest hit countries, including Italy.

The #LVMHJoinsForces hashtag is also a reminder of the maisons’ partnerships with governments, suppliers, and of course each other. While traditionally the different maisons operate fairly siloed and communicate separately, with distinct messaging and creative, this is the first time the houses have gone out with one message. It truly is an unprecedented time.

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Key Takeaway: If you lead, others will follow. After LVMH’s press release regarding their factory conversions, it didn’t take long for Gucci and Burberry to follow suit and convert their own production facilities into mask manufacturers. And we’ve lost count of the number of businesses now churning out hand sanitiser – including local distillery legends Archie Rose

Petbarn – content is king

Petbarn has taken an equally fantastic but slightly different approach. While it’s instituted zero contact click and collect and made pet food donations through its charity, it’s the business’s social content I want to focus on here. Google has seen a massive rise of ‘can I….’ based searches in Australia, as well as a ton of questions about Coronavirus. ‘Can I walk my dog’ became a highly searched term over the last two weeks, with NSW the most curious about the answer to that question.

Given the changing and increasing restrictions on our day-to-day movement, it’s no surprise that people have questions around what they can and can’t do. Petbarn has jumped on this very quickly, with a post answering exactly that, and providing some helpful reminders on the 1.5m distancing rule and hand washing. Need some ideas on how to entertain your pets during isolation? Petbarn’s got you covered there too!

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Key Takeaway: Keep your content relevant and engaging. By sticking with pet-focused content rather than trying to move into general isolation content, Petbarn has kept its comms positive, helpful, and engaging, without drawing any backlash for being insensitive or opportunistic.

Nike – best use of UGC

Nike is the undisputed king of brand films and manifestos. Generally they’re executed so well you don’t even care that you’re watching an ad – and their COVID-19 content has been no exception. For a brand that has traditionally encouraged people to get out and ‘just do it’, Nike has pivoted very quickly to its ‘play inside, play for the world’ messaging.

We were particularly impressed with Nike’s recent Instagram stories ad – an extended video piece on how their customers are working out at home. The clip montage was a great exercise in branding, product placement, and inspiration. And do you know what? Every time it comes up in my stories, I watch the whole. Damn. Thing. Great concept, great music selection, great execution, 10/10 to the creative team that made this. If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

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Key Takeaway: Great creative doesn’t have to be expensive or have amazing production values. It just has to get the message across.

New England Patriots – engage and encourage

Surprised to see a sports team on this list? While the NRL in Australia has been a shambles, the NFL has stepped up to the plate (sports reference!) and the New England Patriots are a fantastic example of what to do as a sports team in a crisis. Aside from donating meals to veterans, homeless shelters, and food banks, they’ve also sent 300,000 masks to rival city NYC, with the very apt ‘bigger than football’ caption.

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Key Takeaway: Stepping up in uncertain times, even if it might not be directly related to the brand (in this case a sporting team) can unite fans and drive loyalty hard while the team is unable to play.

Quilton – soothing the stress

You might have noticed that toilet paper has been a little hard to come by for the past few weeks. And because it’s semi-ridiculous, of course there have been plenty of memes about the situation. Quilton has definitely jumped on the bandwagon, and as a toilet paper manufacturer, is one of the few brands that can do so without seeming insensitive.

How? They’ve ensured that their content mix also has plenty of reassuring posts updating fans about their production facilities, their product donations, and fleet movements. Despite this, if you head to Quilton’s Facebook page you’ll see plenty of comments on every post about the lack of product on local supermarket shelves. Is it a community management issue? Definitely. And a great example of the perception issues suppliers face when retailers don’t have product on the shelves.

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Key Takeaway: If your product is one of the necessities flying off the shelves during lockdown, this is an opportune time to build a stronger relationship with customers by supporting and reassuring them with production and delivery updates. 

Key Lessons

So what can we all take away from the way these brands have responded? Here are a few key lessons.

1. Make sure your social media content is based on what you’re doing and who you are.

Pointless hand washing reminders or ‘stay inside’ reminders won’t cut it. Just like we’re all sick of the celebrities telling us to stay inside from the comfort of their 250,000 square foot homes, no one wants ANZ, or Target, or David Jones to tell them to wash their hands. Unless you’re Dettol (or similar), you don’t have the authority to lecture on hygiene. 

2. Keep your content relevant to your brand and your products. 

If you’re a fashion retailer, maybe don’t create articles about the best isolation recipes? Your top 10 WFH outfits might be better received.

3. If your customers are posting your products and using them in isolation, now is the time to share it, and get creative with your content! 

Photoshoots, video shoots, and normal campaigns might be on hold, but like Nike, you too can create something awesome from what you’ve already got.

4. Don’t be afraid to put fun content out there, assuming it’s still appropriate.

If you’re a travel company, maybe you shouldn’t be promoting the top ten things to do in Paris right now, but everyone needs an escape and a bit of a laugh, so don’t turn everything into a super serious newscast.

5. Keep an eye on the comments, but don’t panic.

You might see a couple more negative comments than on your usual content: people are frustrated and stressed overall, and taking it out wherever they can. Just be empathetic and respond quickly, and perhaps avoid the copy/paste responses for now – people are craving genuine connection more than ever.

Inez Zimakowski

Inez Zimakowski

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