There is no other way to say it, it's a scary time to be a marketer and/or business owner right now.
With all the uncertainty around how long the COVID-19 pandemic is set to impact virtually every aspect of how we live, it’s hard to decide what's best for business when it comes to marketing. Should you stop your marketing and advertising initiatives in the midst of the crisis? And if you continue to advertise at this time, how will your message be received by consumers who are also stressed about their own situation?
In the end, each business and marketer needs to make the best decision for their own unique circumstance in order to ensure their business survives. However, if you are able to continue marketing, even in a scaled-back capacity, it is likely to be beneficial, and could end up being the thing that keeps you afloat through the difficult weeks and months ahead.
Before we jump into the reasons why Facebook Ads are critical for your business during COVID-19, there is one key consideration to be aware of. While this is still a good time to advertise (you’ll find out why below), you should note that conversions are not likely to roll in as they usually would. In the short term, your campaigns may not generate bottom-line results - however there are other benefits to keeping your awareness campaigns going.
1. Digital attention is at an all-time high
With most businesses closed, and most people staying at home in order to reduce the potential spread of the virus, social media usage is surging.
Since people aren’t going out to bars or engaging in outdoor activities, they're turning to Facebook and Instagram much more than normal - which means that the amount of available impressions is also on the increase, and the capacity for your ads to reach your target audience is equally on the rise. This will lead to lower overall operating costs for your campaigns.
We wouldn't necessarily recommend the testing of any new initiatives during this time, however those who can afford to keep their campaigns running for the next 30, 60 or 90 days will be doing so in a more favorable market for attention.
2. Many of your competitors are pausing their campaigns
Whenever there's a disruption to “business as usual”, the first reaction that many businesses have is to pause their ad campaigns, with a view to restarting them again once the situation dies down. And that is exactly why you should keep your Facebook Ads going (if you can afford to) during this particular crisis.
With your competitors likely out of the running, your shared customer base will be ripe for the taking. And again, with competition for the same audience lower, you'll inevitably see lower operating costs (CPC, CPMs) as well, thus making your spend even more impactful.
Analysts are predicting that Facebook's ad revenue, based on the current situation, will decline by 19% for the year, or around $15.7 billion in total. That's a lot of potential competition that won't be your ad auctions.
3. Brand awareness is a low-cost objective
Since conversions are likely to slow down due, understandably, to larger concerns occupying people's thoughts, it could also be a good idea to shift to a lower-cost objective, like Brand Awareness, with your Facebook Ads.
Brand Awareness ads are geared towards generating as many impressions as possible among your target audience in the hopes of generating greater brand recall. Facebook measures this by asking those who were served the ad if they remember seeing it two days after being served. This can be seen as a double-dip, because if they don’t remember it, they'll be reminded through this process.
These campaigns typically generate results for a few cents, and are great at keeping brand awareness high. If you need to scale back budgets, and believe that awareness is more business-critical than conversion at this stage, this is the way to go.
4. You have the opportunity to serve people now, and win business later
While there are some key business reasons why you would want to keep your Facebook Ad campaigns active during a time like this, it's important to also consider how your brand will be perceived by its audience as a result. Given this, we highly recommend that brands consider changing their messaging or offers in order to serve people, as opposed to hard selling at this stage.
Changing your approach just a little in the short term can help you win the trust and admiration of consumers in the longer view. You can do this by offering discounts, freebies in the future, or even complimentary access to premium services.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that advertising isn’t about making money, however we should definitely be sensitive about how we do it. Offering helpful, thoughtful service, and/or increased value and utility in a time of need won't be forgotten when the crisis passes.
We wish you well in weathering this time of uncertainty and anxiety. It's challenging for everyone - and for marketers, maintaining the balance between business need and issue-sensitivity will remain a difficult balancing act.
Consider the situation your audience is facing, what they need, and where your business can help, and you can build thoughtful, respectful campaigns and offers that will also go a long way towards helping your business make it through the crisis.