Social Media During the COVID-19 Outbreak: 6 Tips for Economic Development OrganizationsMay 13, 2020
Is your economic development organization (EDO) struggling to find the right messaging for social media during the COVID-19 outbreak? Last week, DCI analyzed the social media profiles of major EDOs to see how they were addressing the pandemic. Here are six takeaways:
- Be There for Business: A critical role of an EDO is retaining and expanding businesses. In times of crisis, the external message should move from a focus on recruitment to one that centers on retention. In a span of weeks, the tone on social media for economic development has gone from promoting the economic vitality of their region to promoting the resources business owners need to sustain their operations during a pandemic. We’ve seen messages related to emergency loans and relief programs, unemployment services and job boards. In addition, the feedback loop is critical at this time. Many EDOs are using social media to promote surveys that are meant to gather intelligence on what local businesses need to survive and are adapting near-term strategies to make sure their response mirrors that need. From our perspective, this is the most critical focus for an EDO at this time.
- Now is Not the Time to Beat Around the Bush: Although all the EDOs we analyzed have addressed the COVID-19 pandemic by this point, some EDOs opted to use indirect messaging and visuals about COVID-19 rather than direct messaging/visuals. With the entire world facing the same pandemic, your organization should promptly and directly address COVID-19 on all of your social media channels. This could entail updating your audience with the most recent precautions that are being taken in your area or providing direction on where to go for the most up-to-date information. For example, if your mayor or governor provides daily COVID-19 updates, let your audience when those are posted and on what channel(s) they can be found.
- Celebrate Your Community: As communities and businesses around the world are facing hardships and having to make tough decisions, now is the time to emphasize our common humanity. We recommend that EDOs write COVID-19-related social media posts with an empathetic, people-centered focus while staying true to their own distinct voice. Be more human, not less. One way to do this is by focusing on the helpers — e.g. companies within your supply chain that are contributing their services to help fight the virus, or individuals who are going the extra mile to help each other out. Another option is to pool resources from your community about working from home, delivery services, grocery store hours and home education plans. Just take inspiration from Seattle OED, which incorporates hashtags such as #WeGotThisSeattle and #SupportSeattleSmallBiz to create a sense of camaraderie among their audience.
- Support Your Tourism Colleagues: During a crisis, regionalism and collaboration are critical. Reach out to your local tourism group to see how you can support their messaging, celebrate the unique assets of your location or highlight how local breweries or restaurants are being creative in reaching customers during this untraditional time.
- Think the Long Game: Personal or business relocation decisions aren’t made on a whim. While the future is foggy, from our conversations with EDOs, we know that prospects are still in the pipeline. As you adjust your social media messaging to reflect the current situation, you can reframe non-COVID-19 related posts to be less of a hard sell and more of general economic facts and statistics.
- Be Mindful as Life Returns to Normal: Much like news changes by the hour as the crisis ramps up, information will likely change just as rapidly as populations and the economy begin to recover. Think about the content of every post before you publish, as well as afterwards. It’s okay to remove posts that are no longer accurate or relevant due to changing information. And here are a few more tips to consider as life transitions back to normal:
- Continue to share resources: Given you are likely already perceived as a reliable source, continue to collect and share vital information and resources, even as life begins to return to normalcy. Many residents and businesses will still need this information during the recovery period.
- Communicate and visually share how recovery is unfolding: Share updates on businesses re-openings and hours. Provide your followers with new information on community events, local elections, etc. that have been postponed. Make sure to roll these out slowly and accurately; life will not normalize overnight, so avoid giving the impression that everything is back to normal when recovery will take time.
- Show thanks to your community organizations, residents and businesses for their resiliency and support during a global pandemic: Continue to use your platforms to bring the community together and provide hope to those who suffered. Keep in mind there will still be individuals and businesses that are dealing with the virus and its effects – be sensitive to this in your messaging.
For those of you who are one-person shops with limited resources, please know that you don’t have to be on all channels with all the messages. In fact, we recommend you chose the social media platform where your local community is most engaged and stick to pushing valuable information and conversation out through that one channel.
And since I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite author Douglas Adams in these times, I’ll leave you with some of his best advice, “Don’t panic and carry a towel.”