It’s hard to turn on a computer, much less a television, without being inundated with messages about the gloom and doom of our current economic nightmare.  But what does that mean for the Marketing world?  One thing seems clear to me – now is NOT the time to crawl in a hole and scale back on Marketing.  To the contrary – we know from history that most companies will slash the Advertising and Marketing budgets that could turn the situation around and keep them alive.  Like a sea captain caught in a storm, the best chance of saving the ship is to turn directly into the waves.  Sure, the ride will be rough, but it’s the best strategy for survival.

Social Media and Social Network Marketing in particular has a role to play in navigating the troubled waters ahead.  Think about it – people will continue to communicate socially online, regardless of how much the Dow plummets.  Consumers might not have as much money to go out to dinner or take a vacation, but you can bet that they will spend as much or more time checking their Facebook profiles, surfing YouTube, checking out new bands on MySpace, or engaging in gaming and other applications on mobile devices.  So, this begs the question – why pull back now?  Isn’t this the time to put even MORE emphasis on Social Media?  Wouldn’t NOW be the time to show customers that you care about them and you empathize with their struggles?  Wouldn’t it be great to have positive messages about your company spreading in the midst of all the negative stuff that is spreading out there?

Going back to the fundamentals of Social Media – ask yourself what added value you can provide.  Is competitive pricing an option?  How about a contest where people have a chance to win something cool while helping others that are struggling in the process?  Can your company give a little more to charitable causes that help those most in need during rough economic times?  Remember, when times are tough, charitable organizations take a big hit, while being called upon more than ever to provide services to those in need.  If you can champion one of these causes and share this enthusiasm with your online communities, you will have gone a long way toward building goodwill and positive associations that will affect the balance sheet for years to come.

Remember, the volume of messaging will almost certainly slow down as companies scale back on ad budgets.  Seize this opportunity to double down on your Social Media efforts, or if you haven’t yet embraced it, there’s no better time than right now to get in the game!  Show your customers and potential customers that you understand the challenges they face.  They will remember your goodwill when their situation improves, and chances are they will have told a few people along the way.