Over the last few weeks brands have been grappling with how to stay in touch with their customers without feeling too promotion heavy or tone deaf. At the same time, the need to cut costs means many are pulling back marketing budgets, cutting out influencer relationships or focusing more on organic social media across Instagram and even TikTok.

Glossy spoke with a few DTC brands about how they’re making social media work for them during the ongoing pandemic.

Try new things that don’t require a ton of monetary investment
TikTok has been an attractive platform for brands over the last month as social distancing and quarantine has gone into effect across the country. A report from The New York Times showed a 15.4% increase in average daily traffic for TikTok from Jan. 21 to March 24. Part of the attraction to TikTok is that it doesn’t require a ton of monetary investment for brands at this stage, with most posting organically. Some brands, like E.l.f. Cosmetics and Tory Burch, are sponsoring challenges with corresponding hashtags as a way to gain traction on the platform, but for Thinx the goal was to make its presence feel really organic especially among the younger, Gen-Z audience on TikTok.  

“There are a lot of period-related hashtags trending on TikTok, and as a brand, we don’t feel it’s our place to be heavy handed with advertising [on the platform]. We want to engage people, and we know people are using and relying on us in this time,” said Hilary Fischer-Groban, vp of brand at Thinx.

Thinx decided to launch its own TikTok account last week after several employees throughout the company requested that the brand team at least test the platform. For the TikTok audience, Thinx is focusing on educating users about its products and how they work, but in a fun, lighthearted way — like tapping into some TikTok trends to explain what wearing Thinx products feels like and how to wash them.

“Now is a perfect time for us to be more proactive with new channels and explore channels in new ways. We launched a Thinx TikTok account, digging deep into our Spotify channel [for songs], and we’re using TikTok to share fun videos and just be creative,” said Fischer-Groban.

Fischer-Groban said, with so many people sitting at home and often unable to go to the grocery store to buy feminine products, TikTok felt like a great opportunity for the brand to be discovered and communicate how the product works.

Rely on your community for user-generated content
With photoshoots at a standstill, companies from MeUndies to Thinx are turning to trusted customers and influencers to produce content for product launches. That, of course, comes with challenges, in terms of directing customers and influencers to get the shoot the brand wants or needs from their bedroom or bathroom.

Thinx typically does a product photo shoot single week to capture new colors or new styles. Now, the brand has pivoted to relying on its brand ambassadors, or Thinx Leaders, to post their selfies to Instagram using the #ThinxLeaders hashtag, which has over 500 posts. Earlier in March, the company put a call out to its ambassadors asking them to educate their followers on how to use the company’s and share why the product works for them. Organic mentions for the brand are up 20% in the last month, and positive sentiment is up 55%, but the company declined to share specifics on sales.

“We are launching a beautiful fashion-forward print in June, and it will be an entirely UGC campaign. It has been interesting seeing our team pivot to directing, in order to get quality marketing assets in someone’s home,” said Fischer-Groban.

MeUndies is taking a similar approach, seeking out customers through Instagram who are willing to share selfies wearing the latest products. Now MeUndies sends new products to those customers and reposts their photos to the MeUndies account.

“It used to be that people were not very open to posting pics from home in underwear, but now that is the new reality; people are more willing to share their work-from-home outfits. We are working with what we’ve got,” said Greg Fass, director of brand at MeUndies. The company has used this tactic in the past, but is currently seeing a big uptick in user generated content. Over the last three weeks, the amount of user-generated content tagged with MeUndies is up 70% week-over-week.

Don’t stop promoting products on social, just evolve your tone
Most brands are unsure of how to talk to customers on social media and continue selling product without coming across as tone-deaf. Many are turning to Instagram Live as a way to engage people and feature product, whether that’s through a live yoga class or a Q&A with a brand founder.

“There is a lot of tough news out there, and as a brand, we feel our role is to provide expertise around periods and health, and also educate and entertain in some way. A lot of our content that is not related to the pandemic, and we’ve seen a positive response to that,” said Fischer-Groban. One post from a Thinx Ambassador (and employee) has nearly 76,000 views on TikTok.

The company has shifted to posting more wellness-focused messaging on Instagram posts, and its Instagram Live videos have focused on topics including, “Stress and your period,” and “Cannabis and PMS,” she said. In addition, the company has hosted workout classes on Instagram Live including a recent yoga session focused on relieving PMS.

Overall, Thinx said rethinking the entire content plan for social media and examining tone has been key to continuing to drive sales and keep customers engaged.

“We had to look really closely at all of our content and completely audit the tone. It’s a universal challenge for brands right now. Phrases that felt OK a few weeks ago, like “stocking up” — we have to make a conscious choice around that now,” she said.