There’s a disconnect between how businesses and consumers are behaving on social media during the coronavirus pandemic. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, people are spending more time on social apps such as Facebook, but businesses have scaled back their advertising during the first quarter (although in its latest earnings announcement, Facebook said that ad revenue had stabilized at the beginning of the second quarter in April). Companies that go dark on social create an opportunity for their competitors to engage with a growing audience. If you are one of those brands thinking of scaling back, perhaps you should reconsider. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on.
Consumers Are Online. And They Are Receptive to Ads.
Life under lockdown has resulted in a spike of internet usage. The latest report from App Annie indicates that worldwide, average weekly time spent in games and apps on Android devices increased 20 percent year-over-year in Q1 2020. Significantly, consumer spending also ticked up: “In Q1 2020 consumers spent over $23.4B through the app stores, the largest quarter ever in terms of consumer spend.”
Increased time online also means an uptick in social media usage. According to TechCrunch, an April 2020 Kantar report reveals the extent of this uptick during the pandemic: Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram experienced a 40 percent+ increase in usage. Facebook usage has increased by 37 percent overall.
Not only are consumers online more, and still spending, but they are open to seeing ads. GlobalWebIndex research reveals that globally, approximately 50 percent of respondents approve of brands running “normal” advertising campaigns not linked to COVID-19. Strongest approval was reserved for businesses offering practical and informative tips to deal with the current circumstances.
As reported in Social Media Today, a recent Twitter survey provides some context as to this consumer openness to ads. One interesting finding: 52 percent of respondents said that seeing/hearing ads provides a sense of normalcy, even comfort. In other words, regular promotions are familiar. Anything familiar right now is welcome.
Brands That Are Doing It Right
As we’ve already blogged, companies like Ford, Hanes, and Budweiser have all managed to strike the right tone in their coronavirus-era advertising. Brands that are specifically advertising on social media, and doing it well, include:
- TOMS: in a recent Instagram ad, the shoe manufacturer acknowledges the fact that one’s workplace might look a little different right now. “Working from home?” the ad asks, over an image of cozy slippers from TOMS. The implication here is that times may be different, but TOMS shoes, familiar and comfortable, can help make these unfamiliar times better.
- Dial: at a time when the CDC is recommending handwashing as a safety measure, antibacterial soap manufacturer Dial has created a 10-second spot for Facebook and Instagram that focuses on how to wash hands thoroughly. Dial’s name bookends the ad at beginning and end, but the focus is on customer safety. That’s a sound approach, given GlobalWebIndex research revealing 80 percent of respondents approve of brands running campaigns which demonstrate how they are helping their customers.
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The CDC recommends washing your hands as one of the best ways to help prevent you and your family from getting sick. Follow these 5 steps to wash your hands the right way every time: Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Rinse your hands under clean, running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. #Dial #WashYourHands #DialUpProtection
- Bones Coffee Company: in an Instagram spot that includes a coupon code, Bones Coffee Company encourages consumer engagement while speaking to our current quarantine situation head on. “How to self-quarantine,” the coffee company muses. “1. Stay Home. 2. Get Coffee.” The message is short, sweet, and to the point: small pleasures are still in our reach. They’re just enjoyed at home right now.
Tone Is Key
Brands do need to tread carefully to build trust. As reported in eMarketer, a March 2020 Kantar survey finds 75 percent of respondents saying businesses “should not exploit [the] coronavirus situation to promote the brand,” and that brands need to be careful with their tone. The Dial ad works because Dial is sharing useful information. The TOMS and Bones Coffee Company ads work because they discuss products that people would naturally want to use at home. Although the TOMS and Bones Coffee Company ads strike a lighter tone, they fall short of outright humor, which would have made them potentially tone deaf.
In short, not all ads work in a COVID-19 world. It’s also important to remember who your audience is: age group and quarantine status are bound to shape what that audience wants to hear.
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