Social Media Best Practices For Ecommerce Store Owners During and After Covid-19
This blog post is based on Jessica Gioglio’s presentation at our online conference, Printful Threads. Watch all the presentations on our YouTube channel.
We’ve all had to adapt to a new normal. That means that everything we do personally and professionally needs to adapt as well. During Covid-19, ecommerce store owners cannot just continue with business as usual.
If you haven’t already, you also need to adjust how you’re communicating with your customers on social media to reflect the present challenges the world is facing. Even as we navigate and eventually emerge from this global crisis, it’s a great time to use social media to grow your business. In this post, I’ll share my 7 top tips on how to use social media to keep your business healthy and thriving during this time.
Tip 1: Lead with empathy
I feel really grateful that during this time, I’m healthy and only suffering minor inconveniences. People like me need to remember that others are suffering due to losing loved ones, falling ill themselves, or dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety.
Maybe you’re experiencing some heightened emotions because you’re reliant on the income you receive from your online business, so remember to be kind to yourself too. When you feel ready, ask yourself some important questions that will help you shape your content and communications strategy during Covid-19 to ensure your business keeps moving forward.
- How are your customers doing? Like ourselves, some are probably feeling OK while others are struggling. Keep them all in mind as you craft your message.
- How relevant are your products to them right now? Now’s a great time to take a look at your product line to make sure you’re offering what your customers are looking for. During this time, people are purchasing more clothing they can wear at home. Does your product line reflect that?
- What lifestyle occasions are your products relevant to? Keep in mind that people spend a lot more time at home, and not just for work—important life events are celebrated more privately too.
- What holidays or special occasions are coming up? It’s still OK to celebrate, but think about holidays within the context of people’s new normal.
- What tips, advice, free programs can you create to help? Think of this time as an opportunity to use your voice to help. You’re a unique person with a unique perspective on what’s going on. How can you share this information with your customers on social media?
- Is there anything your business can do to help your customers or front-line workers through this tough time? Market research shows that consumers like to see businesses giving back. That can be tough for small-business owners, even though there are many ways to support small businesses for free. As you consider this, also consider your motive. Do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want to create a marketing campaign around it.
Tip 2: Clearly communicate any business or customer service disruptions
British online fashion and cosmetic retailer ASOS is doing a great job at this. They created a 14-frame Instagram story addressing the situation and answering frequently asked questions from their customers including things like, “Can I still order from you?” “Will there be delays?” and “How are you making sure deliveries are safe?”
Remember that Twitter and Facebook have similar options for you to “pin” a priority post you want to make sure your audience can find easily. Include the most important and relevant information related to Covid-19 in these important spots.
Tip 3: Adjust your visual imagery to reflect our current reality
Activewear leader Lululemon is doing a great job of using photos that respect our current reality.
The image above reflects the difference in Lululemon’s Instagram feed before and after Covid-19 outbreak. On the left, you see people exercising close together outdoors and in yoga studios. Their most recent content focuses on images of people doing yoga and relaxing at home with family and pets. They’ve also used their platform to share motivational tips with their customers.
Here’s a visual imagery checklist of things to consider when it comes to what kinds of images and art you’re sharing.
- Ensure images show or reflect social distancing standards
- Use visuals in a home, backyard, or garden setting
- Shape visuals around lifestyle trends—e.g. baking, home office, fitness, fashion, staying connected
- Leverage user-generated content from your customers—with their permission and with proper credit
- Share visuals of hope and thank critical workers, but be cautious to how much you brand them, as this could come off as trying to profit off of the pandemic
Tip 4: Pivot your copy and your tone of voice from “selling” to “lifestyle”
A great example here comes from outdoor retailer REI. Typically REI’s message centers around their #OptOutside hashtag—encompassing hiking, camping, kayaking, mountain biking, and more. During Covid-19, REI adjusted its tone of voice to be motivational and inspirational, focused on activities people can do during this time. These posts don’t push customers to buy products in a direct way, but instead provide ideas of how they might be able to use REI’s products during this time. They’ve also started a new campaign called #REIChallenge, which encourages customers to take part in tasks like running the tiniest mile (from one room to the other or around their backyard).
Here are a few guidelines to help you maintain a positive, lifestyle-focused voice in your posts.
- Only reference Covid-19 when related to business updates or shipping delays. Instead of, “Because of Covid-19, we’re all spending a lot of time at home right now. Here are some great ways you can style your t-shirt at home.” try, “Here are some great ways you can style your t-shirt at home.” End the post with a question that encourages engagement like, “How do you like to style your t-shirt at home?”
