How to keep your Instagram followers engaged during the Coronavirus crisis


21 April 2020
With most of the world social distancing, we've all turned online to connect, so how do you stay relevant among all the chatter?
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We’ve all heard the ‘stay at home’ order in almost every part of the world. Well, this might look like a good idea to spend time with your family. However, it’s only reasonable if you’re doing it for a few days or a week. It’s a matter of time before you realize that your business is going to be affected if you continue staying at home doing nothing.

Well, you don’t have to defy the order, go out there and work to save your business. What it means is that your business marketing strategies don’t have to go into quarantine as well.

The mandatory quarantine is not only a crisis for the brick and mortar sellers. Even the online platforms like Instagram that are accessed remotely are going to see a decline in business thanks to the sharp pangs of Covid-19.

You can’t bank on it that the 1 billion Instagram monthly users are going to remain untouched. And you know what happens when this number is touched? Your followers are going to reduce, and your engagement is at risk of dropping to zero.

Reports are already showing a 14% decline in Instagram engagement by followers as of last week. The rate of engagement decline is continuing to look sharp, and the situation is not showing any signs of getting better over the coming weeks. Instagram marketers should prepare for the worst drop in engagement.

Why is Instagram Engagement the Most Affected?

Current stats are showing twice more drop on Instagram engagement than it is on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These sites are not spared either, but their engagement drop rates are not as sharp as that of Instagram.

The main reason behind the drop in engagement on Instagram is because this site is mainly meant for marketing purposes. As per the situation at hand, people are now more interested in ways to stay away from the virus, and not many will pay attention to a marketing message.

People are looking for news and updates which they are mostly getting on Twitter. Others are looking for ways to connect with friends and family, who are stuck in different parts of the world following the travel bans. We all know that Facebook provides the best platform for social connections. Now you can see why Instagram is most affected by the coronavirus crisis in terms of engagement.

Most industries, such as tourism, hotels, sports, resorts, tech, and software, mostly market through Instagram. If you’ve been following the trends, then you must know that these industries are the most affected globally. Sports events have come to a halt. No one is eating out, no vacations and all tourism companies are closing down because they are not receiving any visitors. There is no doubt the closure of these industries is resulting in the Instagram fallouts as they are bringing the platform down with them.

Well, before the situation gets worse, you need to take immediate action to protect your business from the tough times ahead. You should get some helpful insights and tips on how to keep your followers engaged and even acquire new ones amidst the crisis. To do this, you must rethink your marketing efforts and craft ways of making them more relevant to the situation at hand.

How do you do that? This article answers that question in detail.

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How to Maintain Your Engagement Rate

Be Relevant

At the time when everybody has their eyes and ears open on any news related to the coronavirus, you can’t risk being completely out of topic. The secret to succeeding in Instagram marketing is to follow what’s trending. That’s why people use hashtags in the first place. Imagine having a critical Covid-19 update just below your post. There are 90% chances that the reader will jump straight to the next post without bothering to open yours.

Well, this does not mean that you should start posting Covid-19 updates as well. But how about you start showing your Instagram followers that you care about the situation at hand other than just looking for ways to make some hard sales?

By being relevant amidst this situation, it means finding out the trending topics and trying to think on that line. For instance, readers are looking for ways to stay safe from the pandemic. How are your products or services going to help? Are you employing any strategies to help curb the spread? Even little efforts go a long way.

For instance, you can tell your customers that you’re now opting for mobile payment services to avoid touching the money in a bid to contain the spread. Make sure your post can get you somewhere in the most sought after hashtags on Instagram. In this case, your post will be talking about measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus. At this time, your posts need to be about the customer by taking yourself out of the equation.

Target Your Valued Customers

Regardless of the situation at hand, you still need to grow your follower list and find ways to prevent your account from losing the ones you already have. Acquiring new Instagram followers should always be among your priorities when it comes to implementing the best marketing strategies.

This is the time when people are going to spend most of their time online, and you need to take advantage of the opportunity to grow your following.

However, this is not as important as engaging the ones you already have. Your existing customers need to get the highest lifetime value from your merchandise. You should understand that engaging with the existing followers will be easier than acquiring new ones at this time. Your valued customers already know your worth, and most of them will stick around regardless of the situation. Understand your segment audience and tailor your engagement posts towards them.

