Cher Jones knew she had to re-think her presentation. Her webinar on Social Media Tactics for the MBEC was booked long before Covid-19 was a factor, but once it arrived, it had to be dealt with.
“This is a time for survival and not everyone is going to survive,” Jones said in a recent telephone interview. “To help people’s businesses survive I knew I had to pull out the details that matter most and reframe them around COVID.”
Jones is a Corporate Social Media Trainer & Personal Branding Strategist at sociallyactivetraining.com Her guiding principle in re-thinking social media tactics in a time of crisis was a quote she attributes to Steven Furtick: “We are all in the same storm, but we aren’t in the same boat.”
It’s a gentle correction of the “we’re all in this together” assumption that dominated the first weeks of the pandemic. Since then, equity issues have come to the fore and, Jones believes, understanding your clients’ positions at the moment is the most important element.
A Service-Centric Mindset
“The compassion piece is so important and understanding that in business is essential,” Jones says. “From a business perspective, your framing around how you sell has to change. Some people are ready to buy right now, it is an ideal time for them. Others have lost their jobs and are concerned about how to feed their families. You need to take the customer service perspective and find ways to ask: Are you in a buy mode right now, or are you facing a hard time?”
Finding the best way to ask difficult questions requires businesses to lead with what Jones calls a service-centric mindset and empathy.
“When you lead with service, you can serve everyone weathering the storm from a raft to a yacht because you are just there to help,” says Jones.
A Customer-Centric Profile
In terms of social media tactics, one of the first steps business people can take during a crisis is to ensure their LinkedIn profile is customer-centric.
“Writing a customer-centric profile helps people position themselves in a service centric way,” Jones explains. “Then people know they can read your profile in a way that is relevant to their interests.”
A customer-centric profile is a communications art form that is very easy to get wrong.
“We recognize the importance of talking about ourselves, in terms of selling ourselves,” Jones explains, “but most people focus too much on their list of achievements and accomplishments instead of on what they can do for their customers.”
It’s a mistake that can be corrected.
“Remember to always put the customer first,” Jones says. “One of the most important ways I help people is by helping them to position the problems their customers usually have. From there, we share resources and create content and is part of the solution. The very last part of that inverted pyramid explains why the professional is the one to hire.”
Prioritize Relationships, Support Content
The service-centric approach is especially important during times of crisis because relationships, not transactions, are of the highest priority.
“We don’t know how each individual is weathering this storm,” Jones says. “When you create and publish content, when you make an approach, you have to ask: Is it serving your audience or is it self-serving?”
Even great content that meets the clients’ immediate needs may not result in sales, at least for the moment. Take the long-view when it comes to building and maintaining relationships, Jones advises.
“This too shall pass, but we do not know when and it’s relationships that come out of this that will really matter,” Jones explains. “I am checking in with those clients I think I can help. Sometimes, I just give advice and ideas away because a lot of them are in positions where we can’t work together right now. People remember who helped them. When people get fed, they will come back for more.”
The content you’re creating, and how that helps customers to be successful, remains part of any social media strategy.
“When a company can’t support you, they can support your content,” Jones says. You can support their content too. Remember to cheer people on when you see them trying, even if they are coming from a place of desperation. They remember who helped them.”
Not all social media tactics have changed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Branding and messaging is not a one-size fits all proposition, it never is,” Jones says. “It’s challenging and it’s all about understanding your customer and building the relationship, especially with your ideal customer. That never changes.”
There is also an element of the tactical use of social media that has not only remained unchanged, but has become even truer during this crisis.
“Show up! Don’t be afraid to have a voice,” Jones says. “That’s what social is all about and that never changes.”
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