If you run a search of the hashtag #Blizzard2016 or #Snowzilla right now, you’ll see hundreds of photos and video clips featuring everything from swimsuit-clad kids diving off their roofs into lake-deep piles of snow to a man in a dinosaur costume skiing down the streets of New York City. But in addition to posts from the news media and East Coast residents, what you’ll also see is hundreds of brands falling over themselves to capitalize on the trending hashtags #Snowmageddon and #Blizzard2016 by posting their own responses to the historical and record-breaking Winter Storm Jonas, to varying levels of success.
While it’s important to be respectful of the fact that for some, a freak snow storm is a tragedy (a handful of deaths have occurred as a result of Storm Jonas), a storm or major regional event can provide an opportunity for small businesses to engage with their customers while joining the national conversation. And tacky or not, you’d be foolish to miss out.
The following are a few tips:
Find a Creative Way to Link Regional Events to Your Product or Service
The key here is to be creative and tap into what binds your audience together. Using a bookstore as an example, their fan base is mostly bookworms. A book lover would see the impending storm as the perfect opportunity to burrow under the covers and enjoy a few days of guilt-free and uninterrupted reading time. In the example above, Shelf Awareness is suggesting that everyone should ensure the essentials are in place: Food, water, warm clothing…and books. They are using humor, which is almost always a plus, while speaking to a core belief of their fanbase of avid readers: It never hurts to have a stockpile of books on hand.
2. Go Local and Create Content that Evokes the Feeling of “We’re All in This Together”
The above meme appeared on a friend’s Facebook Newsfeed. As you can probably surmise from the wording, my friend is located in Virginia, which has been hit pretty hard by the storm.
Small businesses should always aim to “go local” with their content, as this is the most effective way to increase engagement and maximize your posts’ each, but particularly during a time when the event is only affecting particular region or city where you operate. Your audience will be feeling singled out or even special and will subconsciously crave content that reinforces that.
But even if you have a national brand, you can still take advantage of the “go local” option by using geo targeting to only serve social media posts to people located in affected regions or to capitalize on trending hashtags, such as #winterstorm or #Blizzard2016.
By evoking the warm-fuzzy feelings of “we’re all in this together”, you’ll help to further endear your brand to your customers and make them feel like, “Hey, they get it. They’re just like us.”
3. Capitalize on People’s Desire to Help Others By Providing Useful Content
Whenever an unusual event occurs, whether it be a freak weather incident like a major snowstorm or an uncommon global event like The Olympics, or even a tragedy like the death of beloved celebrity, most people’s first instinct is to want to help. They want to feel as though they’re contributing to the cause or participating in the global conversation, even if it’s only by sharing a piece of relevant and useful content. Your business can capitalize on this “I want to do something! Anything!” feeling by serving them content that is both on target and helpful.
The post above from PETA is a good example. That photo looks like it was captured in real time and was made to pull on the heart strings of viewers by showcasing several birds shivering in the snow. The post paints PETA as an advocate for animals while providing a share-worthy piece of content.
To our friends and family waiting out the weather in New York and Washington D.C., we hope you’re keeping warm and safe. We’ll be sending warm, palm-tree-filled thoughts your way from sunny Las Vegas. 🙂
Reannon Muth is the founder and owner of Skylark Media Consultants. Prior to starting her own consulting firm, Reannon worked as a freelance travel writer and the Director of Content Development for a leading internet marketing company. She currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can follow her on Twitter @afineskylark.