Co-Founder and CEO of SocialPubli, an award-winning influencer marketing platform with 200,000+ opt-in influencers across 35 countries.
Living through a pandemic makes for interesting times, conversations and headlines. In the marketing world, people have been heralding “the end of the Instagram influencer” or talking about the influencer bubble bursting.
Is it really true though?
Our research and experience say no. What we’re seeing isn’t the destruction of the influencer industry — it’s a refinement. Brands are reassessing priorities and marketing strategies, and those who understand the value of influencers have continued to use the channel to communicate with their target audience.
For businesses that are going to remain relevant in the influencer space, it’s important to pivot and meet audiences where they are. Your strategy, even if you’re working in a hard-hit industry like travel, shouldn’t be to disappear or go silent.
Instead, it’s a time to be even more thoughtfully connected. It’s an opportunity for brands to get more in tune with their customers’ priorities and restructure their influencer marketing and overall marketing strategies to better communicate with their target audiences.
How can brands successfully make that transition? Keep the following things in mind when rethinking your approach in order to successfully pivot.
Listen Before You Speak
Before you make a branding switch, empathetic conversations are in order. In challenging times like these, demonstrating genuine awareness and sensitivity is not only the right thing to do, but it will earn your brand more trust. Sticking with the same messaging you had before the pandemic can come off as tone-deaf, entitled and out-of-touch with the issues your target audience is facing.
Are they viewing your company’s posts as an informational guide, as an escape or as a community? See what they value and steer your content in that direction getting your influencer partners on board with a new approach that’s more in touch with reality.
As a brand, listening can actually be a wonderful opportunity to connect with your influencer partners and benefit from their experience. They’re in the trenches every day connecting with their followers and fans, and are aware of what’s working with their audiences and what’s causing them to stay engaged or seek community during these challenging times.
Before you speak up, you should also be mindful of the opportunities you have to allow influencers to serve as storytelling partners.
They can share stories that build solidarity — stories about how they’ve personally been dealing with these tough times — stories that resonate more deeply coming from an individual than from a brand. And, your brand can also repurpose and reshare this storytelling content to amplify your efforts.
Be Of Service
Since the onset of the pandemic, online and influencer content has transitioned from aspirational to more useful and practical content. We’re all facing similar struggles — like when the Duchess of Cambridge talked about homeschooling just like every other parent, or when Jimmy Fallon tried to film an opening monologue and his kids ran in and climbed all over him.
People recognize that life is different and, though hard, more authentic at this moment in time. They appreciate brands that are able to make this subtle shift as well.
To move your influencer strategy, look for influencers who fit with your company’s culture and brand values, then find a way to partner for the common good. Ask yourself how your business can contribute and be an ally. Is there a way your products or services make life easier, less isolating or more convenient for people who are social distancing or who are facing economic challenges?
In this way, you can strengthen your brand positioning and work with influencers to strategically spread your message of connection, contribution and support to a wider audience. It is the reason we launched a pro-bono initiative to connect influencers to nonprofits fighting coronavirus, with a total of 10 nonprofits collaborating with over 2,700 influencers.
You may feel like cutting marketing spend makes sense to reduce losses. However, don’t overreact and make sure you have a strategic plan for any reductions in spend.
Your goal shouldn’t be to eliminate costs completely, but instead to be resourceful and get the most for your money. Cutting out marketing campaigns can be a short-term tactic to save money, but without marketing, you reduce overall awareness and limit your ability to be visible and impactful in the future.
Although most of our clients are not aggressively selling on social media at the moment, they have not taken their foot off the gas pedal. Instead, what we’ve seen is a move from product-specific campaigns to general brand awareness to stay connected and keep their brand top of mind. Due to restrictions and limitations on unboxings, product mailers and travel, about 90% of our collaborations right now are 100% digitally driven brand awareness campaigns.
Now might also be a good opportunity for many companies to evaluate transitioning or experimenting with other social media networks. We have experienced heightened interest in influencer partnerships in TikTok and LinkedIn, for example, and it makes sense considering that both platforms have been seeing record levels of engagement. LinkedIn’s user base is growing with now 690 million users as of Q3 2020, for example, and TikTok became the most downloaded app of 2020.
Stay Present But Think Long-Term
You’ve invested your time, expertise and resources in building influencer and customer relationships — now, in the midst of a pandemic, is not the time to cut connections or lose your momentum.
Instead, as you seek to pivot your marketing strategies, remember to evaluate both short-term outcomes and long-term strategic decisions. Use this time and these strange circumstances to keep your relationships strong and to build deeper, more resonant connections.
View and leverage influencers as strategic partners to stay present and relevant. They can be a great sounding board to determine whether your new messaging will genuinely connect with your target audience and how to best navigate the current social media landscape with the right tone and content that generate engagement.