May 12-14, 2020
Marriott Marquis Atlanta
influencer uses live video to put on mask

8 Ways to Get Smart About Live Video During the COVID-19 Crisis

By: Sophie Maerowitz

March 19, 2020

In the age of COVID, the phrase “Extremely Online” is taking on new meaning.

With so many events, one-on-one meetings and business trips suspended as a result of the pandemic, PR agencies and social marketers are urging clients to pivot from IRL events into live video. And although many companies have developed hyper-targeted social media strategies in recent years, it may be time to take a more global approach to avoid sending mixed messages to different audience segments, Tom Garruto, director of operations at The Social Edge, told The Social Shake-Up.

“This will force businesses to expand their focus to nationwide engagement rather than the geographic specificity of in-person events,” said Garruto. (His agency specializes, among other things, in Broadway theater, a sector in dire need of PR guidance after New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced theaters would be going dark until at least mid-April.)

“Clients [are] considering a virtual experience where they can more easily advertise on organic social instead of paying to target a specific city. And right now, any way to cut expenses is a huge help,” Garruto added.

Garruto’s team has seen increased engagement as people spend an increasing amount of time on social media while practicing social distancing.  “Any company can benefit from boosting their social presence right now while the increased engagement is there,” he asserted.

Still, despite live streaming’s current benefits, Garruto urged companies to consult with internal communications leaders before going live. In COVID’s rapidly evolving wake, brands should be wary of using humor or embracing meme-inspired social media norms. “Tempers are short, and this hour’s joke may seem really inappropriate when viewed after new guidance comes out.”

Garruto’s guidance for live streaming:

Some marketing leaders, like Danica Kombol, CEO of Atlanta-based Everywhere Agency, are warning communicators to “tread lightly” in terms of live streaming for marketing purposes. “Our nation is in crisis. While it’s tempting to jump on the Instagram and Facebook Live bandwagon, think long and hard about the messaging you want to convey. Ask yourself, do you have something helpful to share, or are you using the pandemic to push out a potentially cringe-worthy marketing message?”

If it’s the latter, advised Kombol, save it for now. This is a time for brands to “show compassion and focus on the health and wellness of our entire community. If you have messaging that helps the vast number of employees work more efficiently from home, share it, but for Pete’s sake, don’t try to sell it,” she urged.

Justin Buchbinder, director of social media at Finn Partners, also advised brand leaders to leverage live streaming to make themselves of service “during a time where people are nervous, cooped up, and looking for human contact.”

Buchbinder suggested the following use cases for live streaming throughout the COVID outbreak:

Like Kombol, Buchbinder prizes substance over streaming for streaming’s sake. “Ensure that you have a structure. Don’t just dive in without a plan,” he advised.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, “social media and video streaming will quickly prove themselves a necessary and beneficial utility,” Buchbinder added.

Follow Sophie: @SophieMaerowitz

Follow Danica: @DanicaKombol

Connect with Justin and Tom on LinkedIn.

At The Social Shake-Up