Create a Community

What your followers and customers are looking for right now is someone who understands them and shares their values. Your followers need that reassurance and the motivation which you can relay using your marketing message. You need to prove to them that you share their beliefs. An online community gives your followers a sense of belonging and the feeling that you care.

The current climate is focusing on the coronavirus issues, and that’s where everybody’s concerns lie. You must show your followers that you understand the situation, and you want to stand with them in such a hard time. You should show your support via the community by engaging in helpful discussions and posts. This is the time to learn how you can communicate your marketing message with empathy.

A community will not only help your followers engage with you but also offer a platform for them to get insights from other people within the group. This is an opportunity to listen to your customers as well as provide them with learning opportunities. This will also allow you to market your products and services through other customers. Research shows that customers are more likely to trust a review from a fellow customer than from the marketer.

Focus on Content Marketing

It is obvious coronavirus has largely affected marketers. You can no longer host events such as trade shows anymore. But this doesn’t mean everything is crumbling down. Wise marketers must think of an alternative way from event marketing. The alternatives narrow down to content marketing.

You already know that Instagram excels when it comes to content marketing. The only difference now is that you won’t divert your follower’s attention from the tension brought about by the deadly virus and make them focus on your content.

Doing that is not going to be easy. Your content will no longer be about blogs and editorial strategies. You need consistency and increased engagement with your Instagram followers. Your content is what’s going to keep an ongoing relationship with your followers. It should be non-promotional but keep your customers engaged.

You should ensure you provide helpful information through your content because this is what your followers are looking for during this time of crisis.

Here are some ideas that can help with your content marketing at this time.

  • Make Use of Help and Support: If you live in the UK, you must have already heard the news that the government is giving businesses some sort of financial support. If you’re outside the UK, then you can still stay put because big announcements are coming your way. Even if they come in the form of reduced taxes or free ad placements on Google, you should not let them pass you.

  • Create a Content Hub: Because people are looking for more content related to the virus, it will be a good idea if you create your coronavirus content hub where you can post everything related to the disease. This will provide a perfect way for your customers to get the information they need, and you won’t have to lose followers.

  • Connect to Trending Topics: The way things are going, it’s becoming more and more challenging to be heard unless you find a way to connect your content to the trending topics. Be on the lookout for the topics that are trending right now and use them to create an opportunity to connect with your followers.

Don’t be Afraid to Post Less

While most Instagram marketers understand that being active and posting often is the key to keeping followers engaged, this might not be so helpful at this time. Currently, there is not much attention on marketing messages. As we already discussed, people are more interested in news and updates. However, you should never run out of ideas that keep you on the mind of your followers.

There are up to 95 million posts on Instagram daily with brands posting at least two times every day. However, this statistic is perfect on a typical day. During this time of the coronavirus outbreak, posting two or more pieces of content on your Instagram account daily can be considered too much considering the reduction of the engagement rate. Most of your posts are likely to go unnoticed.

Be careful about the day you choose to post because your post has a higher chance of not getting seen if you post on a wrong day. This will deeply hurt your engagement rate. When you post at the time when your followers are waiting for an important update, let’s say a press conference, your post will get buried under the essential updates.

This turn of events can be frustrating, but it’s the reality. Knowing when to post has always been an engagement strategy on Instagram, and it’s going to be very helpful at this time. Remember, every post you make is important, and you can’t imagine their shelf life running out without creating the necessary engagement. You must already know that Instagram posts have a very limited shelf life.

According to an Adobe study, you only need a post per day for your Instagram marketing strategies. But that’s on normal days. At the time when nobody cares about these posts anymore, you might need to post less than that. Remember, your posts are supposed to consider what your audience wants. The rule of thumb is to post less when you’re losing followers, or your engagement is dropping. There is no better time to practise this strategy than this time of the Covid-19 crisis.

Apply the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule has always been a success when it comes to Instagram marketing, and you should make it your engagement strategy during this coronavirus crisis. According to this rule, only 20% of your posts should be about your brand, while the remaining 80 should be on matters of interest to your followers. If you’ve managed to drive engagement the other way round, it won’t be possible this time.