- Don’t spread Covid-19 rumors or repeat unsourced and unverified claims. Communication important information about the pandemic is the job of the World Health Organization and medical professionals. Let’s leave that to experts.
- Don’t go for the hard sell. Make sure your posts don’t come on too strong or read like direct advertisements. As we’ve just discussed, it’s better to show off your products in a way that explains how they can be enjoyed or used positively, rather than with an aggressive sales message.
- Be empathetic. Keep your heartfelt messages simple, positive, and aligned with brand values. You don’t need to completely change your tone of voice. Just adapt it to be relevant.
- Focus your tone on adding value, helping, inspiring, and motivating. Consumers love brands with messages that embody and reflect these values and give them something to aspire to.
- Stay true to your brand voice. This doesn’t mean you can ignore what’s going on, but be sensitive to the topics covered.
Tip 5: Create content and programs that help and add value
There are a few companies doing an excellent job at this right now including Anthropologie. They’ve created Afternoons with Anthro, a series of video content on Instagram that includes styling guides, gift guides, and recipes. They include their own employees and social media influencers. Now’s a great time to leverage influencer or ambassador marketing if you can afford it, and to share your own tips. Are you a t-shirt seller who loves baking? Share your cookie recipe! People are looking for great advice right now no matter where it comes from.
Mattress company Casper is known for making mattresses cool on social media by talking about the wonders of sleep. They add humor to the topic, but they also tackle serious ideas like mindfulness and wellness. During Covid-19 they started an Instagram Live series speaking to experts about how to deal with sleep problems during uncertain times.
TOMS is known for giving back to communities around the world, but during Covid-19 they’ve gone above and beyond by setting up a global giving fund. For every 3 dollars, they make selling shoes, sunglasses, and other accessories, they donate 1 dollar to an impacted charity and are sharing this good news on their social media platforms.
H&M also started a new series on their Instagram and other channels. They’ve created a daily fashion theme and challenged their customers to participate. Participating in this or other audience participation campaigns could be a great opportunity for you to promote your business and make it onto a popular company’s platform.
Tip 6: Tell your story on you brand and personal channels
Every company and individual has a story to tell. Seek & Swoon, a company that sells decorative throw blankets, does a great job of telling theirs. Whenever the company gains an influx of new followers, founder Jala Smith-Huys makes a post introducing herself and her business to her entire audience. This is a great idea for an ongoing content piece. People love to hear behind-the-scenes stories about brands and products they love.
Source: Seek & Swoon
You can tell your story on your personal social media channels as well as your business-focused ones. Your family and friends are probably some of your biggest cheerleaders, and are excited about what you’re up to. I’ve seen this in my own life as I moved to London from my hometown of Boston. Sharing what’s going on in my life helps me stay connected to my loved ones.
I’m sure your friends and families want to buy from you and support your business as well. Encourage them to do that!
Stories you can tell as a business owner include:
- Your why – Why did you start a business? Why is it important to you?
- Your inspiration – How did you come up with your designs? Do they have to do with a childhood experience or your own famous tagline?
- Your journey – Stories of your successes and failures are powerful. What have you learned during the ups and downs of being a business owner? Your lifestyle – People love to know how you spend your time, what you’re up to, and what’s adding value to your life. If you can share funny moments in your everyday life with your audience, that’s even better.
- Your customers – Once someone buys your products, your story becomes intertwined with theirs. How are they using your products? Here are other great examples of that from Seek & Swoon:
These posts show off the company’s products, and at the same time are incredibly human, reflective of the current moment, and bring to life some of the inspirational content we talked about earlier in this post.
Tip 7: Experiment with new platforms and content types
If you’ve ever wanted to launch a podcast or try TikTok, don’t wait—go for it. I’ve played around on TikTok myself and I love the organic virality of the videos. My best video only has about 3,500 views, but it’s relatively easy to achieve viral success. Many businesses have built huge followings on this platform.
Wondering what kind of content works best on TikTok?
- Dance videos
- Style tip videos
- How-to videos
- Listicle videos
- Lip-synching videos
- Inspirational advice videos
- Comedy videos
Tip 8: Keep moving forward
This is still a great time to run and grow your online store. Follow these tips as the situation continues to progress and stay informed, and you might just see growth in your follower counts and your sales. Good luck adapting to the new normal!