Executives Addressing the “Next Normal”

As the world moves into a phase of the COVID-19 pandemic where economies and businesses are starting to open back up, rules and regulations regarding safety measures are evolving. This period in time is commonly being referred to as the “next normal,” referencing the fact that COVID-19 is currently an ever-present barrier that requires certain shifts and adaptations on the public’s part. Businesses and people alike are now navigating how to get back to a sense of normalcy rather than remaining in lockdown. 

Since this is a global pandemic, it is important for executives to realize that the topic of adapting to the “next normal” is heavily intertwined with business and consumer decisions. For example, many consumers are looking to executives for more insight on how their business is safely moving forward. Because of the heavier reliance on the digital space throughout the pandemic, leaders should utilize social media as an effective platform for disseminating information related to the topic. 

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is an executive who primarily focuses on COVID-19 related posts on his Twitter account. The timely nature of his actions are primarily reflected in his decision to co-sponsor the “Next-Gen Mask Challenge” in July of 2020. Motivated by statistics showing that one-third of the U.S. population do not regularly wear masks, this event calls on youth creators to submit innovative designs for surgical-grade protective masks. The type of online presence Benioff employs on Twitter, particularly within the last few months, is primarily based on informing followers about public safety measures and how the world can effectively adapt moving forward. 


Sharing the “Next-Gen Mask Challenge” 


With 1 million followers on Twitter, Marc Benioff has a massive follower base, and frequently uses his platform to share his personal thoughts on global issues such as COVID-19. Much of Benioff’s recent Twitter feed has been focused on advocating that people wear masks, contact tracing, and easily accessible testing in the U.S. All of these topics relate to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and to encourage a more permanent culture of mask-wearing and protecting others. 

In July, Benioff became a co-sponsor for the Next-Gen Mask Challenge, a collective that incentivizes the public to increase their mask usage, especially as lockdowns ease and many are resuming activities that are in close proximity to others. The contest was launched by the global pandemic response coalition, XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance, who is offering a $1 million prize split to three teams that can design a face mask that the general public will adopt. The eight-month-long challenge asks young people aged 15-24 to submit innovative mask ideas that can effectively change the public’s perspective about face masks by creating functional, protective, and stylish mask options. In the interview that Benioff gave in regards to the challenge, he outlined the major concerns that Americans have in regards to wearing a mask, and stated that this challenge aims to change these perspectives. Alongside the description of the challenge that he Tweeted, Benioff also included a short clip of his interview. Including video content in this Tweet is an effective supplementary tool, particularly for followers to better understand what the contest is about. Sharing this contest on social media is also an effective way to reach the younger demographic that the Next-Gen Mask Challenge is primarily targeting.



Benioff also offers other resources about COVID-19 to keep his followers informed and to encourage them to protect themselves and others. Aside from posting original tweets, Benioff also frequently retweets scientific and news-related content from reliable sources. Over the past few months, Benioff’s social media content on Twitter primarily encourages his followers to partake in proper safety measures. Benioff is also sure to practice what he preaches, posting Tweets of himself wearing a mask (pictured below). 

The hashtag #ourkuleana (which translates to “our responsibility”) refers to a social media campaign started in Hawaii which encourages users to take a selfie in their masks, and share them on social platforms, in order to normalize mask-wearing. Benioff’s Tweet copy is short and to the point, simply telling followers to “Wear a mask,” and is leading by example since the accompanying image shows his own mask usage. Executives who post content that align with social media challenges should always ensure they are using the correct hashtag correlated with the challenge



Conclusion: Mobilizing Others through Social Media 


Since Benioff has a large Twitter following, the fact that he uses his platform to share health-related content allows for more reach and eyes on his content. As well, the fact that Benioff is backing the Next-Gen Mask Challenge shows that he uses his platform to encourage public health and safety on a large scale. Executives who are taking part in philanthropic or activism-related movements should ensure that they are posting about these efforts on social media, as this content has the potential to encourage others to follow suit. 

Executives should also consider that if they are sponsoring or hosting an event, contest, or challenge, they should frequently post updates or reiterative information on their social platforms leading up to the event date. This will help to get the event details in front of as many eyes as possible, and to ensure that important information does not get lost in their followers’ social media feed. Since the Next-Gen Mask Challenge was announced in July and is an eight-month-long contest, it would be more beneficial for the event’s reach if Benioff featured its details more often on his Twitter page. Though he did Tweet another reminder about the challenge in late August (pictured below), he has only posted about it a handful of times. Another suggestion for executives who are holding a contest such as this one would be to retweet user submissions in order to promote the event and keep followers informed. 



Marc Benioff also addresses the immediate needs and concerns of the public by posting relevant and timely third-party sources. This is an important content type to post when it comes to COVID-19, since the facts around the topic are rapidly evolving and changing on a day-to-day basis. Executives who are sharing news-related sources should ensure that any third-party content being shared is as up-to-date as possible. 


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