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By Jacob Freedman

It’s almost guaranteed that your favorite bar, clothing shop, or salon closed its doors in recent months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of other businesses did the same. But even as they were physically closed, savvy marketers made sure their brands and shops were present elsewhere: on your social media feeds. Here are a few pieces of advice for using social media to keep the proverbial light on, even when your business goes dark.

Anticipate Questions That Had Not Yet Been Asked

While you might not have all the answers, you still know more about the status of your business than your customers. Smart businesses will anticipate the burning questions of their shopping base. Patrons will want to know if/when a business is open, what their hours are, what social distancing measures they have in place, and plenty of other details that weren’t even considerations pre-pandemic. Social media feeds are the perfect place to provide these answers.

Frequent and thorough updates generally reduce the number of inquiring phone calls and messages and show customers that a business values them by keeping them informed.

Say It How It Is

Social media is not a press release. What is defined as “professional” is brand-dependent; the tone of voice used in a restaurant or bar’s Instagram posts is likelier to have a casual tone compared to more buttoned-up industries. Social media is where a business’s true personality, and voice, can shine.

Social media also gives companies a platform to open up and be frank and authentic about their current reality. It’s ok to say that your business is struggling; millions are. It’s ok to mention that you don’t know how the next few months will go; who does?

Opportunities to humanize a business are rare. Being raw and real, lets customers see the personality behind the brand and build an emotional connection and therefore loyalty.

Value Helpfulness Over Style

Not everyone has the budget or the time to put out a visually stunning update or announcement. Sometimes, it’s the thought that counts. Even if your social media posts aren’t always pretty, it’s more important that they are straightforward in conveying the information and message you want.

Restaurants should use social media to post updated hours or closed locations. Salons should inform people that they are no longer taking walk-ins, and if customers must wait outside until their appointment begins. Clothing stores can let customers know how they can purchase items without visiting the store, or tell people when you’ll be open again for in-store shopping. Substance trumps style when it comes to providing value to your clientele through social media.

Create Visual Assets With Ease

With the previous tip in mind, there are tools available to easily up your social media designs without a heavy time investment. Canva, for example, uses a drop-and-drag interface for straightforward template creation. Instagram and Facebook even have their own native design templates and tools for intuitive and easy-access design.

Photos and videos can also go a long way in creating content for fans and customers to stay engaged with, even if they’re taken from a phone. Many businesses are taking to social media right now to post pictures of how they are modifying their stores to comply with social distancing mandates. A video update or message from a shop’s owner is another way to be authentic and connect with customers even while closed. Take a look at our tips for shooting quality video from a smartphone.

Get Personal

Why did you start your business? What are some fun facts or stories from your shop that customers would never know otherwise? Just as many people have taken the past few months to talk more on the phone with relatives or re-connect with old friends, businesses can utilize this period to open up about themselves. Companies ultimately consist of people, so why not share memories and further develop a bond with your customers?

People inherently love talking about themselves too, so asking followers to share their favorite dish, hair product, or piece of clothing they’ve purchased from your store, is another way to keep your clientele engaged.  

Look to the Future

It’s good to remind followers why they became your customers in the first place. While being authentic in the moment, make sure to also give customers something to look forward to, whether it be their first drink back at the bar or returning to try on summer outfits. People are seeking normalcy in a very abnormal time, and businesses that provide this normalcy in a tasteful way will further build up their customers’ loyalty.