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COVID-19 poses so many challenges to businesses struggling to stay afloat in these uncertain times.

For her SEJ eSummit session, Mary Davies, President of Beanstalk Internet Marketing, will share tips on how to use social media to build strong connections and long-lasting relationships with your user base and customers that will stand the test of time.

Here’s a recap of her presentation.

Using Social Media During Tough Times

Connecting with people and focusing on the human element can create brand loyalty that lasts not only through the tough times but for years to come.


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Here are three ways businesses can achieve this.

1. Be a Person

Talk with – Not at – Your Followers

Followers are friends, not “food.”

Remember that you’re going to connect with them as a person.

You’re neither going to gobble them up nor try and sell them stuff all of the time.

One great way to do this is to talk with – not at – your followers.

Social media is their space, not yours.

You are simply a guest and you need to be respectful of that as a brand.

This is a space where people like to get together, share pictures of their babies, look at cat videos, post what they ate for dinner, and the like.

This is not a space that people go to to be sold.

We do have ads that we’ll throw at them, but that’s not what they’re there for.

Implement a 50/50 rule: half of your content is connection-based and the other half is promotional.


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To to find this balance, try putting:

  • Your sales pushes in your paid ads.
  • Connection type content in your profile or page.

You can go a little heavy on that sales pitch when you’re in the ad space. People are expecting that.

But when they come onto your page, you want to create an environment that they actually want to be a part of, seek out, and want to communicate with.

You can do that by:

  • Having discussions about tips on certain topics.
  • Hosting contests.
  • Posting fun, engaging content that people will want to comment on.

Empathize & Relate to Struggles & Frustrations

When we’re being a person, we also need to take the time to empathize and relate to struggles and frustrations.

Social media has a lot of complaining in it.

There are plenty of people who have a lot of big feelings about what went wrong.

You need to make sure that when you’re experiencing that as a social media manager, you have to try and take the time to find those areas where you can connect and relate to them.

This will help make them feel like they’re being heard and that you’re not just the brand.

They’re actually talking to a person on the other end.

If we take the time to let them know that we understand and that we’re relating, it breaks that barrier.

We can have a communication that can create long-lasting, actual connections and relationships.

Also, keep in mind that your long day is not their problem.

They’re probably having a long day when they’re having their rant.

There are times when you’re probably feeling the same and you’re not really in the mood for it.


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But when you’re on the business side, it’s your job to take a step back and to make sure that you’re representing the business well and taking the time to relate to the struggle that they’re experiencing.

Here’s an example of how we can form that strong connection when we take some empathy and relate to a struggle.

Empathize and relate

In their recommendation, a customer commented “super fast shipping even during tough times.”


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Similar to what the business did, you can take this opportunity, not just say thank you, but also relate to them.

This is a time where we can go, Hey, I am a person and yes, I’m struggling just like you. And we’re in this together.

Be a Part of the Group/Discussion

Comment on and like/love user comments and reviews.

It’s a way to acknowledge the time they’ve taken to communicate with your brand.

Knowing and using their language is also a good way to be part of the discussion.

Also, remember to let loose. A little humor goes a long way – and your followers will appreciate that.

Use Wording That Reinforces That You’re a Person

You can do this by:

  • Using personalized salutations (e.g., “Thanks for sharing your photo with us Mary!”)
  • Using terms like “community”, “group”, “family”, etc. (e.g., “We are so grateful for our amazing community!”)
  • Introducing yourself and use your name in messaging (e.g., “Hi Dave! It’s Mary here, how can I help you?”)

Talk to Them Where They Are

Leave your own profile and “like” their posts when you’re able to.


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Be a part of the larger community via sponsoring or donating to events, contests etc.

2. Be a Source of Joy

Many people are probably already tired of the negativity all around.

Try to contribute in making social media a happy, positive space.

Here’s how.

Offer People the Chance to Participate in Positivity

At the beginning of the pandemic, some brands became hesitant to be push out contests.

This is what happened to one of Davies’ clients.

They thought hosting a contest was too celebratory, a little too joyous, and offensive because of the situation.

But she was positive that it was something their followers would want to see.

The result?

Great responses from participants.

social media contest

Never React to Negativity, Find a Positive Way to Respond

There will always be instances when customers come to us with complaints or negative comments.


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Take a pause, if necessary, prior to responding.

Make sure you’re in a good frame of mind so that you can come into that conversation, ready to take whatever is going to come.

Always begin with gratitude.

You can either say “Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us.” or “We appreciate the feedback!”

Acknowledge each of their concern point by point.

This helps them feel like you’re reading, hearing and understanding their concerns.

You also have to keep your responses simple and easy to digest.

It will help them see that you’re noticing and listening to what their concerns are and you’re treating each of their individual concerns with respect.

Adopt a Positive & Supportive Brand Voice

This is massively important and can be incredibly lucrative.

Even when a lot of back and forth is involved, maintain a calm, constant, and positive communication style.

Be understanding and real – customers will appreciate that.

positive and supportive

Share Positive Feedback From Your Community With Your Community

This is an awesome way to keep that positivity rolling on your profile or page.

positive feedback

When people see that they’re being acknowledged, they’ll get excited to see their review up there.


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They’ll also see when they’re not up there and they’ll go, “Oh, I need to go write a recommendation because I want to be featured in that.”

This also shows them that other people do look at you in a positive light and enjoy you as a brand.

We don’t want to gloat about it.

This is different than just highlighting one review or testimonial, because that can almost look as a sales tool.

When we do it in this respect, people will see the post and think that it’s a community that they want to be a part of.

3. Go Above & Beyond

Sacrifice Where You Can to Support Your Current Customers

We want to focus on keeping our current customer base happy.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Offer coupons and discounts.
  • Make one off exceptions to rules.
  • Offer payment plans.
  • Give freebies.
  • Invest in customer appreciation.


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Highlight What You Are Doing That Others Aren’t

We want to figure out the roadblocks customers are facing when dealing with competitors.

To find out what those are, you can:

  • Look at the comments and questions on competitor profiles.
  • Search related groups for competitor name mentions.
  • Read current Google, Yelp, Facebook, reviews, etc.

If you’re already addressing those concerns, make sure to highlight that.

In ecommerce, one common issue with online retailers are shipping times.

This example shows how one brand highlights that in their social media cover photo.

fast shipping

What Else Can Be Done?

Mary also shared how she runs her business during these tough times:


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  • Reducing rates for long-term clients, even free for some.
  • Upping services to boost clients as much as possible in hard times so they can thrive when things start up again rather than play catch up.
  • Being available to talk, not just about our services but as a fellow business owner who can empathize with the current stresses.
  • Doing everything she can to maintain the strong connections they have built with our clients, who are also “friends”.


Here’s a cheat sheet to help you use social media to survive and thrive in tough times.

Be a Person

  • Talk with – not at – your followers.
  • Empathize and relate to struggles and frustrations.
  • Be a part of the group/discussion.
  • Use wording that reinforces that you’re a person .
  • Talk to them where they are.

Be a Source of Joy

  • Offer people the chance to participate in positivity.
  • Never react to negativity. Find a positive way to respond.
  • Adopt and consistently use a positive and understanding brand voice.
  • Share positive feedback from your community with your community.

Go Above & Beyond

  • Sacrifice where you can to support your current customers.
  • Highlight what you are doing that others aren’t.

Watch This Presentation

You can now watch the video of Davies’ full presentation from SEJ eSummit.
How to Use Social Media to Survive & Thrive in Tough TimesMore Resources:

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author

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