Influencer campaigns aren’t going anywhere – here’s how to do them well.

By Tatsiana Baibak, Bastion Effect

For better or worse, the impact of COVID-19 has been felt widely – within our industry, marketing budgets are under scrutiny, campaigns are in limbo and brands are doing their best to navigate through these unprecedented times by pivoting, pausing, or in some case cancelling campaigns altogether.

Among this uncertainty it has become evident that digital marketing is on the increase, as consumers spend more time on devices, get more comfortable buying online and marketers look for efficient ways to move inventory.

It begs the question as to where influencer marketing sits in all of this?

While most of the world has come to a halt, the collective craving for community and authenticity has only increased. Social influencers have become more relatable. Just like the rest of us, they are self-isolating and sharing very personal experiences – directly from their lounge rooms to ours. As marketers, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of this.

Influencers doing it well are building stronger, deeper connections with their audiences, making their endorsement more valuable than ever before. For brands, this presents an opportunity to grow their share of voice online and connect with consumers in a more meaningful and impactful way. If done right, the connections made now will last well after the crisis has passed.

However, it is important to consider your approach to messaging with influencers. Sales based campaigns aren’t quite right for now. Consumers are increasingly looking for helpful and hopeful content and seeking out a sense of “community” to help satisfy their longing for personal interactions – be it with friends, family, colleagues and even influencers. They are hungry to know more and eager to find ways to cope. In fact industry research shows 70% of influencers’ audiences are turning to them for guidance during the crisis.

While the basic Do’s and Don’ts of influencer marketing remain, brands do need to navigate through this carefully. Below are a few key considerations marketers need to keep in mind when looking to implement a successful influencer marketing campaign amidst the current environment.

Understand your customer’s mindset 

Influencer marketing is about understanding your customer’s mindset – what drives them – and being able to generate a positive message and feeling while delivering content that is unquestionably genuine and not generated purely by self-interest. Timely, purpose-led and empathetic storytelling is key.

Influencers’ reach does not trump relevance and authenticity  

You need to re-evaluate your mindset in terms of what metrics are most important to you and what authenticity and relevance means to your brand. Don’t be blinded by the number of followers an influencer has as this doesn’t necessarily translate to authenticity and credibility. First and foremost, you need to foster relationships with influencers who have a natural brand alignment and shared ethics.

Brands need to put a higher focus on social responsibility 

While brands are in the business to sell, social responsibility has never been more important than now.  Brands are responsible for supplying consumers with content in a moral, conscientious and transparent manner. It’s important you re-think the way your brand would traditionally work with influencers to seed product and messaging, because transparency is critical in times of uncertainty.

Consider your messaging and tone of voice 

Don’t be silent or tone deaf through all of this and avoid using language that can be perceived as negative or scary. Instead, provide context to the situation and work with influencers to offer solutions and inspirations – this can really help “humanise” your brand.  You can acknowledge the situation at hand by using hashtags like #StaySafe and #StayHomeWith[insertbrand] and stickers that raise awareness, for example Instagram’s “Stay at Home” sticker.

Continue to reassess, always 

Just as the Coronavirus situation is evolving rapidly, so should your brand’s influencer strategy, creative and messaging. Don’t be left behind – what was relevant one week ago might not be appropriate today. When engaging influencers, do your due diligence upfront and keep the brief flexible to allow for any necessary amends.

No doubt, the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak will last for a long time. Through this, influencer marketing shouldn’t come to a standstill, but rather, brands should embrace this as an opportunity to harness authentic relationships and connect with consumers through purpose-led content – whether it’s educating or bringing them laughter, joy or inspiration. After all, we are all humans, full of emotions and desire to form meaningful connections, even in times of crisis.