Social Intelligence in Crisis: Using Insights to Navigate COVID-19

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At times of crisis, businesses are expected to provide a timely and considerate response to what’s happening. Today everyone, from local organisations through to international powerhouses, is facing the biggest challenge in living memory. We’re up against a global pandemic - COVID-19 is affecting us all.

The spread of COVID-19 is faster than anyone expected. The daily updates from government bodies and health authorities confirm the unprecedented times we live in. Whilst there will be time to pause and consider long term implications of the virus, today brands around the world must react and adapt on the go to the constantly evolving situation. That’s what the public expects and needs. Strong leadership and support.

Staying in tune with the consumer, understanding their individual circumstances and identifying opportunities to help has never been more important. And what better way to gather information than from the source itself? As most of us self-isolate and social distance, alternatives to face to face communications are gaining popularity. It’s not surprising that social media is proving to be a popular option. 

Here are three practices for brands to consider whilst responding to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Order your thoughts, structure your data

With multiple news feeds on the go, online debates and radio in the background, we’re not short of the expert analysis of the situation. It’s a mix of official information, journalists’ take on what it might mean, and consumers’ individual responses. Each of these streams represents a point of view, different angle and overview of a situation. It can easily become an overwhelming task to separate fake from authentic and objective from biased. Structuring data enables us to efficiently organise millions of opinions and comments into workstreams teams can work with.

Depending on the business type, those work streams will differ. Here are a few suggestions on how to navigate through the COVID-19 social conversation. Identify workable trends your brand can relate to:

  • Consumer behaviour like panic buying, stockpiling, home entertainment, selfcare regime
  • Key challenges including child/parental care, home office infrastructure
  • Product associations including most frequently bought or downloaded items
  • Most popular hashtags keeping the communities going such as #confinementday #lockdown 

A structure like this means quicker, more precise and targeted workflow for marketing teams dealing with the impact of the outbreak.

Your community is the source of inspiration

As human beings, we connect through shared values, experiences and beliefs. From political preferences, education choices and down to our favorite shops, we gravitate towards those with whom we have something in common. The strongest of those connections are built organically, when there’s no agenda. This is how tribes form. The single biggest source of information and feedback a brand can get.
social-intelligence-covid19Don’t be tempted to view your tribes as simply product users. Your product is not the connection that brings a tribe together. Dig deeper to identify invaluable networks that are being formed around your brand, spontaneously and without other incentive, but to share. The COVID-19 outbreak will be a bleak but powerful base for many communities to form in the next few weeks and months. As a brand, you must quickly understand how the virus impacts your audience. This might mean focusing on specific moments of consumption, such as interactive yoga routines, online cookery classes or child entertainment ideas. Each of those streams will have a group of key opinion leaders, pioneers who are perhaps more creative or responsive to what’s happening around us. Here are examples of tribes we continue to track for our clients. With a little bit of personalisation and brand context, those can become your starting point

  • Food: Breakfast champions, Snacking experts, Indulgence seekers
  • Beverage: Whiskey connoisseurs, Coffee lovers, RTD pioneers
  • Sport: Gym goers, Running enthusiasts, Self-trainers
  • Fashion: Thrift shoppers, Trend setters, Awareness raisers
  • Cross-industry: Working parents, Selfcare ambassadors, Creative bunch

Tribes are an irreplaceable source of inspiration for product and brand teams who seek to connect with the audience on a higher, more relevant and rewarding level. Now, more than ever, communities across the world will strive to drive a positive change. Recognizing where your brand can make a difference should be the priority.

Identify opportunities to help, not to profit

We’ve talked in the past about the importance of social stance and corporate responsibility for brands. A crisis, whilst a tragedy in itself, offers brands an opportunity to rise to the challenge and stand behind their corporate values. Our very own clients, including LVMH Group and Pernod Ricard, have pledged their support and donated resources towards the coronavirus cause. Diageo has recognized the struggles of one of their biggest communities, announcing a support package for bartender wages. The rest can help on a smaller, but no less impactful scale. Social insights can suggest ways to do that.

The tribe-oriented tracking mentioned above enables you to learn from the source, from those affected the most. Whilst it’s unlikely one brand can help everyone, it can certainly listen and demonstrate empathy. What we’re dealing with is a human tragedy first of all, with many individual lives affected in unimaginable ways. The positive change brands should lead starts with their awareness. Their understanding of consumer needs that go beyond commercial gains and focus on daily struggles and challenges.

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