Digital marketing tips during turbulent times

– 31 March 2020

As an agency that is deeply rooted in digital we felt it important to share our thoughts and tips around what to do digitally in a time where COVID-19 is having a grave impact on the well-being of people and businesses. We are facing challenging times with the economy expected to take a huge knock. As a digital marketing agency in South Africa, we’re constantly questioning, learning and updating our clients on how best to represent themselves within this complex and shifting social climate.While online behaviours have and will continue to change, due to the evolving circumstances around COVID-19, there remain consistent human behaviours and advertising opportunities. 

Here are a few of our thoughts on how to maintain your digital presence during this time:

In General
  • If you are in the essential goods space, we recommend building a unique campaign around your enhanced safety measures and the benefits your goods will provide to customers.
  • If your business is linked to a charitable cause, that should be emphasised through organic content and paid social efforts.
  • Communicate what your business is doing to flatten the curve across social media
  • Now is the time for clients and agencies to put their heads together to plan and prepare for what the industry is going to look like after lockdown.
  • Depending on your industry, there might be a period during lockdown when activity will be paused, however if you have a presence online we would recommend not pausing all activity, but rather reducing spend and being selective on which channels you will be present on.
  • Work collaboratively with your agency to think outside the box around how to use existing channels differently.
  • As a business, you should receive support on how to explore other ad formats, leverage new features or think differently about existing features.
  • Post lockdown it would be advisable to re-evaluate your business marketing KPIs. Due to economic and consumer changes, current KPI’s should be re-evaluated to meet new needs, or perhaps new ones created.
  • To ensure business continuity, consider what is most relevant about your brand, products, or campaigns that can be supported by media right now.
  • Consider if all your creative elements — tone, copy, visuals, keywords, placements — are appropriate and relevant in this new environment.
  • Search is not coming to an end, consumers are still Googling and brands still have a role to play in showing up against relevant queries. We suggest scaling down on the level of spend if there is concern around whether your business can afford to show up when it is not sufficiently operational to fulfil this need.
  • This is a pivotal time to be bidding on generic terms for your business as the user has more time on their hands for research. You want to be there when they are searching your industry terms. Once the lockdown is over you can remarket to this audience. 
  • A lot of your competitors will be taking a back step in terms of advertising, this is the perfect time to capitalise on competitor terms – they could possibly be cheaper. 
  • Consider a search with display campaign – your ad will be visible on the display network as well.
  • Take this time to build up your audience list. With a smart campaign you can advertise your products across platforms, including display, to stay top of mind.
  • We recently received some interesting stats from Google around what is happening in the YouTube space. “Average global daily uploads of videos with “At Home” and “Workout At Home”  in the title increased over 50% and 55% respectively from March 10 through March 15. Therefore creators are uploading new types of content for people’s changing needs.”  Due to this surge in online streaming YouTube has committed to reduce its video quality in order to reduce its bandwidth consumption as the behaviour of content streaming has shifted from evenings to a full day, due to working from home.

    • YouTube content has grown significantly, creating a unique space for advertisers to target their messaging to a captive, at-home audience. Consider the right YouTube ad format and create custom/bespoke messaging to provide new and fresh content.
    • YouTube is showing tens of millions of search queries each day related to COVID-19. Consumers remain open to brands, and although they might not show intent to buy now they certainly will consider your brand at a later stage.


SEO & Content
  • Be selective on what type of communication you put out in the market.
  • This communication must remain consistent with all stakeholders.
  • Build messages around support. Ensure your business is contactable despite being closed or having limited staff and that all stakeholders will be able to get in touch in various ways, whether it’s via your website, social or email.
  • Communication should be relevant to the concerns/issues of customers during this time. This being said, messages can still promote products or services if they are essential or to keep these products/services in the minds of people without a  hard-sell approach.
  • Messages should include a reminder that once things are back to normal, your brand will be available and ready to serve as it did before.
  • No SEO strategy should be overhauled, but rather messaging and keywords updated slightly to tailor new messages around the current situation. Keep the message relevant to your audience and your strategy shouldn’t suffer.
  • Do not bombard your audience with messages, rather send updates as and when necessary, with your regular content going out as usual.


  • If you don’t want your brand showing up for content linked to COVID-19, Corona or Virus,  programmatic display has the ability to ensure brand safety and tight targeting.
  • With a shift in content consumption towards indoor activities, health, finances and business, we do recommend you supplement optimisation with tailored messaging or reworked banners to offer relevant content.
  • If your business is seasonal, then this might be a great time to give your current customers a sneak preview of what is to come.
  • An after lockdown promotion can give users an idea of what they can expect in the near future.
  • A lockdown competition can engage customers to keep them entertained and connected with your brand.
  • Display is a great way for brands to connect with their client base, wishing for good health and, if they are ill, a full recovery. 
  • Use display to offer prevention tips or curated content that will add value to customers.


  • Now more than ever with consumers having more time available to them, there will likely be an influx of users engaging on Facebook and Instagram. With these engaged customers, speak to their situation and push social responsibility, empathy and kindness over product and sale. 
  • Facebook and Instagram are strong platforms that invite users to engage with comments. Be more sensitive in the communication you put out on these channels during this time. If you aren’t in the position to handle the possible influx of comments, we would recommend reducing social media advertising over this period.
  • Competitions and light-hearted social engagement could be seen as a good gesture to keep consumers’ spirits high and their attitude towards you positive.
  • Leverage this space as a business to show your opinion, and share and promote the content that you agree with.
  • Host virtual events using LinkedIn Live and LinkedIn Events, where industry experts share information and guidance with the LinkedIn community and your customers. These tools are provided to help organizations of all sizes find success.
  • Showcase how your business is future-proofing itself for after COVID-19, and users will be interested to know and share this.

In closing, we understand that during this time some industries will thrive due to the nature of their business while others may suffer. Consumer behaviour and sentiment will shift, and as an agency we believe it is crucial for us to work alongside businesses — with the knowledge and expertise we have — to brainstorm for the future, and focus on two things:

  1. What is the business plan/strategy for after COVID-19?
  2. What strategic changes can we, as an agency, support businesses with and put in place now?

So within your marketing roles in whatever industry you find yourself: 

  1. Do not hesitate to reach out to your agency whose intention it is to support you during this time
  2. Avoid knee jerk reactions when it comes to media buying and planning that could negatively impact your business
  3. Show kindness to yourself and each other, and know that no idea is a bad one in a time  where new ideas are to be explored
  4. Try not to be fearful in taking risks with your marketing ideas. We are all in this together and now is the time to remain empathetic and consider your social impact.


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