Update: Since we first published this post, our VP of Brand & Culture Natalie Silverstein spoke on a webinar with our partners CreatorIQ, Digital Brand Architects and Ad Council all about how brands can adapt their influencer marketing to the COVID-19 crisis. Listen to the recording here.
As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities and daily lives, we want to keep those in our broader client and creator community informed about how we’re addressing the fast-moving shifts in marketing priorities. We’re tracking the developments daily and responding in real-time to support the best interests of our staff, clients, and creator community.
At the core of our influencer philosophy is authenticity, and facilitating partnerships where brands and creators can connect around shared values. We’re committed to ensuring all programming during this time continues to reflect that mission.
Recognizing this is an environment of uncertainty, we’ve prepared the following to provide some perspective as it relates to our industry and to help navigate questions, new approaches, strategic shifts, and strong customer relationships in the coming weeks.
REMINDER: WHAT INFLUENCER MARKETING CAN PROVIDE TO BRANDS
Trust and attention
We're recognizing that consumers are turning to social media and influencers even more during this time for information, recommendations, entertainment, solidarity, and connection, especially as daily life becomes increasingly isolated and close-to-home. Influencers have cultivated trust over time with their audiences, and continue to have the best pulse on how to present product recommendations and brand storytelling to the people who follow them.
Speed and control
Given the fast-moving changes happening as this pandemic unfolds, brands need to be able to adjust strategy and messaging quickly, get content out to consumers fast, and scale campaigns up or down. This operating mentality is "business as usual" for influencer marketing practitioners, and we already see this mindset benefitting brands investing in the channel.
Distributed content creation
With social distancing becoming the temporary norm, brands are having to curtail photo and video shoot plans yet still need to fulfill their content needs. Influencers can step in to support decentralized content development beyond social posts. They can serve as photographers, videographers, animators, stylists, and makeup artists, among other roles.
OPERATING PRINCIPLES TO KEEP IN MIND
Assess daily and stay nimble
At this point, we're recommending that clients continue programming, scale back as needed, and rethink content briefs and concepts to meet the moment while continuing to engage with customers in conscious ways. Brands can be ready to shift back into a regular cadence of programming by adjusting where needed and maintaining a close eye on the current situation and how it's playing out within social media and influencer communities.
Focus on brand and community safety
Take stock of all programming to assess any projects that were previously requiring travel, in-store experiences, or any public interaction. Re-design these campaign concepts to ensure brand safety and the health and well-being of the community.
Bring COVID-19 into content only when appropriate
Where and when it makes sense, and in consultation with stakeholders, consider editorial and content concepts that speak to the moment, allowing creators to talk to their audiences in this time of uncertainty. Influencers are poised to share accurate information, tips, resources, and positivity.
Travel/tourism, hospitality, and entertainment, including event-based/experiential activations, have had the most evident and immediate repercussions—brands in those sectors should work swiftly to restrategize their programming. Shift event-based, experiential, and travel-related programs to early Q3.
Beauty, retail, and CPG have had lesser immediate consequences, but if supply chains continue to be affected, there may be shifts in product availability that would require strategy adjustments. We're taking steps now to work with our clients to anticipate any such challenges. We recommend proactively identifying shortages and acting promptly to get inventory into the hands of creators.
Tech and online gaming are likely to see a less direct impact, and may even be categories for increased activity. Digital forums serve as spaces for social engagement, news, and entertainment—a truth that is never more apparent. With fears and anxieties around the virus escalating, and a halt to daily routines, people are relying on social media and virtual forums.
Financial services companies are already primarily set up to operate digitally and can continue to reach consumers virtually, especially in a time of market instability. Campaigns in this sector may need to adjust messaging to reflect the current state of the economy.
INFLUENCER COMMUNITY RESPONSE
While there have been some critiques of influencers failing to heed travel warnings and acknowledge the crisis, most creators are addressing it head-on by offering their audiences empathy, encouragement, information, resources, and support.
Key opinion leaders in China and across Asia and Europe have been reporting live from the ground and generating conversation, to keep the public informed. Celebrity-influencer Chiara Ferragni has been praised for her response, fundraising efforts, and awareness campaign around COVID-19, even calling on other celebrity influencers to follow suit.
EMERGING TRENDS & NEW TRUTHS
The new normal is an extreme version of digital social connection.
While an extremely challenging and heartbreaking time for everyone, people stuck at home are quickly finding ways to stay connected to one another and to the things that matter to them. During this time of social distancing, one thing is clear: just how powerful a tool social media can be in bringing people together. Creators, brands, and everyday people are turning to their devices to find comfort, wellbeing, and information. From Netflix Watch Parties, Instagram Live dance parties, virtual homeschooling lessons, and cooking classes, everything you need to stay sane and productive at home is available online—and brands are thinking about how they can join those conversations.
Influencers are continuing to create.
Creators want to work and are finding new ways to partner with brands and organizations. More than 40% of the Collectively community of influencers earn the bulk of their income through their content businesses. Creators want to protect their small businesses just as much as local coffee shops and retailers. The majority of creators and agents we’ve spoken to feel strongly about bringing their communities useful content during this time, so are focusing on supporting public health messaging and integrating brands in ways that put information and entertainment first.
Brands are adapting fast.
Brands wondering how to keep their businesses afloat during this time must adapt to the new circumstances and ensure their messages are thoughtful, resourceful and appropriate—and never opportunistic. Savvy brands are already thinking ahead to how the new at-home lifestyle might stick around even after COVID-19 cases flatten out. Using a human needs-based approach to understanding what your customers are looking for can help identify what you have to offer. Many fitness brands are extending at-home services for free during this time, and financial services companies like Intuit are doing their part to provide real support to their communities. These types of engagements can help build brand loyalty customers will remember.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BRANDS WORKING WITH INFLUENCERS RIGHT NOW:
Tap into a virtual content studio.
Turn to influencers for broader content creation needs. With production shoots canceled, at-home creators are poised to deliver content for your brand.
Lean into virtual events & parties.
Shift to IG Live where creators can host meaningful conversations, fitness classes, tutorials, or Q&A’s with their communities.
Use influencer content to support e-commerce.
Consider reallocating funds toward paid social using influencer content from already-produced campaigns, to engage with customers and support e-commerce.
Explore where your brand can support or offer perspective to new conversations emerging as a result of social distancing, like working from home or remote learning (especially for kids impacted).
We will continue to update this post as new info becomes available. In the meantime, we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
This post was originally published on 3/13/2020 and was updated on 4/1/2020.