With the uncertainty of COVID-19, some brands have begun to cut down on their marketing spend and cancel product launches due to nationwide shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. And for those in the marketing industry, the uncertainty became a question of how influential social media stars could be during quarantine. As a result, a survey conducted in March found that more than one-quarter of influencers were receiving fewer offers from brands amid the pandemic. While your brand couldn’t plan for these unprecedented times, here’s why you should get ahead and take the time to plan and perfect your influencer strategy.
Social Media Boom
While publications like Wired magazine have asked, “Could the coronavirus kill influencer culture?” social media users have proved that they’re still engaging. In fact, they’re engaging more than usual. During the lockdown, there has been a surge in social media usage, giving influencers more opportunities to engage and reach wider audiences. The COVID-19 Impact Tracker from PR agency Tin Man found a 50 percent increase in social media use in the last week of April as opposed to the same time last year. Tin Man also found that 27 percent of the population is on Instagram at least once a day while 60 percent visit Facebook daily.
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‘I forgive you, New York. I forgive you for your snarl, your aggression, your hustle and hassle. I forgive you. How could I ever begrudge you your restlessness, your relentlessness, your lip, your effrontery, your appraising glance, your pushiness, your impatience, your disregard for social niceties, when I knew all along that your great secret was that an extreme degree of ambition coexists in your streets with the empathy every New Yorker feels for a fellow New Yorker? I forgive you, your kale salads, your restaurants that sell only oatmeal, your trends. I forgive you, your street preachers, your sanctimonious parents who drone on about their childrens schools. I forgive you, Macys during the Christmas season and Times Square always. I forgive you, your ticket-holder lines, your throngs blocking out the paintings at MoMA, your rush-hour subways crammed with humanity. I forgive you for driving me crazy at times, for making me want to scream, Get me out of here! I forgive you everything without exception if you will only promise to reappear. Being a New Yorker, I was in a hurry. I was forgetful. You get that. Please forgive me. Please forgive us all. I’ll throw in the pigeons. Forgive you for every one of those awful birds. Just come back, just return, please. I know we can make a deal.’ ✍🏻 Written by Roger Cohen, The New York Times. Listen to the rest on “The Daily,” one of my favorite podcasts!
Building off of this information, the influencer agency Obviously, which analyzed 160 of its own campaigns, found a 76 percent increase in their total daily likes on Instagram posts with the hashtag #ad over two weeks in March.
“People are spending more time on social right now, and brands and influencers have a – literally – captive audience,” says Kate Matlock, deputy managing director of BCW’s digital innovation group in an interview with PR Week.
Matlock even believes that we could be entering a new golden age of influencers, as social media stars have evolved and adapted to the changes.
“With this increased visibility and infinite time on their hands, influencers are feeling pressure to churn out engaging, topical content. It’s an opportunity for brands to be that creative sponsor and engage audiences authentically and with a dose of positivity.”
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Quarantine is really doing something to me guys…😳💭 Last night at 2 am I fully convinced myself that I am going to chop my hair & dye it blonde after all of this is over. I even bought a blonde wig online to see what it will look like. 🤣💇🏼♀️ I woke up this morning & now I only halfway still want to do it but I will keep you updated on how I feel once the wig arrives, LOL. Have you also been making crazy decisions in your head on what you’re going to do after all of this is finally over?! 🙈
Why Opt for Influencers?
To be successful during this time with your influencer marketing strategy, it’s important to understand what your audience needs and partner with the right influencer who can support you and your brand. Since influencers have mastered their internet skills, they are ideal to partner with this crisis, as they can create high-quality videos and interactive mobile content from home, like they have been doing for years.
Even the World Health Organization (WHO) turned to a selection of influencers for its Safe Hands Challenge campaign to encourage the public to wash their hands properly. With this challenge and improvement in its influencer strategy, the WHO cut production cuts by encouraging influencers to record their own videos.
“Empowering influencers to make their own stuff in their own way – in a tried and tested way, as well – is proving really powerful,” said Ed Brittain, social and influencer planner at MSL UK, to PR Week. “When it comes to ideas, we’re putting a lot more of the creativity in the hands of the influencer. I’d say if anything, trust has gone up – trust they will create content that fits with their tone. They can turn things around a lot quicker [than production companies], and they are great collaborators and partners.”
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Many people are finding themselves stuck at home with a lot of time on their hands, for better or for worse. Optimists understand that it’s for better! “Live every day like it’s Saturday.” How do you spend your time when nobody is telling you what to do? No job. No sports or church. What do you do with that much freedom? Sometimes freedom is earned. And sometimes it’s forced upon us. We’re waking up in Western Australia right now and it’s Saturday. But to be honest, I earned the freedom (which is mostly just a state of mind) to live every day like it’s Saturday about 5 years ago. I don’t try to preach it. It’s just something I’m forever grateful for. Especially as a young father. And now, with the mayhem of coronavirus, I see both a terrible devastating situation, but also a silver lining of freedom being forced upon all of us. How will you make the best of it? /// @thebucketlistfamily
Developing an influencer strategy is also beneficial because influencers are experts in communicating with specific audiences with the right format and tone. While others may struggle to adapt to the new realities of the lockdown, many influencers have thrived in it, adjusting better than celebrities who have received backlash for posting out-of-touch, or insensitive, content. In a time where audiences are craving a sense of normalcy, connection, and conversation–all of which an influencer can provide. The focus now is on transparency, relatability, and responsibility, especially on the brand’s part, so influencer marketing has helped draw attention to consumer-centric content instead of product-centric ads.
“Consumer behavior has shifted, and while we’re locked in and people have more time on their hands, the world is turning to the web for everything from learning and keeping fit to staying sane and wanting to be entertained,” Sasha Marks, director at Brazen, told PR Week. “Rather than create that content themselves – which could be perceived as opportunistic, not to mention a challenge during lockdown – brands should be looking for genuine advocates to create that content and be the facilitators of meaningful conversations.”
Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented to brands, it has propelled digital creators into making their most innovative content yet. In a time when staying in touch with your consumers has never been more important, creating an influencer strategy can be the powerful key you need to spread your goals and message.
Check out these influencers who are continuing to post content while social distancing: