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Responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Restaurants on Social Media

Lindsey Pizula

By: Lindsey Pizula

Senior Strategist


Following protocols and updates suggested by the CDC, many restaurants have adjusted their services to stay relevant and generate more revenue during the COVID-19 outbreak. During this uncertain time, many restaurants are navigating ways to stay competitive as more consumers opt towards cooking at home, or ordering delivery. Currently, brands must find ways to remain top-of-mind and reach users. Arguably, the most effective way to reach consumers right now is through social networks. In the wake of the current crisis, people have turned to social media to stay informed on news and to stay connected with family, friends, and brands.

Usage is up on Social Channels

The US is seeing historical highs in media consumption in an already heavy social media-using culture: Americans are spending just shy of 12 hours each day on media platforms. According to an eMarketer study, 50% of US adults are using social media more frequently during the Coronavirus pandemic. This increase in usage should play a role in how much brands invest in social media marketing at a time when these channels are being so heavily utilized.

  • Facebook has seen total messaging on its apps increase more than 50% in countries hit hardest by the virus.
  • Instagram Stories, one of Instagram’s most popular features, has experienced a 15% increase in engagement since the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Snapchat has reported that communication between friends on the platform has increased over 30% in the last week of March compared to the last week of January, with 50% of the increases in the communities hit hardest by the virus.
  • On March 23rd, Twitter stated that its quarter-to-date monthly daily active users was up 8% from Q4 2019.
  • Marketers are flocking to social media, but at a slower rate than predicted. In the first week of March 2020, eMarketer originally predicted ad spend would rise by 20.7% this year. However, eMarketer updated its prediction to say that 2020 ad spend will likely only increase by 2%-15.5% overall. This makes it a beneficial time for businesses to invest more heavily towards social as there are fewer competitors taking advantage of the channel than originally anticipated.

Consumer Sentiment on Hearing From Restaurants is Positive

Advertising during an economic recession can be successful, and consumers want to hear more from restaurants.

Source: eMarketer

A March 2020 survey by Integral Ad Science found that 78% of US internet users had no negative sentiment towards brands running content alongside COVID-19 coverage. However, brands should consider new strategies on how to speak to customers during the COVID-19 outbreak. In a March 2020 survey conducted by Kantar, 77% of respondents said they wanted advertisers to “talk about how the brand is helpful in the new everyday life.” 75% of respondents said that brands messaging should “inform about the brand’s efforts to face the situation.” Analytics company Ace Metrix research showed that 86% of US ad viewers were open to brands mentioning COVID-19 in their ads. Consumers want to see how brands are changing to address the situation, marketers can craft their messaging to demonstrate their brand’s benefits and relevance in the uncertain landscape.

US Consumers During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Source: eMarketer

What Happens When Brands Do Not Advertise During Economic Downturns?

Marketing Week states that although it may seem like a paradox, “recessionary periods actually provide an opportunity for marketers to grow their brand’s market share” in the long-term. Social media ad spend is expected to grow despite economic setbacks during the Coronavirus pandemic; on top of that, usage is up significantly on social platforms. Companies opting out of social at this time are not only missing out on long-term brand positive sentiment, but additional revenue driven by social channels and their mass reach. If brands slow down or completely diminish customer connection during this pivotal time, it is possible that an immediate return to market and “normalcy” will be much harder when things resume.

Restaurant Messaging During Covid-19

How are restaurants utilizing social media advertising in the current climate?

  • Highlighting company do-gooder moments such as food donations to healthcare/essential workers
  • Offering Take-out, Curbside Pickup, and Delivery options Promoting “Family Meal” Deals
  • Offering whole ingredients for sale (i.e. Italian restaurants selling fresh, dry pasta)
  • Promoting Gift Cards for later use
  • Providing transparency around business/employee safety precautions
  • Promoting free delivery with minimum spend limits

Additional Campaign Recommendations:

  • Gift Card and Order promotion specific for upcoming holidays
  • Leverage Facebook’s Store Traffic objective as your restaurant location(s) start to open back up

Source: eMarketer, Klear, App Annie, Nielsen




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