With run specialty retailers looking for ways to both keep in touch with their customers as well as promote some of their COVID-19-related efforts, social media is becoming an even more important piece of the puzzle. Running insight+ asked Ryan Callahan, co-founder of Runhouse, a creative agency that focuses exclusively on the running space, for his tips on effectively using social media in all of its forms in these unprecedented times.

“I really believe that people are going to come out of this with a renewed appreciation for local,” Callahan says. “I expect there to be exuberance around running, community and supporting our neighborhood stores. I think the best days of run specialty lie ahead and now is the time to grow and evolve and be ready for that future.

“There has never been more people running that right now,” he adds. “People have a lot of free time on their hands. These are weird times but there are new opportunities.”

His social media points of emphasis during this time include:

1. A focus on content
* Focus your message: Keep your content as focused as possible. Avoid getting too long-winded and avoid dwelling too much on negatives. Audiences are being inundated with bad news right now. Be a positive force as much as possible.
* Engage more than ever (comment, DM, creative interactive content). Celebrate the accomplishments of your community and be a cheerleader.
* Promote any new services in a clear way. If you are doing things such as virtual fittings, curbside pick-up or online shopping, tell your audience and let them know how it works. Let your audience know how you are adapting during this time. As a local retailer, you can come up with creative services that bigger stores can't. Show your customers this. More than ever, consumers want to feel connected to their local community and businesses and are looking for ways to support them during this time.
* Be a leader in the conversion. Stores like Philadelphia Runner have created hashtags to create a central conversation around running during this time (#Keepphillyrunning). Create one for your community or be a prominent voice on an existing one.

2. Update your content strategy or write a new one
If you are making a list of things to do while the business is slow/closed, add a content strategy to that list. Make mood boards, grab examples of content that other brands create that resonate with you, invest in taking better photos and think about defining your brand personality and voice.
Clean up and brand inconsistencies across platforms (Yelp pages, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Page, etc.).
While you're at it, clean up your email templates if you haven't in a while.

3. Get ready for re-opening
Start planning now for the day your store and community re-open. It's going to be a moment that runners, customers, staff and all stakeholders are going to want to celebrate. What does that day/week/month look like? Start planning it now.

4. Utilize industry resources
Virtual fitting graphics and templates created by Runhouse are available on Upper Quadrant's Run Specialty toolkit page:

Runhouse has also supplied free content for stores to use around "Keep Running Local" and "Social Distance Running Project" on its Google Drive. Any store can use these images however they like:

5. Dos and Don'ts:
* Do: Post to stories often and interact as much as possible (respond to your customers stories!)
* Do: create a central conversation talking point (Example: Philly Runner using #Keepphillyrunning)
* Do: Use this time to plan a social strategy for when you are done. What can you be doing now with extra free time to have a better plan for when business returns to normal?
* Do: Be prepared for store re-opening. This should be a big celebration moment. What's your plan here? How can you surprise our customers when you open back up?
* Don't: Inundate. Keep emails short. Keep posts brief. People are getting overwhelmed right now.