Cast your mind back to the start of 2020. A brand-new decade. Endless opportunities that would come our way, because of course, they would! The term ‘Social Distancing’ was yet to figure into our everyday lexicon. Such optimism, right? Four months in and the landscape is dramatically different. A global pandemic has forced the world inside and online 24/7.

If you’re a brand, this is effectively ground zero. Do or die. Get it right and you’ll thrive but get it wrong and your consumers won’t hesitate to desert you. To put it bluntly; while the world is practicing self-isolation right now, you need to be more visible and vocal than ever. The knee-jerk reaction when times are tough is to cut budgets, but retreat at your peril. People are looking to their favored brand communities and their ambassadors for comfort and support.

Enter, influencers. They have a direct connection to your consumers and an established relationship with their followers, which will only have strengthened during the lockdown. In fact, nearly 80% of influencers are reporting higher engagement from their followers right now. Distraction will be the new directive for all influencers as everyone adjusts to the ‘new normal’, ensuring context and relevance where appropriate. It’s not about being opportunistic, but about finding the best way to serve the consumer’s needs during this time, and influencers offer the most authentic way to do that.

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Marketing is dead. Long live Marketing

Now more than ever, we’re craving a human connection. Consumers are sharing more freely as a consequence of being home more and are increasingly turning to social media. In the UK, a recent poll revealed a 38% increase in smartphone usage (source: social Chain) since the start of the pandemic. Average screen time is up to 5h40m per day. As a result, social media spend is expected to rise by 22.2% as brands look to fill the void left by social gatherings and engage users online instead.

If you’re looking to engage an audience in the age of Corona, visual content is king. The biggest success stories are just clicks away on platforms like Instagram, but emerging platforms like TikTok are seeing significant investment from the younger generation, which seeks to inspire change and is rallying around community initiatives. Just look at those campaigns championing Great Britain’s National Health Service for example. Mature audiences have been hooked on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter for content about mental health and fitness advice from personalities like Joe Wicks, The Body Coach, who’s been navigating the road to fitness for millions of adults and children challenged by the constraints of their lives in lockdown. Or, take Leyla Piedayesh, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of the IT fashion label LaLa Berlin. Through her daily Morning Messages, Piedayesh offers engaging, inspiring, and ultimately level-headed insights about food, family, health and generally managing life in the time of Corona. You might even catch her live on IGTV chopping, sautéing, and comparing notes with renowned chef Cookie in HER kitchen while he’s whipping up a meal in HIS. None of it has to be flawless like, say a perfectly produced look book of the latest collection. But therein lies the charm. Authenticity can rarely be faked. And audiences are drawn to what’s real. A brand can create content on the fly and it will resonate if the message sings and if it’s clear real humans were behind it. It’s this kind of positive message that will be remembered. Those that spread negativity or fear will quickly find themselves falling out of favor.

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Still, it’s a minefield to navigate what’s acceptable, what’s too much and what’s too little. Influencers work best here as an extension of a brand. They are there to listen, empathize and create content that best answers a particular mood/concern. As anxiety sky-rockets, people more than ever are looking for some small hits of normalcy, and that can come from buying an influencer-recommended sheet mask or watching a DIY beauty tutorial. This isn’t a total shift in strategy, but tonally this content is what’s needed and appreciated right now; it’s reassuring, useful and delivered by influencers who consumers trust.

Lean in

Influencers have been quick to lean into the #WithMe & #AtHome trends too, immersing consumers even further into their world. They are also best placed to advise brands at this time on the most effective communication for their investment. Instagram, for example, has doubled down on influencer content with clicks on posts tagged with #ad up 76% as of early March. Last month, according to Social Chain, there were an estimated 3.6 billion live stream views by influencers globally on content containing keywords around the pandemic on YouTube and Facebook. posting an advert for Olay on Instagram during the Corona crisis.

Clearly, people are still switched on, engaged, and for the most part, don’t want to see their feeds radically altered to resemble the current state of affairs. That doesn’t mean brands have a free pass to be tone-deaf either. Striking the right balance between empathetic and aspirational will be key, working with influencer partners to keep the dialogue open and gauge consumers’ changing priorities.

Ultimately, this isn’t just some blip in the social calendar. This is going to change everything and brands need to be prepared for that. The world is already starting to ask ‘what comes next’ once lockdown is lifted? It’s a fair assumption that it will include travel after many hours spent virtually in the Bahamas, bookmarking influencer content in the meantime that sparks joy and gives hope.

I’ve seen Influencer Marketing mature from a fledgling vertical into a valuable addition to the marketing mix. Influencers’ ability to establish meaningful interactions will make all the difference as the pandemic continues to reach new heights. Can you really afford to miss out?

There will be a stark difference between pre- and post-Corona influencer marketing though; influencers who understand that authenticity is their most valuable asset in being a professional partner to brands will rise to the top. For them the same imperative applies; Do or die.

by Jeanette Okwu, Co-Founder & CMO at 1nfluencersmarketing
MMPWW Exclusive Reseller of 1nfluencersmarketing