Social media - our tips for maximising impact in the ‘new normal’

Social media - our tips for maximising impact in the ‘new normal’

Since the onset of Coronavirus, we’ve all been learning how to adjust to a new way of doing things.

Considering we’re all physically more distant than before, it’s no surprise that since the lockdown started, more people are using social media. Figures from Kantar show that 48% of people are using social media more, and they’re online at different times, too.

Finding ourselves in a more virtual world means a lot of our core activities have needed a radical rethink. This has presented a unique challenge to marketers everywhere. But one thing is certain: digital is king. With that in mind, here we share what we’ve learned from having to pivot our own communication strategy in a matter of weeks, and through watching our organic licensees respond. Read on for six social media tips that you can follow to get your organic message out there.

How we’ve reacted at Soil Association

Everything changed rapidly for us here at the Soil Association when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the UK. We had to react quickly, review our strategy, and pivot to content that was respectful of the situation. We also knew the status quo was changing each day, and as a result, we‘d need to repeatedly review this strategy – this allowed us to focus on the immediate future, rather than trying to create something which had any longevity.

The initial impact of COVID-19, and the corresponding panic buying, played out on our channels in the form of people researching home delivery options and local food shops. Page views to our veg box and indie retailers pages in March and April were up more than 900% compared to January and February!

We were presented with the challenge of no longer being able to rely on our staple evergreen content driving the same community engagement or traffic to our website. As a result, we posted 30% less of our normal content. We were concerned about this initially, but actually managed to up our engagement because our posts were tuned into the mood of the nation, and the needs of our followers at that moment – a good reminder of the importance of always being a bit obsessed with your audience.

We learnt (and were reminded of) a few other things in the process:

Six practical tips for organic businesses on social media right now


1) Show you care  

Show empathy, support your communities (online and offline); be a force for good and don’t exploit the situation.

Much like Kerry from Hembridge Organics, who uses up overripe, bruised and damaged fruit and veggies from local organic farms, to make jams and chutneys. Since lockdown began, she’s helped out her neighbours, Avalon Organic Vineyard - who are closed at the moment - by taking their gluts of gooseberries and blackberries that they’d normally put into their wines.

Instagram - @soilassociation: post about Hembridge Organics (@organicpreserves) helping their neighbour producers to combat food waste


Or like Ros Heathcote, Founder & Managing Director @ Borough Broth Company, who told us: 

“I decided to not shy away from the situation, when it comes to content, but also felt very strongly about not pushing any claim that our product would 'boost' people's immunity. What I realised our products do offer is comfort, so the big focus is on that.”


2) Root your content in reality

Even the basics need rethinking - physical photo shoots are off, and existing photography banks don’t contain photos of people using laptops at home or social distancing. So, update your imagery: remove images that show large social gatherings, and use more imagery showing electronic devices and virtual connections, so your content feels relevant and timely.

Consider how people are feeling: in the UK, optimism is waning as the long term implications of the situation sink in. There’s a mix of hope, fear and acceptance in equal measure. With that in mind, look at the content you’re planning. Does the message still feel right? Don’t be afraid to divert from your content plan, as these are unprecedented times.

"We’ve been conscious of keeping our customers very informed along the way. Transparency is key and we value the honest relationship we have with our customers. It’s been important to keep this going, while also trying to help them through our live 'Life on the Veg' support."

- Zoe Wyeth, Multi-channel Marketing Manager @ Riverford


3) Encourage connections, ease isolation

Think about community, not just commercials - the two don’t have to be separate. Don’t just broadcast, talk to - and with - your audiences; ask them what they need, how you can help, and co-create ways of adapting your offer together.

Be present: reply to people, share things in real time, and go behind the scenes, like Joe Rolfe at RB Organics, who uses his Instagram story highlights to take people behind the scenes of his Norfolk farm. Show your audience what you’re up to. People want to see real people, and real life, more than ever. 

“A lot of people out there really want to be heard, and being stuck at home means there's a whole new level of that, so we have to be a bit kinder and more patient with people.

