5 Social Media Tips for Brands Unsure How to Talk to Customers

Brands large and small are grappling with the best way to navigate the current climate when it comes to their social messaging. We asked the co-founder of creative direction studio Context & Co. for advice on how to stay agile, receptive—and most importantly, human.

By Amber Davis

Photo by Edward Berthelot

Digital community has quickly taken on new meaning—and significance—in the time of social distancing. From Zoom-run meetings, to online happy hours, and even FaceTime therapy sessions, many of us are seeking new ways to feel connected to creature comforts; not only the people, but also the places, spaces, and things that had become part of our routines. With this seismic shift in where we’re spending time comes a collective responsibility, one rooted in how we choose to communicate—not just the platform, but also the message.

Just four weeks ago, most businesses were using their social channels as nothing more than a marketing lever, perhaps forgetting their own origin stories of building community and telling beautiful stories. Now those same brands are scrambling to figure out how to speak to their customers during this time of crisis. But it’s simpler than they think: this is a time to get grounded in our shared narrative, and our ability to thoughtfully contribute where we can.

With consumer habits changing overnight, brands must stay agile, receptive, and human. As uncertain as the bottom line may be, so too are daily facets of so many of our personal lives. Social media has never been one-size-fits-all, but by taking a real moment to reflect, and think through content, there’s the potential for building community in a new—and maybe better?—way.

1. Lead with your values. Communicate with humanity.

This is the time to share what matters to you and your brand. The current climate has impacted us all differently, but you can be sure that we all have a vested interest in brighter days ahead. Many consumers are in no position to buy, but are looking for bright spots in their social journeys. Whether sharing a cause you support, or even resources to support them, this is the time to focus on the human experience.

2. Make your channel a two-way conversation.

Consider a call-to-action other than buying. Is there a forum you’d be the expert to host? Or even just a question you want to ask your community? Let your followers know that whether they shop your brand, or follow for inspiration, you’re excited to hear what they think—and, more importantly, invested in enriching their lives, even when they aren’t monetarily transacting with your brand.

3. Curate your conversation.

Take time to tap back into what makes your brand unique. Don’t feel compelled to start posting workouts or productivity hacks, if that’s not what you’re about! This is the time to share your distinct point of view by creating content that ties back to your specific brand of thought leadership.

4. Practice social listening.

We don’t live in a bubble. Be sensitive to changes in the world and how they may be affecting your community—a cross-section of those within your company are inspiration-seeking followers and future shoppers alike. Zoom out to think about all of the people who make up your audience, as they’re the advocates who can build brand love regardless of how much they spend with you, and that matters, too. Your strategy has to ebb and flow with what people need right now. And, if it’s not a beautiful lifestyle product, but instead a reminder that they’re doing their best, so be it.

5. Don’t be afraid to press pause.

A simple—yet effective—way to stay your authentic course is to be unafraid to press pause. To move forward with content inspired by a time that is totally out of touch now is something that consumers will certainly remember. It’s ok to slow on a stream of creating when it’s not right for you. Think about what you need, and remember to keep that human-centered thinking first for others, too.

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