2020 has not been our year. If you had told me a year ago there would have been a time when it was illegal for me to see anyone besides my cat, I would have feared for your sanity. Unfortunately, that was the case and on March 23rd we were suddenly living in a really crap George Orwell novel.
And as the world of work completely changed and we transitioned from rapid morning commutes to Monday morning meetings in tracksuit bottoms on the sofa, most of us had to hit pause.
As we now finally begin to pick ourselves up, brush off the cobwebs and reconnect with the world, we should pay attention to a business that didn’t stop during a time the world locked down: the influencer.
An influencer is defined as ‘the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience’. They are a fantastic opportunity to engage with your audience in an authentic way, and, if used CORRECTLY, can be a great launchpad for a brand. But how do brands — and should brands — engage with influencers during COVID-19?
Due to so many #ads and #spons, Instagram has become intrinsically linked to shopping. At the end of the day, everyone knows influencers are just pushing products to their audiences.
And that’s where Instagram falters during a pandemic. That kind of framework doesn’t really work during a time of restriction where maybe people are unemployed. People don’t want to see ‘buy, buy, buy’ when they have just been furloughed or can’t even go to the shops.
Now more than ever, influencers and brands are being critiqued for their messaging and content. We are dealing with prosumers who have the internet at their fingertips and are not afraid to use it, so if you’re being unauthentic or insensitive at 8am, you, your competitor and your neighbour’s three year old will all know by 8.15 am.
However, when done properly, an influencer network can be integral to a building a brand. Below are some top tips for creating and maintaining strong influencer relationships while navigating the murky Covid-19 waters:
- Research, research and then research some more: this is not just about desktop research and influencer lists. When looking at influencers, really examine their recent content. How has content production changed? Are they getting positive engagement on social channels? If so, what products are selling the most?
Do some research on your own social media channels. How have the social mentions of your brand or category changed? These insights will help inform you where your brand fits in and what the best fit for you will be.
- Become a chameleon: not literally, but the world is constantly changing and so are the needs of the consumer. So you must change with it. It’s easy to have a vision on what works for the brand, but in this case the influencer will know the needs of their audience. So be prepared to create content that works with this.
- Reach out to your ex: this is a great time to re-engage with past paid relationships. Check in and ask them how they’re doing. Ask them if there is anything you can do to support their current content creation. Nurturing relationships is key to building a community.
- If you’ve got it, spend it: product/exchange partnerships do work for brands if the product has a high value and the influencer is a genuine advocate or starting out. However, there is often a misconception that content creation is a full-time career. This is a myth. Amidst the current employment drought, entrepreneurs and content creators may be worried about their next pay cheque. Providing influencers with payment for a campaign can not only show respect for their content and time, but also build trust and respect with the brand. When the pandemic does pass, they will likely remember the brands that helped them continue to work and that builds true brand advocacy.
There’s a lot to be aware of, but in a time where everything feels grey, influencers are constantly bringing brands and stories to life in technicolour squares on our phones.