Our following has grown, people are sharing and cooking our recipes more, and I feel I'm having lots of direct conversations with our followers, which keeps me connected to our customers and what works for them.”

- Ros Heathcote, Founder & Managing Director @ Borough Broth Company


4) Be a positive voice for change

Use your channels to show all the good things still happening, like these organic heroes and key workers. Give people a message of hope and change for the future.

A montage of @soilassociation Instagram stories of our clients

We recently conducted a paid Facebook poll, targeted to a wide and general UK audience, to find out whether people intended to keep the new habits they’ve made during lockdown – such as buying food more locally, shopping at independent retailers, signing up to box schemes, and cooking more from scratch. We had over 1,400 votes, and a huge 91% of respondents said they want to keep these positive changes to their lifestyle.

A recent poll by the RSA also found that people want to learn from this crisis. In fact, 85% of respondents want to see some of the personal or social changes they’ve experienced continue once the situation calms, while just 9% want everything to go back to how it was before the pandemic.


5) Educate, inspire, entertain or help

You might not fit in to all these camps, and don’t feel like you have to. Be true to your brand values. Do what your company exists to do, and try and do one of the above. This might include sharing recipe ideas or tips on planting your own veg, or perhaps there’s another way to make your audience smile, like this example from Riverford Dairy.

Instagram photo from @riverforddairy of one of their cows in close up 

“One of the positives we can take from this awful situation is that a lot more people are cooking at home, and a lot more people are documenting it on social media. There are many novice cooks out there who’ve been somewhat forced to get in the kitchen, so we've tried to make our content simple, digestible, and easy to follow and share.  We're finding more people are discovering our products, trialling them, and tagging us in the results, which is really heart-warming to see.”

- Ros Heathcote, Founder & Managing Director @ Borough Broth Company


“As a business based around cooking and delivery of healthy food, we find ourselves with a unique opportunity, where we can help people to make the most of lockdown, and spending more time at home with more opportunity to cook, especially through our ‘Veg Hacks’ video series

We’re being more open and direct with our customers than ever, to keep them in the loop, as we all navigate this unpredictable time, and social media is a great space for us to do so. It provides us with immediate feedback and a good indication of customer sentiment."

- Emily Muddeman, Social Media Manager @ Riverford


6) Don’t shy away

Seize opportunities to try new things: test stuff you might not have been able to before, and use the fact that people are online more to co-create and iterate ideas with your audiences. Twitter and Facebook polls are a great way to get quick insights from your community on social.

Remember, low-fi content is the norm right now; no one is creating polished content, and everything is filmed at home on phones and laptops. So, don’t let the fact you haven’t got access to slick production methods stop you; get creative with the tools you have. You may have noticed from television that brands have switched to homemade video content produced by their staff and customers. Seeing video footage of people taken on phones and laptops resonates with people as that’s how they’re communicating with friends and family right now. The content feels more personal.

When we saw an increase in people looking for home delivery, we used our social channels to highlight all the businesses setting up home delivery options, and the farms upscaling their food production.  

We quickly upped the amount we used real-time social tools, like Instagram stories, to show the varying challenges facing our certification clients (newly classed as ‘key workers’). 

This 'behind the scenes' video from Abel and Cole is a great example, showing what it takes to keep our food systems up and running in these unprecedented times.

Facebook: Soil Association's 'Behind the scenes at Abel & Cole' video

What does this mean for organic businesses? 

There’s a shift happening in what people want from brands – people expect their connections with brands to help them with their daily lives, or keep them entertained during these unprecedented times.

At the same time, trust and transparency are vital, and organic is well placed for this. News of empty supermarket shelves and shortages of workers on farms has highlighted how fragile our global supply chains are. People better understand how much effort it takes to get food into our shops and onto our plates. Sustainability and provenance are at the heart of organic, and there’s growing evidence to suggest people want to see us come out of this stronger - a great example of this is the recent RSA poll - and that they want to do more good, being increasingly thoughtful and making more planet-centric choices. Organic brands can show how this is possible.


For more information and support for organic businesses adapting to COVID-19, visit our hub for certification clients