With the world transforming against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers are struggling to find effective ways to engage members of their audience.
“It goes without saying that we are in an extraordinary situation globally with coronavirus. The scale of this pandemic and its far-reaching effects will reshape society in many longlasting ways. It’s already changing the way we eat, travel, shop, how we think about our health and even how we interact with one another.” – Brandon Brown, CEO of GRIN
But there are a select group of content creators – influencers – that have found ways to increase their engagement in the face of the present crisis. Not only are influencers helping their online communities cope with fear, but they are helping them make critical buying decisions.
As your brand grapples with its corporate social responsibility, marketing approach, and financial sustainability during the spread of COVID-19, partnering with influencers could be your best option to thrive despite economic disruption.
What is Your Corporate Social Responsibility During COVID-19?
As a brand, you hold a certain amount of leadership. The fact that businesses are stewards of their impact on society forms the foundation behind corporate social responsibility (CSR).
During the current pandemic, CSR takes the form of corporate social innovation. According to the World Economic Forum, the main ways that some large US corporations are demonstrating this innovation are:
- Promoting emotional, mental, and physical health
- Taking care of employees financially (even if they cannot work)
- Investing creatively in local business
But not every organization has the financial wherewithal of Google, Microsoft, or Amazon to donate millions to local small businesses and send employees home with pay. Instead, the average brand can leverage its public message to promote a spirit of caution, altruism, and hope to consumers within their realm of influence.
The same is true for influencers, many of whom are taking the initiative to innovate socially. By partnering with influencers, your brand can both extend its reach and do more good among members of your combined audience.
Influencer Marketing Benefits to the Consumer (Public)
Consumers still need products and services, even though demand has shifted considerably. Similarly, businesses need to be able to stay in business. People need jobs, employers need cash flow, and consumers are still shopping for those items that are essential to survival and general wellbeing.
Your brand will be most successful if it focuses its marketing on benefitting the consumer. Not only will you earn respect from customers, but you will help them in ways far beyond the sale of a product or service.
More so than most marketing channels, influencer marketing helps you positively impact your customers with content that focuses on social awareness and positivity.
Influencers Get the Message Out
One of the best ways to help your consumers right now is to spread the word about best practices for personal health.
Among these best practices are staying home, washing hands, and separating false information from real information about the spread of COVID-19.
For example, E.l.f. Cosmetics teamed up with iLL Wayno and Holla FyeSixWun for a handwashing remix on TikTok.
But influencers are helping brands take health and wellness a step further. Instead of pushing products, brands can partner with influencers that help their audience stay active and mentally stable while at home.
With his followers in lockdown and gym equipment sold out around the world, @london_fitness_guy shows videos of how audience members can get creative with their workouts. In a recent post, James LFG works his legs with the help of his couch.
Brooklyn’s @theyoungsmiths is encouraging her audience to “embrace the pause” and invest time into mindfulness and relaxation. Jodenny shares ideas for incorporating family members into creative activities to increase mental health during an uncertain time.
One brand that has done a particularly admirable job with their influencer program this year is Lume Cube. Decision-makers developed a strategy to leverage influencer relationship management to build a stronger bond with their customers and influencer team. GRIN’s Brands Working Remote Talking Influencers event will host Lume Cube’s influencer marketing team on April 22.
The Public Trusts Its Influencers
Unfortunately, some brands try to exploit a worldwide tragedy for financial gain. That’s why many brands are failing to engage their customers and nurture long-term relationships built on trust.
Influencers don’t just do business with any brand – they partner with organizations that share their values and can deliver benefits to members of their audience. Followers know this and believe that their favorite influencer has their best interests at heart.
“Consumers are, more than ever, being swayed by influencers when it comes to purchasing decisions. Somewhat unsurprising, this is most true of 16-24-year olds, 60% of whom credit influencers with purchases they have made in the past six months” (Source: Takumi: Trust, transactions and trend-setters).
By partnering with influencers to adjust the way you do business during a global pandemic, influencers will be able to help you sell responsibly. More importantly, influencers can help you prioritize CSR in a way that best engages your ideal customers.
