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adapting your marketing during COVID-19: how paid media can help

Updated: Jun 10


The best time to react is often when others aren’t. During an economic downturn, and depending on how your competitors react, you may have less competition making it easier and faster to see results from your digital marketing. The late global investor, John Templeton, once said, “The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell.” Amid a crisis which has brought feelings of panic and uncertainty to the world, there is also an overwhelming sense of hope and community.

The effects we are seeing from COVID-19 are bigger than any we’ve seen before. Changes have been made to the way people work, businesses temporarily closing their doors and many children experiencing distance learning for the first time. But with change comes opportunity. For the most part, your target audience has just been pushed solely online with home confinement making us rely even more on TVs and Smartphones for entertainment. Investing in your online channels now, while people are in a research and discovery mode, can help place your brand in the spotlight when your customers are ready to convert.

Rather than overhauling your 2020 marketing plans or cutting your activity all together, focus on reviewing and adapting your strategies to suit.

how can paid media help?

More people than ever before have been forced online, particularly onto digital and social platforms, to keep themselves entertained in the face of seclusion. Brands need to take this opportunity to review where their audience can now be found, where they are interacting most and adjust current advertising strategies to reflect this. In some cases, you may even see potential cost reductions such as pay-per-click (PPC) as competition is lowered.

Whether you already use these channels in your digital marketing strategy or looking to reach users in the current climate, here are a few of the top channels businesses should consider:

google ppc

Where relevant to your business, use Google PPC to promote content that will educate people on services linked to the virus. For example, users may be looking for information on how to claim back refunds following COVID-19. Allocating your advertising budget to webpages that reliably inform and educate your audience, or bidding on keywords such as ‘travel refunds’, will benefit both your brand and audience in these circumstances.

With the majority of people stuck at home, now is also a great opportunity to focus on Google’s local advertising capabilities:

  • Target users based on their location: Google AdWords allows advertisers to target audiences in a radius of a postcode district. Use data that is readily available to your business to determine the location of your customers and, if relevant, target them with your local products and services.

  • Create location specific ad copy: Writing ad copy linked directly to a geographical area can encourage customers to call your business or at least put your brand at the forefront of their mind for when things begin to settle.

  • Increase bids for mobile devices: Mobile was massive before the outbreak began. As people are limited for entertainment, it is inevitable that more time will be spent on our devices. If this wasn’t already a focus for your brand, now you have an even bigger reason to get your campaigns ready for mobile and potentially allocate more of your budget there.

  • Use retargeting tactics: Now is the time to make more people aware of your brand. To drive conversions and brand awareness, try retargeting customers using their email addresses and target lookalike audiences with relevant ad campaigns.

  • Shift your conversion goals: Many brands may experience a drop in sales due to the current situation as customers might not be ready to buy from you right now. As a result, objectives could be shifted from hard to soft conversions to reflect this change in consumer buying behaviour. As your audience is likely to be in a research phase, it’s worth testing different CTAs for your ad campaign to evaluate the result. Rather than ‘Shop Now’, your CTA could be ‘Learn More’, ‘Sign Up’ or ‘Download’ to reflect the change in consumer behaviour.

Instagram

Instagram has already made changes by placing advice on the virus at the top of users’ feeds. The platform is making reliable resources easily available by showing a link to information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and local health ministries.

Users are also being prevented from seeing COVID-19 related content unless it was made in partnership with legitimate health organisations. This helps limit the spread of misinformation or insensitive jokes. Additionally, a new ‘Stay Home’ sticker has been released encouraging people to stay inside and share their home stories amid the pandemic. Instagram has over 1 billion monthly users and they are using their social influence to spread vital information and promote responsible actions to their users.

As more people turn to social channels to keep them entertained, now is a good time to be active. Promote your products, services and content in a visual and engaging way. A refuge for positive content and visual images, Instagram has a huge and diverse online offering with impressive advertising potential. There are some key benefits of using this platform to communicate with your audience and share relevant content during an uncertain time:

  • Non-intrusive ads combined with impressive targeting capabilities allows you to target specific audiences with relevant and engaging adverts.

