Right now, brands are facing a crossroads moment in social and promotional strategies. The pandemic changed how we create content and engage with consumers. The days of influencers gathering in studios for photoshoots and in-person activations are gone — at least for now. What isn’t gone is the need to retain customers and inspire brand loyalty, particularly among those who may have strayed during the pandemic. Now is the time to reflect on lessons learned from COVID-19, think outside the box and partner with influencers to spark meaningful conversations that inspire action.
By: Justin Kline
Adapting Influencers for the ‘New Normal’
Trust me, I’m just as tired of seeing that phrase as you are! However, we are definitely facing a new normal with influencer programs. Leading brands are already finding ways to adhere to social distancing and public health practices, while still being able to retain the imagery and themes that their customers are familiar with. For instance, Nordstrom recently began bringing influencers into its stores to showcase safety practices for anxious shoppers. The pandemic also led to a content shortage for many brands. Enlisting influencers to do the heavy lifting when it comes to content creation is a great way to reinvigorate your marketing and make it more relatable without the need for in-person pricey production crews.
It’s possible to enliven your strategy without losing your brand’s authentic voice and the culture influencers created among followers. Just be wary of each post’s tone and what your objectives for the campaign are to ensure that you don’t come off as insensitive. Customers know that influencers are paid to post but they’ll be wary if they don’t fit the brand they’re promoting. Now is the time to reassess your roster. Does the influencer’s posts, tone, themes and overall image fit your brand’s culture? Don’t engage with an influencer for the immediate pay-out. Rather, build a long-term relationship in which they can become mini spokespeople for your brand, informing you on messaging, product development, and enriching the connection between your brand and its customers (and customers to-be!).
Spark Conversations to Drive Conversions
Today, the most effective campaigns open up meaningful dialog between everyday consumers, influencers and the brand itself. For a post to really resonate, it needs to tell a story and encourage a response from followers. This can be achieved easily with the appropriate influencer, particularly one who uses your products and believes in them. A personal story that frames the product as a solution within their life will always resonate better than a straight-forward plea to purchase.
Further, the best influencers value their followers’ input and are willing to establish relationships with them. Brands can adopt this strategy with their social pages as well. Followers receive the benefit of recognition from the brand on tagged posts or in comments and will likely return to your page and post content featuring your products again and again. This can result in free exposure for you and your product plus new followers who see the customer’s post and want to learn more.
Additionally, any time you can elevate a post or campaign with a creative call-to-action, you should. Participatory challenges are hot right now, particularly on TikTok. A challenge kicked off by an influencer can result in thousands of copycat posts from every day users. Imagine the free exposure if you weave branded imagery or hashtags into that post!
Explore New Venues
When vetting your influencer roster to revamp your campaign strategy, pay attention to which platforms users are seeing the most traction on. Many will be familiar, but you might find an opportunity to enter a new space or use a tried-and-true platform in a novel way.
TikTok is perfect for high engagements and viral potential, but trends are fast-paced so you’ll need to act fast if you want your campaign to catch on with users. Instagram is still ideal for photographic content and storytelling, particularly if your influencer engages regularly with their followers. Consider boosting influencer posts on Instagram and Facebook, which can be incredibly cost-effective. Authentic influencer posts are often more engaging than traditional ads, so it behooves you to spend a little more to get additional exposure.
As brands and advertisers look to ramp social media and marketing efforts back up post-pandemic, many may find that old strategies won’t cut it anymore. Now is a great time to reassess. Do your influencers make sense for your brand? Are they taking steps to engage with their followers on your behalf? Are you taking full advantage of all platforms and tools available to dial into your desired audience? By taking a step back to ask questions like these and make adjustments, you’ll be on track to engage with old and new customers in more meaningful and effective ways.
Justin Kline is Co-Founder of Markerly, an influencer marketing technology partner and platform working with some of the largest consumer brands in the world.