Should you stop social media advertising during the pandemic?

By Stephanie Fisher of Naked Media

Maintaining relationships with consumers is more important than ever now. Rather than panicking and turning everything off, consider this an opportunity for your business to solidify its marketing strategy and set your brand apart by being there for your audience.

But first, what’s happening in the industry right now? The overall revenue of ecommerce brands in the US saw a 45 per cent decline in the middle of March, and as such marketing spend has been pulled. Google saw a 60 drop in spend and Facebook 65 per cent.

However, things are on the up. The FTSE is increasing and with that comes hope. As shops shut, we are seeing time spent online increase dramatically. More people are consuming content digitally and looking to authoritative brands they trust to provide guidance, relief, help or simply a welcome distraction.

Although cost per click is down across the board, with more people choosing to engage rather than simply browse, one interesting shift has been a decrease in conversions for fashion brands; whereas luxury items are on the up.

Perhaps we can compare this trend to the recent #SmashedAvoGate for millennials who, when faced with the dire prospect of probably never being able to afford their own home, chose to spend their money on travel, experiences – including dining out, and (as commented on by many-a-boomer-politician) “smashed avocado and lattes”.

now, more than ever, kindness and making our loved ones feel good, even when we can’t put our arms around them, is being prioritised

Now, job security is at risk; while access to holidays, hotels, cars, restaurants, cafes and travel has been taken away.

Consumers are taking a fresh look at where they should be spending their money; on one hand prioritising what they ‘need’ to live – which is seeing conversions for essential items such as children/baby, beauty, health and subscription brands go through the roof.

And on the other hand, they are looking for instant gratification from luxury-item purchases, bought with savings that would have once been spent on holidays and hotels.

Fashion, however, does not fit in the category of ‘essential’ or ‘instant gratification’. It would usually live in its own tier of ‘belonging’, but right now, our hunger to belong is fed with digital connectivity. Perhaps we are even revelling together in this new life, where we can wear nothing but pajamas and sweatpants and not be shamed for it?

We are also seeing good ad performance for gifting brands. People are still having birthdays and anniversaries and now, more than ever, kindness and making our loved ones feel good, even when we can’t put our arms around them, is being prioritised as more people opt to say “I’m thinking about you” by sending a gift by courier or post.

I believe this pandemic will fundamentally shift people’s buying habits as we will realise what we can and cannot survive on, and what we deem important in life.

But the bottom line is: People are still buying. Money is still being spent, and it could be being spent on your products.

What if you are simply unable to carry on with business?

For brands unable to carry on as usual, or if you’re seeing sales decline, there are a number of comms strategies you can put into play, and a multitude of channels you can use to cultivate and nurture brand relationships, other than direct advertising.

Pivoting your strategy by, for example, looking at how you can increase email open rates, or how you can build engagement on your organic social media channels will help you drive awareness and talkability, by building affinity with your customers. Not only will this serve your business with loyalty, but you are strategically building custom audiences, which you can later capitalise on when lockdowns are lifted.

The reality is, people love to buy. That’s why people have credit card bills.

If you are running a social media account for a small ecommerce or service business during this Coronavirus pandemic, here are my five top tips:

1. Do NOT stop advertising: There are more eyeballs on social media than there has ever been. Because of the steep decline in ad spend earlier on in the pandemic, we have been seeing CPMs of £2-4, metrics unheard of since 2017. This is fantastic news for brands wanting to cut through in a competitive space.

The reality is, people love to buy. That’s why people have credit card bills. That’s why everyone has made Amazon the number one site of its kind in the world. People love to buy. And remember – would you slash your tyres to save on petrol? Keep your momentum going. Most of our clients at are maintaining a positive ROAS of at least four, with even one achieving 26 x ROAS.

2. Explore the ‘reach’ campaign objective: When driving BOF campaigns, the default objective is usually conversions. However, we are seeing some fantastic results when optimising for reach right now, and although this is not explicitly reaching people who are most likely to convert, you will be reaching a higher audience volume at a lower cost, and casting your net wider.

3. Test out new ads or variations in copy: Now, more than ever, is a good time to crank out new copy. As Leo Burnett once said: “The secret of all effective advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships”. Use this opportunity to speak to new audiences, cultivate new relationships and A/B test new copy. Respond to customers’ pain points with clear messages about how your product or service can help and support them during this time.

4. Keep thinking ‘big picture’ and long-term objectives: Even if your business is not booming now, think about how you can warm-up your customers for a later date. One of our clients sells sunglasses and although prospecting cold audiences is not the most cost efficient way to generate sales at the moment; inspiring people with adventure, outdoors and wanderlust is preparing their customers for when we are able to enjoy the outdoors once again.

We are helping them warm up their prospects, so when they’re ready to head outdoors and they have spending power, this business will boom.

5. Facebook not doing it for you? What about email? If Facebook ads are not performing for you right now, look to your email database and other channels. Use this time to engage with people who know and love your brand and cultivate relationships with them.

Have a conversation with them, tell them how you’re feeling, be human and form relationships – this is the stuff brands can’t buy and now is your opportunity to shine and be the light everyone is searching for. Look at strategies for building email lists, such as through competitions or lead magnets, and nurture these audiences.

Email is free. Relationships are free – you’ve just got to know who you’re speaking to and understand how to communicate to them at their core. If you nail this, you have developed a bullet proof brand. Also, you’ve built out some great databases you can use for future comms and advertising.

Stephanie Fisher is the founder of Naked Media and an experienced digital strategist with more than eight years’ experience in national and global agencies