With the ongoing global pandemic still very much on all of our minds, social media has become a haven where most people spend a large portion of their days - looking for information, socializing, or simply looking for a distraction.
Consequently, engagement rates on social media platforms have risen by 61% since the pandemic began to unfold. Instagram has seen a rise in use of 40%, most of it coming from the 18-34 age group, who also happen to have the most significant purchasing power online.
Combine these two facts - people who are ready to shop are spending a lot of their free time on Instagram - and there is a clear marketing avenue to be spotted.
In order to make the most of the social media platform and its tools, brands are turning to that all-important resident of Instagram: the influencer.
These kinds of collaborations are beneficial to both brands and the influencers themselves.
Influencers are able to increase their reach and boost their engagement rates (not to mention striking a deal with a brand that is lucrative in and of itself), thus growing not only their influence, but their popularity. Which naturally leads to additional ways to monetize their content.
Still wondering if influencer marketing is the right avenue for your brand? Let's remove any remaining doubts.
Why is influencer marketing a must?
Influencers are, essentially, just social media users who have managed to attract larger followings. They are relatable, they are trustworthy, they are just like their followers. They share interests, lifestyles, beliefs - they are easy to get to know and easy to form a connection with.
They are also customers - they shop, they spend their own money on all kinds of different items. They offer real-life reviews of products and services.
(Of course, some of them get paid to advertise certain products no matter what they think about them, but that's not the kind of person you want to work with. You want someone who is genuinely going to love your product or service and recommend it wholeheartedly.)
Influencers help add a human touch to a lot of brands - they bring brands closer to their customers, and as this sale-clinching bridge, they are an integral part of every meaningful (and successful) social media marketing strategy.
Influencers already have a story around the current COVID-19 situation and how brands can be a part of solution @classycurlies
But how can you know if your brand should use influencer marketing in its social media strategy?
Even the numbers show that this is a train you want to hop on. 17% of global brands dedicate half of their budget towards influencer marketing. Over 89% of brands also suggest that it converts better than any other marketing channel.
If that was the case in a world pre-pandemic, just think of the ROI that you can expect at a time when people are stuck at home with nothing to do but watch Stories and Lives?
Creating your influencer marketing strategy during COVID-19
Before jumping right in, there are several questions you want to answer. The success of an influencer marketing campaign depends on proper planning after all.
What is the purpose of this strategy?
A strategy without a purpose is oftentimes worse than no strategy at all. And while the world is struggling to cope with Covid-19, your purpose should reflect the global situation.
Are you trying to provide actual solutions? Are you trying to raise awareness about the importance of social distancing? Are you looking to offer some comic relief? Do you want to show empathy?
Think about the way you want your strategy to impact people who are affected by the pandemic (i.e. the entire world), and how you as a brand can be of assistance - even if it's just to help someone pick the right toothpaste.
What value will implementing an influencer marketing strategy bring?
Value is without a doubt the one thing every single marketing strategy and tactic needs to provide. Without it, you are just blowing some smoke in people's faces.
It's time to ask yourself if there is any extra value you can provide in the current climate. Can your brand put something out there that's more than a product or a service? Can you educate followers in ways that'll benefit them going through this pandemic and beyond?
Which problems will your influencer marketing campaign help in solving?
There is no time like the present to solve problems, or at the very least contribute to solving them. Are there any problems related to the current COVID-19 pandemic your brand can help solve? Or address, at least?
Think in terms of the following:
a. How would your brand think as someone affected by the pandemic?
What might help your approach and strategy is compassion in times of need. What better way of creating a unique message than placing your brand in the shoes of people affected by the situation? What is it they need that you can provide?
b. Is the brand making any impact connected to this strategy?
Promoting and making donations from sales to incentives fighting the COVID-19 situation is one way to go about it. But on the other hand, you can spread awareness, joy, information, and stick to your lane if that's what you'd prefer.
Taking some time to answer these questions can create a strong, purpose-backed strategy, one that will make it easier to find not only the right influencers to work with, but the right audiences to target as well.
Approaching influencer marketing the right way
Know your audience
Brands often fail at getting their message across because they don't know who they are talking to. Yet knowing your audience is the prerequisite to a successful campaign. It will also help you select the right influencer, one who can not only speak to, but who is already followed by your target audience.
Before you start looking for an influencer, you need to define your audience. Social media platforms offer many avenues of gaining audience insights without being too pushy. Make use of posts and stories with questions or quizzes to get audience insights.
Audience demographics and other useful data are no longer a secret to anyone. Using the right tools will help you discover even more, allowing you to tailor your strategies better. IGBlade can help you gain insight into audience and influencer demographics, and get a clear picture of their followers and discover similar influencers.
Offer a "resilient" message instead of a "crisis" one
There is an excess in panic your audience is unwillingly exposed to. Building a storyline that showcases hope is the best road toward success at a time like this.
Brands should thus emphasize the silver lining and send out a message of hope and resilience, instead of breeding even more panic. Frame your message around positive emotions. Even if it's the simple joy of taking a shower or reading a new book, focus on highlighting how your product or service can spark some joy and positivity in any given day.
Connecting with influencers
We can't stress enough how important it is to work with the right influencers.
In order to have the most impact, but even more importantly, to showcase your brand for what it truly is, you need to find a spokesperson who actually believes in the same message and values.
Don't just look for the people with the most followers. It is often better to work with someone who has a smaller but more engaged following, than someone who has millions of followers, yet markets all kinds of products and is seen as somewhat of a sellout.
Leverage the relationships you have already established - reach out to people you have worked with to see how you can help them out.
Reach out to people who have already mentioned you and who you already know like your product or service.
Make sure to focus on building genuine relationships, as opposed to paying someone to say something good about your brand. These are the only kinds of collaborations that work well in the long run.
Be mindful of fake influencers
Never forget that there are plenty of fake influencers out there, who are not actually what they appear to be. They could have fake followers, they could be misrepresenting themselves, they could be using other people's photos.
There are plenty of red flags you can check when spotting fake influencers.
You can also use a tool like IGBlade to help you out. IGBlade allows you to analyze influencer accounts, gain insight into their audience demographics, check the brands they've previously worked with and everything you need to see if they 'vibe' with your brand.
There's even an option to discover similar influencer profiles and connect to even more Insta-promoters of your brand.
Explore new ways of getting your message out there
As we spend more and more time with Instagram, the platform is adding new tools and expanding their existing features to help both users, influencers and brands have a better experience.
IGTV is now allowing longer videos to be uploaded, and many are taking advantage of this option to do tutorials, Q&As, and all kinds of informative or entertaining content.
IG Live is being used for live workouts, for live events from home, for cooking classes and all kinds of community gatherings.
Instagram Shopping offers a direct way to make a purchase, cutting down on the time users need to shop, increasing conversion rates and boosting sales for all those involved.
Make sure you take a look at all of these features of the platform and explore how they can best be used in your particular strategy. Don't be afraid to do something no one has done before - as that is often how the best of campaigns are created.
Influencer marketing is a strategy not only well worth exploring, but one that can usher in some unprecedented benefits. It is the most straightforward and mutually beneficial way to connect with people from all walks of life, people you may otherwise never reach. But before you embark on it, make sure to define your goals and messages clearly, to achieve the very best of results.