Influencer marketing amidst COVID-19 – a vital tool or risky strategy?

During this global pandemic, businesses across all industries and sectors are scrambling to adjust to what has become the new normal. Like all industries, influencer marketing has been strongly impacted, with campaigns being cancelled, budgets being cut, and timelines being extended indefinitely. However, many savvy brands are using this time to increase and revitalize their influencer campaigns, and here’s why your brand should as well.

Online activity is skyrocketing:

As the majority of the world stays at home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, people are spending more time on their phones and are consuming content at a rapid pace. Social media channels have seen record amounts of user activity, with Instagram and Snapchat usage increasing by 45% and 42% respectively. People are filling their time with copious amounts of social scrolling and influencers and brands alike can use this time of increased engagement to connect with an audience who is more likely to see their content.

Influencers are not only helping their followers ease worry and fear, by providing a bit of an escape, but they are also driving critical buying decisions in a time when consumer choices have become integral to many businesses. Even though purchasing patterns and demands have shifted, people are still shopping for products and services, many of which are chosen based on what is seen online. Your brand will be most successful if you focus on promoting products that offer a solution or benefit to your customers, rather than something frivolous. Doing this will not only ensure you’re helping customers by providing them with something useful but will also ensure you earn the respect of consumers by focusing on necessary items.

It’s more organic than celebrity endorsements:

Something that has remained the same amid COVID-19 is the shift away from celebrity ambassadors towards influencers and micro-influencers. For years, brands have been moving towards influencer partnerships over celebrity endorsements as consumers are more likely to be able to relate to ‘people like them’ rather than celebrities. This has only become more prevalent during COVID-19, taking for example the disastrous rendition of IMAGINE by numerous A-list celebrities. What began as an attempt at unity and inspiration, quickly turned to mockery as people called out the tone-deaf and empty gesture.

Instead, influencers offer a relatable and more honest experience to consumers, that is much more in-tune with the general public’s wants and needs. Consumers are becoming increasingly apprehensive of advertising and want reliable opinions they can trust. Following dependable influencers who share their interests and values builds a trustworthiness than cannot be matched by celebrity endorsements. For the most part, influencers are selective of who they do business with – they partner with companies that fit their personal brand and share their values, meaning their content is organic, honest and trustworthy. Partnering with the right influencer who matches your brands values can be incredibly beneficial.

Expand your social content bank:

With people spending more time on social media, the need for quality and consistent content is paramount. However, with movement restrictions in place, many brands are finding it difficult to create quality content that would usually need studio settings, props, lighting and more. Partnering with influencers on various campaigns provides companies with high quality branded content made specifically to target the proper audience. Brands should use this opportunity to make more typically corporate social pages a little more personal, while ensuring consistent and targeted content that will keep your brand top of mind.

Tips for ensuring a successful influencer campaign:

Ensure authenticity is at the core of every partnership. To promote an ongoing and natural impression to the campaign, use past partnerships if possible or work with influencers who are an organic fit with the brand.

Be sure to acknowledge the current situation. Encourage your influencers to incorporate messaging around COVID-19 and tie it into the current campaign. For example, an influencer may discuss how a hand cream may be helping them combat dry skin from increased hand washing or how a disinfectant spray may be giving them peace of mind that they are better protected from infection. This will make the content topical while giving consumers a solution to a problem they may have.

Think about your CSR and consider incorporating donations. If your brand is donating to a charity, be it monetary or product based, incorporate that messaging into any influencer campaign that is running simultaneously. As a brand, you need to demonstrate leadership, and during times like this, people will be looking at the brands doing their part to contribute and those that are not. Efforts your business makes to help others will not go unnoticed.

Lastly, be hyper-sensitive. In a time when uncertainty is paramount and people are losing jobs and worse loved-ones, messaging must be perfect. Check and double check all campaign communications to ensure the right tone is being used and proper details are being conveyed. And finally, partner with trustworthy influencers who align with your brand.