In recent months, brands and retailers have had to adapt to a pandemic that no one saw coming, and one thing is for certain: engagement on sponsored content is increasing with more people at home and on social media. And while the pros of influencer marketing were prevalent to brands prior to COVID-19 (building trust and credibility, expanding your brand’s reach, etc), this new landscape requires both brands and influencers to adapt quickly to a market where priorities have shifted, consumers may be more sensitive, and actions may be more highly scrutinized.
Let’s take a look at how influencer marketing has evolved in recent years, what has changed during the COVID-19 crisis, and what brands can do now to stay impactful and relevant.
The Old and the New
In a 2019 benchmark report by Influencer Marketing Hub, 92% of consumers believed that influencer marketing was an effective form of marketing. Due in part to features like Checkout on Instagram, which allows consumers to select from various options such as size or color and proceed to payment without leaving Instagram, 83% of consumers surveyed claimed to purchase items that are advertised by influencers.
The influencer marketing platform market is also growing at incredible scale as brands and agencies look to foster deeper connections with consumers being “influenced.”. With over 300 new influencer marketing-focused platforms and agencies entering the market in 2019, brands can now easily discover potential influencers, develop relationships with influencers, and run campaigns.
And while Instagram continues to dominate influencer marketing, other digital platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn increasingly play a pivotal role in extending a brand’s reach to engaged audiences.
Upon the introduction of COVID-19, the average screen time has increased and consumer habits have shifted, meaning that brands need to be vigilant about hitting all digital platforms more than ever. During this unprecedented event, trusted social media influencers continue to be a reliable source of information and an effective, authentic way to communicate with target audiences.
Here are some best practices for influencer marketing in the wake of COVID-19.
Understanding Data Trends: How have social mentions of your brand or category (i.e. skincare, cereal, workout clothes) changed? Make sure to keep track of your website traffic, likes, and consumer engagement with videos, etc. across all social platforms. This information can help determine your content strategy, so you can continue building strong relationships with your followers.
Adjusting the Distribution of Content: In the past two months, brands have transitioned to more video and live stream campaigns than pictures. With everyone working from home, brands should take advantage of the time people spend on their computers, TV’s and smart phones during the day with these more dynamic forms of content.
Staying Adaptable and Sensitive: The term “home-influencer” is making its mark, as brands adapt their products and messaging to fit the needs of the “stay-at-home” consumer. Consider hosting virtual events with your influencer of choice, and co-host a cooking class, a make-up tutorial, or a live Q&A. Many brands are also showing their solidarity by including messaging pertaining to “stay-at-home” orders, highlighting their commitment to employees, shipping policies, and customer experience. At the end of the day, you always want to ask yourself, “How can I continue helping our employees and customers?” and make sure that notion is conveyed in the co-marketing efforts with influencers.
A good example of a brand effectively using influencer marketing is Alo Yoga. With spin classes, weight rooms and other fitness venues closed temporarily, health & wellness brands are creating unique ways for people to continue their daily workout routines during COVID-19 to stay active at home. The team at Alo Yoga entered into a partnership with influencer Callie Gullickson, who helped promote a workout series called Sweat & Tone (hosted on Instagram Live). Not only did Callie help increase awareness of the brand with her extensive following, but Alo Yoga also increased customer engagement with highly intensive workouts, which resulted in more traffic to its website, and better brand recognition and loyalty in a highly competitive space.
What to Expect in 2020 and Beyond
With demands shifting, and as both brands and influencers need to output the right kind of content in order to strive in a post-COVID climate, we can expect a lot more storytelling, with influencers showing their followers how they adapt to life at home and how different brands play into their new routines. Live content will also continue to become more popular, as professionals from all industries look for safe ways to stay connected, from athletic trainers to business consultants to live performers. Not to mention the element of authenticity and humanity Instagram Live brings to users.
The most human brands will continue to come out on top, especially the ones that invest in building long-lasting connections with their customers and partake in cultural conversations that are considered important to their target demographic. And, as the near-term effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue to be felt across the global economy, businesses and creators in the influencer marketing industry will continue to adapt to the new “consumer state of mind” by developing strategies with active listening of their consumers’ needs and determining how their brand fits into people’s new routines under #socialdistancing.
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