Young entrepreneur reopens business after COVID-19
If customers can see that you're taking safety and social distancing seriously on social media, they'll be more likely to visit your business in person. — Getty Images/andresr

As the economy begins to reopen, customers are turning to social media to get answers about their favorite business’ hours and safety precautions. According to data collected by Later, Facebook and Instagram activity increased by 40% due to COVID-19, with views for Instagram Live and Facebook Live doubling in one week. It’s not enough to post on your website: Social media is key to drawing customers back to your business. Here are some ideas to get you started.

[Read more: A Guide to Reopening Your Business]

Update your store hours

Before you reopen — whatever that looks like for you — take the time to make sure your messaging is consistent. Update your profiles on Google My Business, Yelp, your website and all your social media bios with business information. This information should include your store hours, available services and if there are restrictions on how many people are allowed to visit at once. Pin a tweet to the top of your Twitter feed (and a post on your Facebook page) to make it easy for customers to find information about your store hours.

Likewise, if you’ve changed the way you operate, let customers know on social media before they queue to visit you.

"If your business has changed operations (e.g., if you’re only offering curbside pickup), you need to let your customers know so they’re not surprised when they show up. Some operational changes worth notifying customers include: only accepting contactless payment, requiring masks and needing reservations,” said to one expert.

Host an event

It may not be the best idea to “celebrate” your reopening: Many customers are still fearful of shopping in person. However, if you’ve been closed for a few months, build momentum in your first day back by creating a social media event and hosting a countdown. Instagram Stories has a countdown feature you can use in the days leading up to your reopening. Create a Facebook Event so your followers can RSVP. The event page is the perfect place to host your reopening hygiene and sanitation precautions, as well as any information about social distancing and mask protocol.

[Read more: How to Effectively Communicate Your Reopening Plans to Customers]

Consistent engagement is key to building brand loyalty and staying top of mind with your fans.

Switch up your content

Over the past few months, many brands utilized their social media channels to sell products or to entertain customers while business is closed. Whatever form your reopening takes, it means a return to interacting with customers directly. This means shifting your content away from the hard sell back into engagement.

To make that transition, start to focus on building excitement for your opening day. Record a welcome (or welcome back) video. Show a behind-the-scenes video of your team cleaning or practicing regular sanitation procedures for your customer’s safe return. Tour your space and show off any new products you have in stock. Get your employees involved: If you own a cafe, ask the chef to go on Instagram Stories to show the new kitchen procedures for serving customers safely. Post creatively and post often.

Run a special

Be cautious of the fact that customers are still adjusting to COVID-19, and may be reluctant to come in on day one. If you’ve been running any Facebook or Instagram ads during the lockdown time, make sure you update them to promote your reopening. Some companies are offering specials to entice customers to visit in person. Try offering 10% off to the first 50 customers who visit in person (advertised through Facebook or Instagram). Or, post a coupon on your Instagram Stories that followers can screenshot and bring in to redeem. However you choose to incentivize in-store visits, make sure your promotion gives your team ample time to adjust to this new way of work. For instance, you may want to allow a 30-day period to redeem a coupon, rather than two weeks.

Go live

On the day that you choose to reopen, consider hosting a live Instagram or Facebook stream. Especially if you have a line out the door and around the corner, show off how many customers have come through to support your business. Once your followers see that you’re taking safety and social distancing seriously, they may be more encouraged to join in.

Not fully reopening? That’s OK, too. Go live with your customers once a week to let them know what’s new with your team. Consistent engagement is key to building brand loyalty and staying top of mind with your fans.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published June 26, 2020