In tough times, it’s community that gets us through. Nothing has proven this better than the wave of community collaboration we’ve seen develop via social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we may be socially distant in person, we are anything but online. Social media usage is up an average of 61%, largely thanks to communities rallying together on the web.
The Guardian reports that in the UK alone, “Facebook has facilitated the formation of an estimated 300 local Coronavirus support groups, whose combined membership now totals more than a million people.” So, although we may not be fans of the platform itself, the people on it are coming together in amazing ways.
In light of this, we wanted to explore other instances of communities coming together online. Below are a few great examples:
Determined to celebrate the doctors, nurses, healthcare providers, and other essential workers, a group of New Yorkers created a social media campaign with the hashtag #ClapBecauseWeCare to get residents to come together on their porches and balconies for a round of well-deserved applause. Blogs, social media, and other media publications were used initially to spread awareness. The trend went viral and is still in action today across the globe.
On Instagram, you may have noticed the new Support Small Sticker. Small businesses and their loyal supporters have been doing roundups on stories of their favorite local shops in an effort to keep them alive. This sticker is essentially free marketing for local businesses, done by their customers. Brand loyalty is a powerful thing!
Originally a campaign in the state of Indiana to encourage folks to stay home and help flatten the curve, #inthistogether has become a viral hashtag used around the world. The hashtag is used primarily to share supportive stories, messages, and videos from people stuck at home in isolation in different parts of the world.
How brands can leverage community online
The good news is, people are more engaged on social media right now. According to Sprout Social, incoming engagements increased on average by 44 engagements per day across all social networks and industries. On a per-post level, they also increased by about 7.3 engagements per post per day.
But brands have to be careful. People have a radar for genuine community support versus a brand laying traps superficially disguised as supportive content. With fewer channels to leverage as people are stuck indoors, brands are shifting away from ads, to community-based marketing.
In times of crisis, an online community really can be more than a collective of your customers – it can be a lifeline for your business. But you have to be sincere. Below are a few great examples of businesses leveraging social media’s power to bring their audience together online.
The Toronto Zoo brings wildlife into homes using a Facebook live stream, daily at 1 PM. A welcome break to parents at home with children, the animal keepers host daily discussions about the over 5000 animals housed at the zoo.
Hoame IG Live Meditations
Wellness is important now more than ever. As people are confined to their houses, the ability to take some mental space through meditation is a welcome remedy to the quarantine blues. Toronto-based meditation studio, Hoame, is leading live meditations on Instagram to encourage their community to prioritize their mental health.
Famous for its burritos the size of a small child, Chipotle caught on quickly to online gatherings. Tressie Liberman, VP of Digital Marketing, explained, “We started by bringing people together over lunch, when they may normally be hanging out at a Chipotle restaurant under different circumstances. We then started activating at all times of the day, pending the idea and talent.” These digital hangouts gathered over 3000 attendees!
In the short term, these online activations act as a source of positivity and entertainment for people at home. But long term, Chipotle is reaching new audiences through guest appearances, and building stronger brand affinity. Consumers won’t forget the brands that were there for them when times got tough.
Our tips for online community building
Build from the heart. If your content and messaging stems from a desire to truly support and encourage your audience through tough times, this will resonate with people. No fakeness, please.
Listen and respond
Community marketing focuses on a dynamic, two-way relationship between brand and followers. The key to nailing it is listening to ongoing conversations on your social platforms and responding. Engagement is a two-way street.
Lean into your brand voice
If you haven’t taken the time to develop your brand voice, now is the time to do so. A strong brand voice makes the difference between people feeling like they’re interacting with a stiff, robotic business, versus a brand run by friendly, caring human beings. A thoughtful brand voice encourages engagement and brand loyalty. Honestly, it just makes you feel good.
Consider your customer’s needs
People’s lives have drastically changed over the last few months, and so have their needs as a result. People are spending more time at home, cooking, seeking entertainment, gardening, sleeping, and with their kids. Mobile screen time is down, while computer devices are back in the race. Brands are being forced to think outside the box during this time to provide content, products, and services that meet their customers where they are right now.
Marketing in these times looks very different, but many opportunities have been presented for brands willing to shift their approach. Focus on building community and supporting your audience. Remember to make decisions from an authentic place, and your brand will shine.