3 Ways Small Businesses Can Use Social Media to Survive Difficult Times

In times of difficulty and crisis—including now during the COVID-19 pandemic—all businesses are in it together. Every industry in every country around the world is having to find new ways to deliver products and services to customers while being sensitive to the realities of social distancing and quarantining, and small businesses are no different.

Although there’s no way to go back in time and create a plan, there is no better time than now to start leveraging social media to be there for your customers and employees—and you can start to plan for the future by learning what works and what isn’t resonating for your fans.

Here are some tips for how you can leverage social media to survive difficult and trying times and give your customers what they need.

1. Be Flexible and Transparent

No matter what industry you’re in, you’ve probably pivoted and moved much of your operations online. The great thing about this is that you can now reach a much larger audience than ever before!

If your business has closed its doors to walk-ins, it’s important to post regular updates about what your business is up to to all of your social channels—even if you’re just letting followers know what your business is doing to ensure quality services, what social distancing looks like at your shop, how you’re ensuring safety of employees and customers, and so on.

For example, if you have started shipping your products, are offering local deliveries, are giving free daily webinars or demos, or are allowing for daily pickups at your brick-and-mortar, let your fans and followers know. If you’re running your business from home while trying to wrangle a house full of kids, share that, too. Business transparency goes a long way, especially in times of difficulty and crisis—show people what life really looks like for your small business.

Here’s some inspiration from Denver-based coffee chain @queencitycoffee regarding how their business is responding to the COVID-19 crisis:

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*covid-19 update* first off, you all are truly amazing. the support we’ve received over these last few days has overwhelmed us. we can’t express enough gratitude to each and every one of you who has shown up for our staff // as we continue to navigate the uncertainty, we are introducing two new programs to try and keep our team afloat – 1) cafe delivery service for peeps within 2 miles of either cafe; 2) digital tips for our baristas // please go peep the link in the bio for all the details. again, we deeply appreciate the love you all have shown us // there seems to be few answers during these crazy times but we know for certain we’ll come through together. ~much love~ QC

A post shared by Queen City | Collective Coffee (@queencitycoffee) on

Also, be creative! All businesses are leveraging social media right now to reach customers, so you need to stand out. Whether you post a picture of your crew in-store packing orders or create a quick video to post to your Instagram Stories using VideoBoost’s easy-to-use and share templates, keep your fans and followers informed!

2. Keep Posting

When the way people interact with your business changes, you have to get creative and reach them in new and different ways. Although you’ve probably been using social media, you have to level up your game and use it even more. Providing your customers with valuable content will help your brand stay top-of-mind so that when the chaos blows over, they’re still with you and more on-board than ever before. Here are some tips:

  • Host Live Q&As: You’ve probably got plenty of time on your hands right now, so go Live on Facebook or Instagram. Let your fans and followers ask you anything about your brand, how you’re handling social isolation, and so on.
  • Post a Challenge: Although some may love social isolation, for many it can bring on a massive case of cabin fever. Post an interactive challenge, such as an art challenge. With Instagram Stories, you can easily post a Quick Draw Challenge, too. Be sure to leverage a relevant hashtag so you can keep tabs on who is engaging, too.

instagram quick draw challenge

  • Educate: Now more than ever is a time to tell your fans and followers about all that your small business offers. Let them know about all of your products or services, but be sure you do it in a non-pushy and non-salesy way, especially if they can’t take advantage of your service or product right now. For example, if you own a health and wellness brand, now is the time to educate your fans on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and what you offer so that when this all blows over, they’ll come knocking for your personalized services.
  • Promote gift cards: If you haven’t offered gift cards before, now is the time! You can gently encourage fans and followers to purchase gift cards using a special promo code—discounted or not—for future use or for ordering online now. This keeps fans purchasing and your business running, which is the greatest challenge for small businesses right now. You can also encourage your customers to do good by buying gift cards for their friends and family who are on the front lines, working in healthcare, the service industry, or servicemembers.
  • Start a fundraiser: As a small business, you know how important community is. If there’s a local food bank or organization helping kids who rely on school meals every day, take up a collection on social media to support a local organization or cause. This effort will show your fans how connected you are to the community and it will put your brand top-of-mind as a business that cares about people over profits!

3. Find Your Niche for Helping

If you’re a business that is capable of helping out the local community by doing local deliveries of food or other products, then offer up your small business as a way for people to practice social distancing but still get what they need when they need it. For example, if your business has a fleet of trucks and offers electrical or plumbing services, but your workers aren’t getting called out to jobs, see if there’s a way to partner with a local food bank to deliver groceries to those most in need and keep your trucks out and about—it’s a great way to do good and advertise your business.

Or ask yourself whether your small business is capable of helping the community out during this time with social media videos and other content. If your videos are short, post them to your Stories and if they’re long, throw them up on IGTV! Here are some ideas:

  • If you’re a bookstore: Start hosting Facebook or Instagram Live storytime for kids at home with working parents. Or, you can offer to start a bookclub for adults by delivering books locally and accepting payment online. Here’s a great example of a live storytime session from illustrator @kaylaharren,streamed via Instagram Live:

View this post on Instagram

Tomorrow is Monday and normally your kids would be going to school. Since they are at home now, doing their best to protect vulnerable people and flatten the curve, let author Frank Murphy and I read them a story! We will be hanging out live in my Instagram stories at 1pm ET. If you have questions for us, ask them here in the comments and we’ll talk about them live on Monday. Kids and parents and teachers and librarians and book people and authors and artists-see you tomorrow! 🎉 Giveaway Reminder: @frankmurphy2009 is doing an awesome giveaway on his post where you can win books and swag. Go check it out and enter! • #storytime #livestorytime #aboylikeyou #readaloud #kidlit #virtualstorytime #stayconnected

A post shared by Kayla Harren Illustrator (@kaylaharren) on

  • If you’re a personal trainer: Create on-demand or live fitness videos for seniors who are stuck at home. Or, you can create yoga videos for kids and teens.
  • If you’re a local restaurant: Create cooking tutorial videos and post them online so your fans and followers can experience a bit of the magic from home. Or, you can create videos offering tips for using up pantry staples.

If you can take your product or service and deliver it virtually, whether live or on-demand, you can fill a need for your community and extend your reach digitally too. Just be sure to adjust your messaging to be timely and sensitive, while also doing your best to ensure your content is evergreen and not too focused on current events or crises.

Whatever you do, don’t be shy about letting people know how your small business can help them during this time. In fact, polling your fans and followers on what they need most during this time may give you some great ideas for content that you can create.

Action Items:

1. Brainstorm how your product or service can be delivered virtually, then create a content calendar to share your content.
2. Download VideoBoost and other apps to help you easily and quickly create compelling content for your social channels.
3. See what other brands in your industry are doing to engage with fans and plan how you can creatively do something similar.

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