Navigating the COVID-19 crisis is uncharted territory for everyone. Companies are drastically changing their operations as cities and states respond to the outbreak. Many Americans find themselves sheltering in place and millions are working from home. We’re entering a world where consumers will be spending more time than ever with digital channels. And these channels will be taking on new roles in their lives. That’s why we are no longer considering them communication channels, but rather connection channels.

Right now, all marketers should be re-evaluating what their connection channels are and how best to utilize them during this time. Connection marketing will be important for your brand in two key ways: to help ensure your consumers feel respected and valued and to ensure you sustain a relationship with consumers throughout this unknown time.

Many companies right now (including us) are trying to find a balance of being helpful without coming across as insensitive or opportunistic. A consumer community, whether it’s housed on an owned property or through a third-party channel, can help your brand weather the coming weeks and months. Here are four ways we recommend navigating your community outreach and engagement efforts.

1. Don’t exclude your community from brand messages.

Make sure your community is included in any overarching external brand communications. It’s important to remember that your community members are often your biggest advocates and can help transmit any critical business information to the wider public. Be sure to include any crisis communication teams in your engagement efforts.

2. Be helpful. 

Offer advice that is relevant to your brand’s role in people’s lives and the needs of your target consumer during these times. When it concerns information regarding the coronavirus outbreak, we recommend choosing a credible outlet to refer your community to for further advice such as the CDC website and the WHO website.

Additionally, in order to be helpful, you must first understand how consumers may need help. This presents an excellent opportunity to proactively solicit thoughts and opinions through surveys or polls. Communities offer a highly visible way to show you’re listening and offer a positive feedback loop for consumers. Consumers appreciate feeling like their opinion is being heard and they are making a difference.

3. Foster connection.

For the time being, all of us are facing a new reality of losing human connection in the physical world. This means many will turn to the online world to help cope. Your community is made up of people who are like-minded. Utilize your community forum to foster positive connections and conversations. Whether it’s to share tips or to crowdsource ideas, or simply offering a place to vent during these uncertain times, your brand can provide a place for people to connect who share common interests.

4. Offer an outlet. 

It’s hard for all of us to escape the constant news, and while it is incredibly important to stay diligent, finding outlets for positivity and a sense of normalcy are incredibly valuable. A community offers your brand a connection channel to distribute helpful content and spark positive conversations that will go a long way. Perhaps it’s featuring a member of your community or offering a place for parents to share their funniest homeschool fail so far.

 

The big question many are asking is what the lasting impact of these shifts will be. Connection Marketing strategies will play a critical role, and intelligent shifts will help you stay close to buyers in a time of social distancing and beyond.

As we all face an uncertain future, our communities, both personally and professionally, will be a much-needed port in the storm. Our company was founded on the idea of connection and we here at Social Media Link wish health, safety, and community to you and your loved ones.