Influencer Marketing Amidst COVID-19
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The Philippines has always been resilient, but the past month has proven to be one of the most comparably difficult challenges that our country has faced in a very long time. The rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the country has crippled many citizens and businesses, forcing all of us to hastily adjust to what we would probably consider our "new normal" moving forward.
During this period of enhanced community quarantine implemented throughout the country, I've seen our clients and partners forcing themselves to quickly adapt work-from-home arrangements with their teams and trying to recreate the traditional office environment through video meetings via Zoom or Google Hangouts.
The social media universe also saw (and judged) influencers and celebrities who made the industry proud because of their philanthropic engagements, be it in the frontlines distributing food and equipment to people in need, or as keyboard warriors making good use of their influence and reach in massive information and donation drives. Some even went as far as organizing and volunteering their personal resources to extend help to as many as they possibly can.
Consumer behavior has changed drastically, maybe the most drastic one I've seen in years. Amidst the changes in the way that brands would have to communicate their stories and value propositions in this "new reality," many marketers may ask, "What are the implications of this "new reality" to the way that we do influencer marketing?" or maybe, "Can we still have campaigns and engage influencers given the current situation?" and possibly, "Is influencer marketing still relevant in this time of a pandemic?"
As someone who's seen many evolutions and shifts in this industry, I have a couple of thoughts, insights, and recommendations that I could share with you:
1. This is a good time to review and re-align.
If you're a brand, I suggest it's high time to review what you value and assess the alignment of your current and potential influencer partners with your brand promise and value proposition.
If you're an influencer, it's good to know and be firm about what you believe in and stand for; even better if you could communicate this well in your online channels.
This way, brands and influencers are able to identify if their principles are in alignment, making it easier to work on future engagements.
2. Supercharge your social media presence.
The volume of content and conversations in social media rose in epic proportions, attributable maybe to the fact that many internet users are staying at home with very few things to do. Some brands stood out because of their timely (and very witty) appropriation of trending topics in their promotional materials, which earned them amazing engagement metrics.
Everyone is spending longer hours in social media during this pandemic. I, for one, get all the relevant news and updates through social media; I don't even turn on the TV anymore. If you want to be where the people are, it's the best place you can be, so take extra effort to increase your visibility.
Caveat: Stay true to your brand promise and go to where you believe you can create and provide more value. For brands most especially, if TikTok is particularly new to you, I don't think now is the best time to start. For influencers though, maybe this is a good time to see if TikTok is something that will work for you.
3. Ask yourself, "How can I solve a consumer pain point right now?"
I understand that the "cancel culture" has made it very challenging for people to find their place and post their opinions in the organized clutter of social media. I also recognize that toxic positivity is frowned upon by many, and we all have to tread carefully for fear of offending somebody unintentionally.
My take on this is that different individuals have different ways to cope, and at this time, people also have different pain points that we can provide solutions to. As for me for example, one of my pain points is that I'm not able to take my regular fitness and meditation classes anymore. It's good that some fitness studios like Plana Forma, White Space Wellness, and Beyond Yoga offer free classes via live guided sessions in social media.
What are other consumer pain points right now and how can we provide solutions to these? Businesses and influencers alike can actually be instruments in providing temporary solutions to these temporary pain points -- just a quick fix while everyone is in quarantine. Many people likely have plenty of time in their hands and might have a need for educational articles or videos to consume, new recipes to try, instructions for building DIY stuff, tips for keeping the kids entertained and busy, exercises for physical health and mental stability, or even a simple uplift in spirits during this trying time. Those are just examples of situations where we can fit our narrative, tying the stories we wish to tell to pain points of people we want to speak with and reach.
4. Now is the best time to really show what "authenticity" looks like.
In general, people are interested to see what happens in real life, beyond the glamorous filters of social media. I do not expect people to engage very much with well polished, professionally shot and edited content especially at this time; what they want is content that is raw, real, and speaks to their current reality.
This is a good time for both brands and influencers to talk about a narrative that shows a bit of vulnerability. Unshaved beards? Check. Legit woke-up-like-this face? Check. I-haven't-taken-a-bath-yet-but-let's-do-a-video-call-nevertheless? Check. "Realness" is what's most desired now, and we can make this difficult time more bearable with a trifle of humanity.