This is the time when people are no longer interested in what you’re selling. They are now looking for more interesting and helpful posts. Users are now engaging more with educative content and are building a relationship with people that post informative content. Promotional contents are just struggling to get noticed this time unless they contain information related to the virus.

So, if you were to make 10 posts in a week during this crisis time, 8 of them should be engagement posts while two of them should promote your brand. Keep the conversations going as much as you’re here to build a solid relationship with your followers and keep then engaged as always. These engaging posts are the ones that will drive the sales you need if you understand how to do it well.

You understand that in the marketing world, there are only two types of posts, organic and promotional. This is the time to leverage the power of organic content. While these posts are not going to promote your brands directly, they are the ones that put the name of your brand out there. These include inspirational posts, industry news, conversation starters, etc.

This is not the time to dwell too much on promotional content because these kinds of content mainly seek to sell. You don’t want to show your Instagram followers that you’re only here to sell and promote your business when everybody else is thinking about their health. Promotional content includes reviews, demos, stories, or “shoppable” posts. It is not the time to bombard your followers with ads.

Go Live

Instagram Live has been the latest trending way of reaching out to customers. At the time of crisis like this one, going live on Instagram will be more helpful than ever. If you’ve never thought you’ll ever get in touch with your followers live, then the time has come.

Live videos allow you to connect more directly and appear more genuine. People are engaged better with videos than they get engaged with written content. Not so many people will read a post to the end, but most will view a video from start to finish. This means you’ll be able to engage your followers more, improve your conversation rates, and even make some unexpected sales during this time if you reach out through live videos.

This is the best strategy to meet with your followers face to face without any physical contact. Remember, people are isolating, so everybody is craving for an opportunity to interact with one another even if they don’t know you personally. As a marketer, you should do all it takes to exploit such an opportunity. Ensure your followers are always up to date with what your business has to offer.

What to Post on Instagram during this Crisis

Everybody is worried about what’s going to happen next. As a marketer, you’re worried as well, but you can’t let your Instagram followers see that. You need to keep your follower’s hopes up as a strategy to keep them engaged. So, what kinds of posts are trending on Instagram right now?

  • Non-humorous: This is not the time for laughs. Everyone is experiencing some tension, and some are on the verge of having a mental breakdown. Don’t get tempted to try being sarcastic or snarky. Well, some types of humour might work, but it’s hard to predict the appropriate time to use them. The best thing to do is to watch your tone of voice, be empathetic, and understanding.

  • Be Informative: We can’t emphasize this enough, but there is no better way to engage your audience right now than to educate and inform them. This is not the time to focus on your benefits, but what will benefit your customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re going out of the topic. Your followers are looking for information, and you have the power to provide them with the necessary details. Stay up to date with the trends, stats, and everything going on across the globe. Your followers will not go anywhere to get this information. You won’t lose followers in the process but gain new ones instead.

  • Inspiring Videos: Coronavirus has seen many of your followers slowly losing hope. Even if they are not directly affected yet, they are likely to despair as they see things continuing to fall apart. Thanks to the power of Instagram live, you can bring back this hope by connecting with them using some inspiring videos. Make sure your videos are valuable and don’t forget you’re doing this to drive engagement.

  • Promos and Deals: Don’t forget that your customers are still looking for deals and promos at this time. Even if times are hard for everyone, you can’t fail them because they still need to save up. You can use this opportunity to show them that you care about the situation and want to make life easier. Offering those deals and different types of promos are some of the best strategies to get their attention.

  • Creative Posts: Coronavirus news and updates have taken the attention of your followers, and you have to do everything to get that back. Creativity is what’s going to save you at this time. As a marketer, you need to think of creative ways to grab the attention of your followers. If you’re not creative enough, you can turn to some fun apps that help people come up with creative videos and posts.

Wrapping It Up

You’re going to quarantine, but your brand should not go with you. You need to keep working from home and ensure your followers can still engage with you wherever they are. Don’t make the mistake of tightening the reins of your marketing efforts because if you put a halt to everything, you might not recover when the pandemic is over.

Your followers might not be engaging with you like before, and you might not be making the sales you used to make. Everybody is experiencing similar problems, and the whole world is going through these kinds of frustrations. The only thing you can do right now is to ensure you stay in the mind of your followers. Consider their needs first and ensure you always provide them with value. Craft those educational contents, inspiring videos, and all the support they may need.