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What Brands Need to Know About COVID-19 Social Media and Consumer Behavior: A #FridayForum Recap

On Friday, 5/8, our eager community of PR and communications professionals gathered to hear insights from esteemed social media experts and consumer behavior specialists — Cindy Waters, a Digital Strategist Consultant, and Sean DallasKidd, Partner and CCO at Demonstrate. Consumer behavior and social media was the weekly COVID-19 topic we tackled in the Friday Forum series from the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley chapters. 


Both experts have seen drastic changes in consumer and brands’ usage of social media amongst the pandemic, which was expected. In addition to hearing about how to be agile and adaptable, one of the biggest takeaways was that most social media “best practices” and guidelines aren’t of much relevance right now, given our current situation. As Sean puts it, “If you’re following social media best practices right now, you’re doing it wrong. Best practices have gone out the window.”

Our discussion addressed how we as communicators can strike a balance in both addressing the epidemic surrounding us with sensitivity and compassion, while still communicating about our brands and products. The panelists shared that what we might perceive as providing value, is not necessarily the same, and actually providing value to our audiences. We need to think about what “value” and being human actually means to our audiences. It’s also important not to join the conversation just for the sake of joining the conversation — make sure you’re being additive if you’re going to contribute on social media. A key part of striking this balance and providing value is knowing your audience and understanding their needs and behaviors. 

Since we all have been living in this 24 hour news cycle, almost completely focused on COVID-19, it is important for our readers and consumers to get a break. The panelists shared that in some cases, they’re seeing how escapism is working well — certain social media outlets can offer a respite from the craziness. Having Instagram takeovers or sharing someone else to show a day in the life are good ways to apply these to your brand’s social media channels and keep engagement up. 

When it comes to how quickly to act, Cindy advised that, “There’s more penalty in social media right now. Opportunities arise and pass more quickly. You have to be fast.” The two panelists shared how it is important to have the confidence to respond on social media. Sean summed it up by saying brands need to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. 

One of the examples we discussed was the recent layoffs from Airbnb and how the company got ahead of their story by announcing the employees that had gotten let go through a public directory, noting that they are fantastic employees who are now available. This unconventional approach of sharing the positive side of the story and showing the value in these individual employees fostered a sense of pride and loyalty on both sides of the decision. 

In case you missed it, you can watch the recording on our Facebook page or access the recording here

Thanks for tuning in! 


Join us for our next Friday Forum, happening this week on May 15, 2020 at 11 AM PT/2 PM ET

Finding Your North Star: Act on Your Brand Purpose Amid COVID-19

With research from Porter Novelli

1. Join our Zoom Room. Please email before the meeting to get your calendar invite.

2. Go to our Facebook page at or Silicon Valley’s Facebook group at to join the watch parties. You can livestream the Forum without joining either FB group. If you’d like to post comments before or after the event, please visit our pages ahead of time and ask to join.