Coronavirus (COVID-19) news is dominating social feeds and generating a huge surge in traffic volume. Yet many brands are pulling back and pausing their paid social media buys due to brand safety concerns, worries which may be unwarranted. Integral Ad Science (IAS) conducted a recent survey and found three out of four consumers said their view of a brand whose ad was adjacent to coronavirus coverage would be unchanged. With that in mind, running paid social media rather than going dark during the pandemic could ultimately pay off. You could meaningfully connect with your audience and prospects and gain more share of voice, all at a lesser cost and with less competition than before. Read on to learn how COVID-19 is impacting paid social media: how it’s affecting U.S. advertising and seven ways to make the greatest social media impact now. How Has COVID-19 Affected Ad Inventory? Take advantage of this window of opportunity to capitalize on high-reach platforms and find positive placements on social platforms at lower-than-normal prices. Here at Goodway Group, we’ve seen a 52% drop in overall CPMs on Facebook and Instagram since February. Similarly, eMarketer reports one agency seeing more than a 22% drop in Facebook and Instagram CPMs in the first two weeks of March alone. How Has COVID-19 Affected Industries? See how your industry is faring. Check out Facebook’s industry-specific playbooks for details or get our quick industry statistics, takeaways and tips below. · Healthcare: While media spend decreased 35% January to March this year, click-through rates (CTRs) increased by 11%, CPCs went down 15% and CPMs dropped 5%. · Restaurant and Food Service: During COVID-19, a lot of traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants have shifted their offerings and messaging to focus on drive-thru services, delivery, pickup options and donations to local food shelters. Many are also offering recipes using restaurant staples in make-at-home meals to help keep the dinner rotation fresh. As we get closer to the end of social distancing restrictions, consider shifting your ad messages to gift cards to encourage dine-in visits but also keep promoting delivery and pickup services, which will likely remain popular once COVID-19 ends. · Retail: With many brands pushing ecommerce purchases in place of brick-and-mortar shopping, implement a seamless user experience. Make sure your creative supports the purchase journey. And when customers want to make purchases online, give them the ability to do so across all device types, especially mobile. Just remember, if you have too many steps, slow load speeds and disjointed messaging, your conversion rate could take a dive. Think about connecting your product feed to Facebook or Pinterest for in-app shopping and streamlined retargeting. But if your business isn’t ecommerce ready, try Facebook and Instagram Live videos to showcase in-stock inventory and offer curbside pickup or free shipping for call-in orders. · Automotive: At Goodway, we saw a 21% dip in CPMs for auto brands from February to March and a 13% decrease from March to April. During that same period, CPCs dropped 11%. Since traditional car sales can be tough to generate during the pandemic, pivot your messaging to provide essential maintenance and repair services and balance these offers with relief- and support-centered messages to maintain brand awareness and long-term customer loyalty. How Can You Make the Greatest Paid Social Media Impact? Though we don’t know when life will return to normal, use this time effectively to adjust your messaging and plan for the second half of 2020. Switch up tactics to continue to reach your audience through new channels such as Instagram and Pinterest. Our best advice? Plan for a variety of scenarios and support your paid media efforts these seven ways. 1) Stay Positive. Social media followers look to brands for answers, solutions and positivity. Since consumers often will mirror behaviors from trusted brands, keep morale high and reward loyal customers for doing the same. Go with messages that thank customers for their continued support and consider showing your appreciation by offering a free gift or discount. 2) Stand Out From the Competition. Listen to what your competitors are doing and what their customers are saying. Then develop a message to fill in the gaps and capture wavering customers from your competition. (For instance, if your competitors are offering free online workout videos for people at home, offer online workouts too, but tailor your videos to benefit essential workers who may need quick stress relief or an energy boost.) To further connect with your audience, be responsive. Comment quickly on social media to provide brand-specific answers at each consumer’s moment of need. 3) Put Your First-Party Data First. Evaluate and update your first-party data and CRM lists. Leverage lead generation social media ads to help build your database and fill in any data gaps on current customers. Review your current data collection processes and your strategy for putting it to use. This will make the most of your data when the virus starts to decline and normal spending resumes. 4) Humanize Your Communications. Use your brand voice to emotionally connect with consumers. As life begins to normalize, people will remember the sense of comfort your brand made them feel. Maintaining share of voice can pay dividends in the long run as some competitors go dark and their customers look for new options. 5) Use All the Tools. Use social media tools like Live and Premiere videos to keep up communication with your audience. Not only will sharing regularly help you build positive brand sentiment for the future, you may be able to repurpose some of your content for future retargeting and brand awareness campaigns. 6) Support Fundraising and Other Awareness Efforts. Run paid social media ads at lower costs and help your ad dollars reach even more people due to lower cost per thousands (CPMs). Scale and increase your charitable organization’s recognition. For instance, within Facebook, a nonprofit can access free fundraising tools, and individuals can raise funds on behalf of a nonprofit. Facebook doesn’t take a percentage either, so all raised funds go to the nonprofit, if it qualifies. 7) Build a Strong Reentry Message. While spending has recently declined as COVID-19 has swept through the U.S., it will likely rebound soon. So use social listening tools now to learn more about your customers and prospects. Find out now how they like hearing from you and how they’ll receive your messages post-COVID-19. People are looking to social media to stay informed, connected and entertained during this unpredictable health crisis. So be there to inspire and offer comfort as you make your social media presence known. And please reach out if we can guide and support you as you build those emotional connections and meaningful relationships with your audience, prospects and customers that will last long after we all come through this together.