  • Instagram has a higher engagement rate than any other social media platform. Although consumers may not be converting with you at the same rate as before, keeping your brand front and centre with engaging content is important to ensure you’re not forgotten about.

  • The social platform measures the success of your campaigns based on awareness, reach and recall instead of follower counts, likes or comments. Once again, a critical metric to be measuring as maintaining brand awareness becomes more important than ever.

Whether it’s photo ads, video ads, carousel ads or story ads, Instagram is an engaging platform to spark conversations, share content and maintain a connection with your audience.

TikTok

The social media channel taking 2020 by storm, TikTok, may be an effective platform to explore if your brand hasn’t done so already. With a younger audience at its fingertips, you can engage with users who are at the forefront of leading trends and movements.

Depending on what your brand offers, this could be a time to take to TikTok. Search queries linked to hair such as “how to cut hair at home” and “how to dye hair at home” have seen a rise. Why not offer your audience sponsored content to satisfy their needs? Ideas could include, ‘How to look after your hair at home’ or ‘The best off the shelf hair dye’. Similar content could be created by clothing brands such as creating and sharing a ‘get the look’ feature to keep customers engaged with your products. The platform has recently rolled out their own advertising capabilities, recognising this as a popular and growing channel for businesses and individuals alike. Through real-time performance tracking, you can maximise ROI by ensuring the most relevant people see your content.

There are currently four different ad formats for TikTok:


In addition to this, TikTok has recently launched a new eCommerce feature called Hashtag Challenge. This allows users to shop for products associated with a sponsored Hashtag Challenge without leaving the app. These sponsored challenges prompt users to post videos of them using a product such as showing off a certain item of clothing, or they may incorporate it into a viral trend that are all the rage on the platform.

With more people than ever at home, apps such as TikTok provide much welcomed, light-hearted content. It’s easy to see the power behind the platform with different hashtag challenges going viral overnight. Many families are even making the most of being stuck indoors together by teaching their parents the latest dance routines to share with their followers.

TikTok has also announced a new content partnership program with WHO along with a live stream from experts allowing users to ask relevant questions. This new resource can be accessed by the ‘Discover’ tab in the app and will also appear in top results when users search for coronavirus-related topics. The WHO is using their TikTok account to share videos, providing updates around the crisis to connect with a younger audience. By providing users with accurate information and support alongside uplifting videos from the community, TikTok has become a key platform focus for WHO and a great example of how businesses can use this channel to get their brand messages heard.

Pinterest

Pinterest is offering users an escape from virus related news and misinformation. When searching the term ‘Coronavirus’ or ‘COVID-19’, users are met with a message from the site reading: "Pins about this topic often violate our community guidelines, which prohibit harmful medical misinformation. Because of this, we've limited search results to pins from internationally recognised health organisations. If you're looking for medical advice, please contact a healthcare provider."


A platform for inspiration, with users stuck at home they will likely be planning for brighter times ahead whether that’s a holiday, gardening tips, home workouts or DIY projects. Now is the time to start piquing their interest and get in front of relevant users who are in the research phase. When they’re able to put their plan into action, it could be your brand they return to.

Pinterest isn’t just about selling. Your focus needs to be put on engaging your audience through compelling and relevant content. Offering a range of ad formats, it’s important to understand which will best support your current objectives:

  • promoted pins: ideal for increasing brand awareness, boosting traffic and growing sales

  • promoted videos: used to capture attention while users scroll, boosting brand awareness and the intent to purchase

  • promoted carousels: effective at promoting multiple products to boost traffic through one ad

  • promoted app pins: increase brand awareness and app download conversions

The coming weeks present a challenging time for brands, especially those who don’t adapt their marketing in order to replace lost opportunities. The changes you make now may not end up being emergency adaptions, they could continue providing long-term value when the world eventually returns to normal.

Here at equation, our experts are ready to help as normal, armed with knowledge and advice to guide you through this challenging time. Get involved with our Digital Drop-In sessions if you need support on where to turn next.

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