Using Social Media to Stay Connected and Keep Customers Informed
We’re still adapting to the new normal since the rapid COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Some promotional products businesses are still operating while following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), but others have had to shut their doors in compliance with state orders. Suppliers and distributors able to continue operations are looking for ways to stay in contact with their partners and customers and do the best they can during this time. One of the ways were seeing everyone stay connected is through social media.
We checked in with Evan Tarakjian, social media and content creator at Spector & Co., Montreal; Laurie Prestine, with the marketing department at alphabroder, Trevose, Pa.; and the team at Maple Ridge Farms, Mosinee, Wis. They told us how they're using social media to keep customers informed and gave advice on how other promo businesses can use it right now.
During this time, it’s important to continue to support one another, including your partners.
“It’s called social media for a reason,” said Tarakjian. “We need to come together and support each other during times like these, and having this online social interaction is beneficial for everyone. Even if we are working from home, information can be spread quickly and effectively through social channels. Use your social media presence to keep your partners up to date whenever necessary.”
It’s also important to stay connected to your community. The Maple Ridge Farms team shared the 3 C’s they’re following, and one of them is “connection/community.” The team gave some valuable information, like keeping in mind how this can be a drastic change for a lot of people, especially with working from home. With the help of social media, employees can stay connected to one another and everyone else in the industry.
“Many people are working remotely for the first time and being asked to stay at home as much as possible. Use social media to stay connected to the rest of the industry, so you don't feel isolated or lonely,” they shared. “The promotional products industry is a big family, so staying in touch during these difficult times will help you stay positive. For example, we've seen threads in industry Facebook groups focusing on ideas for virtual events, working from home and other topics relevant today.”
“Social media can be a great place to build community and relationships. Establish a voice and make sure all brand messaging falls in line,” Prestine added. “Even if you’re a small shop or a startup, you can create a really strong loyalty with prospects and customers on social media, as long as you stay consistent and transparent. Try using this time to gather together customer testimonials about your work and post it. Peer review and social proof are such important tools.”
While navigating the ins and outs of what’s going on, it’s important to be transparent and share what’s going on with your company, especially if there’s an update that might impact your customers.
“During this time, being able to inform and keep people up to date is crucial,” said Tarakjian. “It’s the time to be transparent, to let people know what’s going on and what you’re doing to make sure the wheels keep turning. Be open, reassuring, forward-thinking and positive in your messaging.”
“As more people work from home, use social media platforms and messaging services to communicate effectively,” said the Maple Ridge Farms team. “Discuss upcoming project ideas, give status updates on current work and let your customers and employees know of any COVID-19-related updates.”
Something to keep in mind during this outbreak is to continue being positive on social media, while also being aware of how others are feeling. Tarakjian said that, before posting, he thinks about how he would feel if he were to view that kind of content.
“Stay relevant and stay positive,” he said. “Keep in mind the situation everyone is in and build your content around that. Keep the content light but also make sure to support it with valuable information. Be creative in your messaging, think about what you’re going through and what you’d like to see. I always reflect on how I would react to the content I’m seeing.”
Bring on new ideas
When it comes to communicating with your team about new social media ideas, there are an abundance of options, such as Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting, that allow you to interact with team members when you’re not physically in the office.
“Brainstorming sessions are so useful," said Tarakjian. "Even if our team is working from home, we are set up to be connected. Virtual meetings are very important in coming up with ideas and determining the best strategies. These meetings are the main source of inspiration.”
At alphabroder, Prestine mentioned their Digital Lounge, which has been a customer favorite. “2020 has seen a huge increase in the combination of innovative videos and tried-and-true social posts we are offering, giving distributors the ability to effectively communicate without leaving their desks,” she said. “The assets on our Digital Lounge are functional and practical vehicles with the pep and energy of a live visit. Distributors can use the Digital Lounge content to give their customers a good impression of what they can do, making them more appealing as a valued team member.”
The Maple Ridge Farms team also noted that suppliers are using social media to share and find new ideas.
“If business has slowed down, use social media to find new ideas to share with your clients for future projects,” they said. “Suppliers are sharing a wealth of resources, from work-from-home kits to webinars and videos/livestreams educating our valued distributor partners on programs, vertical markets and more. This is a wonderful time to invest in yourself and your business for future success. Visit your favorite suppliers' websites or reach out to them to discover marketing and educational ideas or discuss ideas for your clients. This is also the perfect time to reach out to suppliers you've always wanted to learn more about but haven't had the time.”