Influencers Provide an Escape
Influencers are professional creatives. They showcase resiliency in the face of any difficulty and inspire their audience to distract themselves with new hobbies and habits.
Instagram and YouTube influencer Lavendaire continues to engage her female audience with messages of self-love and personal improvement. She recently posted “15 Self Care Ideas for Coronavirus Quarantine” and included activities like learning a new language, organizing one’s home, and taking an online course.
Other times, influencers are positively entertaining. Whether creating engaging COVID-19-specific music videos on TikTok or using humor in a daily vlog, consumers are drawing hope and inspiration from influencer content.
Influencer Marketing Benefits to Brands (Public)
In contrast, brands that do nothing to change their marketing approach during COVID-19 are likely to become obsolete. Or, at the very least, they will have to overcome the significant disconnect resulting from ignoring opportunities to do good at a time when their consumers were struggling.
Position Your Brand as Part of an Authentic Social Good Movement
Solidarity draws people together during a crisis, and brands that work with influencers can benefit from this sense of “strength in numbers.”
Because influencers build their identities on integrity and authenticity, brands that hire influencers are also able to achieve solidarity with their customers. That authenticity extends from the influencer to the brand with whom they’ve partnered.
Consumers are then able to see your brand as an organization committed to helping them. Your brand becomes a leader of a broader social movement that empowers others, rather than one that makes money off of people’s vulnerability.
Produce Authentic Media and Content
Influencers are uniquely qualified to engage audiences with relevant content. From an agility standpoint, influencers can intuit the needs of their audience and create content on demand.
This approach to content marketing is known as authentic media.
“The key ingredient to authentic media is ‘pandering-free’ content. This content is transparent enough to resonate and inclusive enough to digest for the average person” (Step by Step Guide to Running a Successful Experiential Marketing Event with Influencers).
Authentic media neither ignores current issues nor encourages overreactions to sensitive topics. Influencers always strive for that balance, and as such, they enjoy a special bond with members of their online community.
Brands that want to create authentic media during the COVID-19 pandemic are most successful when they partner with influencers. Not only will influencers help your brand produce authentic media content effectively, but they will give you invaluable insight into the concerns and needs of your ideal consumers.
Maximize the Message, Not the Budget
While many economic side effects of the coronavirus remain to be seen, you need your marketing dollars to go farther. Any marketing approach you choose must generate more robust results.
Digital Marketing Institute (citing Tomson research) declared that influencer marketing generates over a 600% return on average.
In another study sponsored by Nielsen Catalina Solutions, experts found that influencer marketing, in some cases, surpasses PPC banner ad ROI by 1,100%.
Why is influencer marketing so potent?
First, influencer marketing is budget-friendly. Influencer marketing managers can invest as little or as much as they want, depending upon their budget and the quality of their influencer’s engagement metrics.
Second, influencer marketing sparks ongoing user-generated content (UGC). Consumers and influencers may continue to engage in posts featuring your brand for long after your campaign officially ended. UGC also improves your website’s domain authority and helps it rank higher in Google searches.
Lastly, influencer marketing posts are easy to repurpose for PPC ads. Repurposing UGC (with the influencer’s permission) lowers your cost per engagement, which further increases your overall marketing ROI.
Bring Brands and Consumers Together
By the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, you want the bond between you and your customers to be as strong as ever. Focusing on your social responsibility, public messaging, and the most effective marketing mediums for strengthening that bond will help you achieve your goal.
No other marketing approach earns trust with consumers as does influencer marketing. As consumers grow closer to their favorite influencers during the current crisis, your brand can partner with influencers to achieve authenticity with your target audience.
For more information about how brands can grow closer to their consumers during this challenging time, we invite you to join our free webinar, Brands Working Remote Talking Influencers.
The webinar is a candid discussion with Lume Cube, a direct-to-consumer portable lighting brand. This GRIN-hosted marketing roundtable will demonstrate how Lume Cube has been able to leverage influencer marketing both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Participation is free, but availability is limited, so don’t wait to register!
This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.