If you hadn’t heard about the COVID-19 pandemic from your local or national news source, the chances are you’d have heard about it from every business you’ve ever given your email address to. In the UK, we’re a full two weeks into lockdown and my inbox is still full of pet food ecommerce companies wishing me well “in these difficult times” before reassuring me that I can, in fact, still buy dog food for the dog who went to “live on a farm” two years ago.

Dead dogs and shameless profiteering aside, the reality of the situation is that businesses have not faced such an uncertain time in living memory, and we’re all going to have to adjust to our strange new world, if only in the short-term. At Bubbl, we like to think of ourselves as a ‘good news’ business, but with COVID-19 cases increasing daily around the globe, and lockdowns looking to continue for some time, it’s hard to find the light at the end of this very dark, very long tunnel.

But make no mistake – there is an end. Eventually, we will all be dining at restaurants and seeing our loved ones from less than 2 meters away, toilet roll will flow again, and hand sanitiser will be reasonably priced. However, it’s unlikely that everything will go back to normal, especially the ways in which people use the internet to shop for products and services.

At Bubbl, we’re here to help you weather the coronavirus storm, and come out of the other side stronger than ever, by implementing a strong digital strategy, and implementing it now.

1. Reach out to your customers on social media

Remember that dusty twitter profile you set up during the micro-blogging boom of 2010 before getting fed up with the 140-character limit and swearing it off altogether? Or that old Facebook business page with 3 outdated reviews? Well it might be time for a re-think, as social media companies are reporting a surge in usage as more and more people stay at home with an unprecedented amount of free time on their hands.

Creating a solid social media strategy during the economic downturn has a number of benefits.

  • As you probably have more time on your hands now too, setting up your social media plan is an easy enough (and dare we say, fun) way to ensure your company is on your customers’ radar when the crisis has passed.
  • Which means you probably also have more time to create fun, interactive, engaging content which is relevant to your audience and industry.
  • And by sharing fun, interactive content that speaks from your brand’s voice, you’ll also be building your authenticity in the space.

So what kind of content should you share?

Acknowledge that things aren’t normal right now. 

Pretending that COVID-19 doesn’t exist will come across as tone-deaf, out-of-the-loop or inauthentic to your audience. That said, savvy users know when they’re being sold to, so don’t brazenly capitalise off the crisis either. (Even a simple “We know it’s a weird time to tell you about our new service but…” will go a long way towards building trust with your users.)

Think outside your experience. 

Show solidarity and team up with your would-be competitors to create a free resource for your audience, make a donation to a relevant charity, or share (verified) “stay safe” tips that aren’t related to your brand. Understanding that some of your users may have lost their jobs or be isolated from their loved ones and genuinely trying to help them isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do (if you’re looking to grow your social media presence).

Anyone can make an impact showing that they care. Last week a niche medical roleplaying fetish brand with less than 300 followers went viral for donating their entire supply of disposable medical scrubs to the NHS.

Go live! 

You’re at home, and your audience is too. Get some face-to-face time in by hosting a “getting to know [your brand]”, a tutorial, or a fun Q&A live on social media – or just posting it to your story. This is especially easy to do if you’re a local business such as a hairdresser, restaurant, or even a dentist. Check out @hairbyjulias tutorials below:

2. Go user-first

With all the new social media followers you’ll have, now is a great time to check that your website is up-to-scratch and ready for any traffic it receives on the back of your new social campaigns.

So how do you make your website user friendly?

Is your website easy to navigate?

Make sure you have a giant call-to-action (CTA) on your homepage. If it’s the first thing a user sees when they land on your site, they’ll know exactly where to go first. Then make sure your menu is clear and obvious. (We’re all groggy from staying inside every day – no one wants to try to work out how to use your website too.)

Is your copywriting clear and to-the-point?

You might love to write in long flowing prose, but internet users have a short attention span and don’t want to read paragraph after paragraph where a sentence would do. Keep your content short and punchy.

It should also go without saying that your grammar and spelling should be correct. Though nothing replaces a professional copywriting service, you can use tools like Grammarly and Readable to help check your content before it’s published.

(As far back as 2011 user analysis showed that spelling mistakes cost businesses millions in lost online sales – with more and more people shopping online, today’s cost will be much higher.)

Is your website’s design clean?

Using 10 different fonts, flashing gifs, and the entire spectrum of colours across your website might be fun during design, but is reminiscent of late-90s web design at best, and of a virus-packed scam site at worst.

Pepsi’s 1996 website. Fun then, not so much now.

Having a website that puts its users first keeps your bounce rate down, and your session time up, giving you more time to convert your users into long-time fans!

Shameless plug alert: At Bubbl, we’ll help you build your website’s design around your brand’s story, putting user experience first with a unique narrative strategy. Find out how.

3. Optimise your website

With no people outside, no one is walking past your physical storefront – if you have one. This means search engines are now your new high street. But how do you wrestle with Google’s algorithms to promote your content over your competitors?

Ask yourself the following:

Is my website slow?

Not only do users hate (and quickly leave) websites that take forever to load, slow websites will also be penalised by search engines. As such, slow sites will appear further down the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for relevant keywords. Speeding up your website by properly optimising your images, enabling compression, and optimising your CSS, Javascript, and HTML.

That may sound like jargon to some, but learning about and implementing site speed best practices is one of the quickest ways to improve your search engine rankings. (Or just employ an agency that can do it for you. 😉)

Have I researched my keywords?

Performing in-depth keyword research is the only way to make sure that your results show up on search engine results pages at all. Keyword research allows you to find your niche, discover what your customers are searching for, and make sure they land on your website and not your competitors.

Optimising your website for your chosen keywords means prioritising the most important keywords and implementing a proper formatting structure, using H1 tags, meta titles, meta descriptions, and properly optimised copy. You can learn the basics yourself, or stop by your friendly neighbourhood digital marketing agency if you need some professional assistance. (Hint, it’s us again.)

4. Don’t lose your brand’s momentum

Your business is your passion. It’s unique to you, and understandably very close to your heart. For us, that passion is crafting brand stories that help you get your message out, for others, it’s starting a cafe that only sells cereal, or making furniture out of old aircraft parts. Whatever your business, why let a little thing like a world-wide deadly pandemic stand in the way of an online takeover?

This coffee table comes in handy if you ever find yourself short of an aeroplane door.

In all seriousness, these are worrying times for a lot of businesses (although some are thriving), and sadly, many will close their doors for good during the crisis. A study in the Harvard Business Review showed that a whopping 17% of businesses are at risk of closing down during a global recession. However, that same study also found that 9% of businesses actually “flourished” after an economic downturn, “doing better on key financial parameters than they had before it and outperforming rivals in their industry by at least 10% in terms of sales and profits growth.”

The finding that ~10% of businesses thrive during and after a recession has been backed up with similar findings from both Bain and McKinsey. All studies found that it wasn’t necessarily the companies that cut costs, nor the companies that invested, that came out stronger – it was the companies that prepared.

In a society that stays indoors, the only way to reach your customers is online. We can’t say it any simpler than that. Whether you want them to buy your product or service digitally today, or just to remember you in a post-COVID19 world, a solid digital marketing strategy is the only way to prepare for what comes next.

So stick at it folks, and we’re here if you need us.

Lisa Whelan, Digital Content Manager
News