COVID-19 Impact: Paid Social Media

social media

COVID-19’s Impact on Paid Social Media Buys and How Brands Can Continue To Engage With Followers

Even as coronavirus (COVID-19) news dominates social feeds, generating a huge surge in traffic volume, many brands are pulling back and pausing their paid social media buys. Understandably, brands are cautious about their messaging showing up next to content that could be perceived poorly by the consumer. However, marketers completely shutting down their paid social spend may be missing out.

As demand for Ad inventory on COVID-19 stories drops, there is a window of opportunity to find positive placements on social platforms at lower-than-normal prices. At 365 digital agency, 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. This means advertisers have a unique opportunity to capitalize on high-reach platforms at an affordable price.

What’s more, recent survey results from Integral Ad Science (IAS) show that overzealous brand safety concerns may be unwarranted – three out of four consumers said their view of a brand whose ad was adjacent to coronavirus coverage would be unchanged. Rather than pausing ad spend on social media, advertisers should take advantage of these unprecedented low costs to maintain their share of voice in their industry. For additional insights, check out Facebook’s industry-specific playbooks featuring statistics and takeaways like these:

  • Healthcare: While media spend decreased 35% January to March this year, CTRs increased by 11%, CPCs went down 15% and CPMs dropped 5%.
  • Restaurant and Food Service: Many traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants have shifted their offerings and messaging during COVID-19 to focus on drive-thru services, delivery, pickup options and donations to local food shelters. More recently, the trend has been offering recipes utilizing restaurant staples in make-at-home meals to help keep the dinner rotation fresh. As we get closer to the end of shelter-in- place restrictions, restaurant and food service advertisers should consider shifting ad messages to gift cards to encourage dine-in visits, while continuing to promote delivery and pickup services as some behaviors will become long-term habits after COVID-19 ends.
  • Retail: With many brands pushing ecommerce purchases in place of brick-and-mortar shopping, it’s important that advertisers maintain a seamless user experience. Creative should support the purchase journey. What’s more, the ability to purchase online should be easily accomplished across all device types, especially mobile. Too many steps, slow load speeds and disjointed messaging will kill your conversion rate. Consider connecting your product feed to Facebook or Pinterest for in-app shopping and streamlined retargeting. 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 365 digital agency, 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%. Though traditional car sales can be tough to generate during a city-wide lockdown, many auto dealers have pivoted their messaging to provide essential maintenance and repair services. Smart auto advertisers are also balancing these offers with relief- and support-centered messages to maintain brand awareness and long-term customer loyalty.

Where To Focus Today for the Greatest Impact Later

It’s still unknown exactly when life will return to normal, but it’s important to remember that the news isn’t all doom and gloom – many marketers are using this time to adjust their messaging and plan for the second half of 2021. Others are switching up tactics to continue to reach their audience through new channels, like Instagram and Pinterest. While the long-term outlook for the ad industry is uncertain, smart advertisers are staying optimistic and action planning for a variety of scenarios.

At 365 digital agency, we believe there are four key areas where marketers should focus their paid media efforts right now:

  • Stay Positive: Social media followers are looking to brands for answers, solutions and positivity. Consumers will often mirror behaviors from their trusted brands, so it’s critical that brands keep morale high and reward loyal customers for doing the same. Consider messages that thank customers for their continued support and offer a free gift or discount as appreciation.
  • Humanize Your Communications: This is the ideal time to connect on an emotional level with your customers. Keep your communications with followers transparent by using social media tools like Live and Premiere Videos to share with your audience. You’ll not only build positive brand sentiment for the future, but you may also be able to repurpose some of your content for future retargeting and brand awareness campaigns.
  • Put Your First-Party Data First: Use this time to evaluate and update your first-party data and CRM lists. Leverage lead generation ads on social media to help build your database and fill in any data gaps on current customers. Also, review your current data collection processes and your strategy for putting it to use so you can make the most of your data when the virus starts to decline and we transition back to normal spending.
  • Build A Strong Message: While spending has declined due to stay-at-home restrictions, many consumers are saving up for when businesses reopen. Take this time to consider how your brand will encourage spending in the days and weeks after restrictions are lifted. Utilize social listening tools to know what consumers will want to hear from you and how they’ll want to receive your messages post-COVID-19.


Do I need to pause my social ads?

If your budget allows, make social pauses temporary and ideally no more than two days long to prevent any learnings achieved by the algorithm from resetting. Work quickly to shift your messaging relative to the social situation. This may mean pivoting your objective, but your brand messaging should always stay positive.

We can’t change our offer. What should we do?

Even if your offer remains the same, you can still shift how the consumer sees its benefit. For example, if you have been offering free delivery with a minimum purchase, shift your messaging to: “Shop for what you need at home, and we’ll take care of the delivery.” Remember, offers aren’t always needed or required to get your customers’ attention. Use your brand voice to connect with consumers and show that we’re all in this together. Messaging through an emotional connection at this time is important because as things begin to return to normal, people will remember the sense of comfort your brand made them feel. Additionally, maintaining share of voice can pay dividends in the long run as some competitors go dark and their customers look for new options.

Our competitors pivoted faster than us. How do we compete?

Look for ways your brand can still differentiate. 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, you can offer online workouts too, but tailor your videos to benefit essential workers who need quick stress relief or an energy boost. Another way to further connect with your audience is to maintain contact through comment responses and show your dedication to providing brand-specific answers in the moment of need.

As a nonprofit, how can social media be used to help with fundraising and other awareness efforts?

With lower CPMs, nonprofits have the ability to run paid social media ads at lower costs and help their ad dollars reach even more people. This is an ideal time to scale and increase your charitable organization’s recognition. Within Facebook, a nonprofit has access to free fundraising tools, and individuals have access to free tools to raise funds on behalf of a nonprofit. What’s more, all of the funds raised go to the nonprofit, as Facebook does not take a percentage. More information on nonprofits that are eligible for these tools can be found here.

365 digital agency is the digital partner advertisers trust to drive campaign performance and media efficiency. Proud to be completely independently owned and operated, 365 digital agency provides trustworthy expertise that meets its clients’ needs — and no one else’s. Using predictive intelligence, 365 digital agency helps advertisers get the most value out of every impression across all paid digital media. Through the combination of employing the smartest technology and the most experienced people in the industry, 365 digital agency delivers authentic results.

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