For years, social media teams for brands all over the world advocated for resources to be more than just a distribution channel for marketing assets. They presented data, they touted growth numbers, and they elevated the best of their community content to executives to show just how powerful these channels were.
How do I know this? I was one of them. And I work with these types of organizations every day still as a consultant.
Up until a few months ago, the teams looking after these social channels were managing brands. Distributing brand messaging from a larger campaign, maintaining a presence on social to check a box or operating on a shoestring budget to build their social-first strategy inch by inch. Then Covid-19 hit; their brands started pulling advertising spend from out of home, TV, radio and all of the other traditional avenues a brand would allocate money to. Agencies were put on notice, and we collectively entered an entirely new space as marketers.
With everyone sheltered in place, where would attention turn? In that moment, every brand’s social media strategy went from nice to have to a necessity.
In the first two weeks of the pandemic, channels went dark. Those that posted (some of which was likely scheduled posts) felt the wrath of Twitter, but most brands took a step back and assessed the chaos that had engulfed our world. Then brands, in the trusty hands of their social media organizations, started to emerge. They acknowledged the crisis, offered to help, pointed their communities toward government messaging and reiterated the messages we were seeing everywhere: shelter in place, social distance, wash your hands, stay safe.
In that moment brands reflected the reality their communities of followers faced without hyper produced imagery, influencers, fictional storylines—just reality. We didn’t need the fluff; we needed acknowledgment. And brands did their best to support us in this new reality.
With every executive now increasing their focus on one of their only active channels (social), another big shift emerged from the chaos: comment sections and replies needed to be addressed and were exposed as underutilized or underfunded. With everyone in an organization now focused on these posts, brands increased their presence in finally treating these connections as conversations, ranging from how they can help or be of service to content creation.
Curation versus creation
The evolution of content hasn’t happened slowly during the pandemic. It felt like it happened overnight, and honestly, it’s still evolving.
Just take a look at your favorite brands. For many, you can visibly see where the shutdown started. One day they were posting beautiful product imagery, then—boom!—it’s all information on how to wash your hands, how they’re here for you during shelter in place, how they’re creating PPE.
Then something interesting happened. As creative agencies and brands wrestled with not being able to go into a studio and produce the beautiful imagery we were accustomed to, many brands looked inward. We don’t know how long we’ll socially distance or when we can even go back into the office. Building a creative muscle that will rely less on the creation of content but instead on curation of content will serve every marketing team, not just the social team.
The pandemic has prioritized the need for community content and also the executive attention necessary to make sure this continues on through the global recovery and beyond in the brand’s plans for marketing.
Shattering the social ceiling
As social media teams within each brand have adjusted to this new normal they face heightened visibility from the organization, an increased pressure to post, scrutiny normally saved for a TV campaign (for a single post), more executive communication to show what’s working and what’s not. While this is all an adjustment, it’s also an opportunity to up-level the internal awareness and showcase the discipline of what it takes to run a social media team.
These teams will come out of the pandemic highly experienced and with a newfound respect from peers within a marketing organization and across the leadership ranks. They kept the brand going, they engaged the people that the brand serves, and they evolved the brand.
As we continue our journey sheltered in place and wait for the pandemic to give us a glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel, I encourage everyone to continue to learn, evolve and share insights with your teams and those across our industry.