man drinking coffee looking at cellphone
From knowing and listening to what your audience wants to making sure you're showing empathy in your posts, social media is a valuable tool to connect with others during a crisis. — Getty Images/katleho Seisa

The coronavirus pandemic turned our daily lives upside down, and everyone is adjusting a new normal. Kelly Pace Hayes, vice president of marketing at Collins + Co., a woman-owned public relations and marketing agency, shared the following thoughts with CO— on how businesses can utilize social media to connect with their audience.

[Read more: Top Social Media Trends for Businesses]

Know your audience

People are spending more time at home than ever, and social media is one of the best ways to engage with your audience online. But first, Hayes recommends identifying the audience you’re trying to reach.

Are you trying to speak to internal stakeholders or external audiences? “You can’t speak to everyone, so speak to exactly who you’re trying to communicate to and even consider calling them by name,” Hayes said.

Listen to your audience

Hayes says businesses can avoid tone-deaf messaging by listening to what customers are saying. “Social media is a two-way street, so before you post, understand what your customers need and only focus on sharing essential information,” she explains.

Monitor the hashtags and keywords your customers are using on each social media platform. Social listening will give you a better idea of what your audience is talking about and what kind of information they need from you.

Plan a content schedule ahead of time

The future is uncertain, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon all of your marketing efforts for the time being. If anything, now is the time to double down on your content efforts.

“Now is the time to share and communicate quality messages more than you may have done in the past,” Hayes explains. “People are hungry for content from friends, family, and brands they trust.”

She recommends outlining an evergreen content plan for the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Having a plan will keep you on track so you won’t be scrambling for content at the last minute.

Show empathy and build trust

Right now, your customers are dealing with a pandemic that not only rocked the economy but also created a public health crisis. Your messaging should demonstrate that your business cares about what your customers are going through right now.

In your content, you should focus on being vulnerable and provide authentic messaging that demonstrates empathy. Explain what your business is doing to prioritize the health and well-being of your customers and staff.

This will show your customers that you care and help you build trust with your audience.

Want to learn more about how to re-connect with customers post-pandemic? Watch this episode of our CO— Blueprint series on re-engaging with your customers.

Now is the time to share and communicate quality messages more than you may have done in the past.

Kelly Pace Hayes, vice president of marketing, Collins + Co

Coronavirus Guide for Small Businesses

CO— is working to bring you the best resources and information to help you navigate this challenging time. Read on for our complete coronavirus coverage.

Empower your employees

If engaging with customers on social media is new for your company, then Hayes says you can start by encouraging your employees to engage more and start sharing your company’s social media content.

“If you can get buy-in from employees and stakeholders to share LinkedIn posts, comment on Instagram posts, and engage during Facebook Live videos, then you will start the trend to invite your audience to get involved,” Hayes said.

Explain how your business is pivoting

Let your customers know how your business is pivoting due to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus. It’s better to over-communicate this information, so your customers understand what’s going on.

For instance, let your customers know if you anticipate any shipping delays or changes in your regular operating hours. Keep the details relevant and share new information as early as possible to give your customers time to adjust.

But Hayes points out that even though times are changing, the core of your business is still the same. You’re still providing solutions to your customer’s problems, albeit in all new ways.

[Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Business]

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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