Influencer marketing in 2020 looks very different than it did even one year ago. Now, complete-the-look images feature a mask and hand sanitizer. While on the one hand, brands saw their foot traffic come to an unthinkable halt, ecommerce has flourished, and influencers have proven to be essential in maintaining and increasing community engagement. During the lockdown, businesses saw a 129% increase in their online sales. Although that percentage will shift once lockdown ends, it's important to note that consumer behavior has changed in ways we've yet to fully understand. As some countries begin to open their retail establishments, brands have an opportunity to turn these one-time buyers into loyal customers. Influencers will prove essential for achieving this goal. These five trends are beginning to unfold even during lockdown – and will likely continue well beyond this unusual period of time.
1. Influencers will Reconnect with Authentic Content
Influencer marketing may have had its roots in celebrity endorsements, but its evolution towards authentic and highly engaged community content will carry influencer marketing forward past lockdown. Influencers who are able to tap into their audience's desire for a community right now are leading the way in brand communications.
Bloggers report that their audience is more engaged than ever; people have more time on their hands, and therefore, and they are more attuned to what the influencers they follow are saying. If the content is not up to mark, they voice their opinion without compunctions and unsubscribe. Therefore, influencers had to rethink their content and develop material that resonates with their target audience. Right now, influencers who are creating genuine content are increasing in popularity.
The shift towards authentic content has re-cemented the fact that successful influencers post-COVID will be deeply engaged and tone-aware individuals. Therefore, brands would do well if they partner with these genuine influencers in the future.
2. Micro-Influencers, Service Employees, and User-Generated Content to Play a Larger Role in Brand Communications
This era has reinforced the idea that brands need to be more community-focused in their communications. Highlighting individuals affiliated with a brand has proven to be a successful strategy right now, and even before the pandemic. Especially now, BBC reports that because of the pandemic, consumers are more attuned with brands and influencers who are displaying empathy and authenticity. This sentiment coupled with the lack of produced content brands have access to has combined to create some powerful messages, including this ad from Walmart in which different store employees sang 'Lean on Me' while social distancing to create solidarity with frontline workers.
Not only does this tactic help humanize the brand, but it builds empathy for those working in essential roles during the pandemic.
3. Diversity Needs to be a Priority
Highlighting the brand's diverse customer base in marketing messages is no longer optional – it's a must. The business case for boosting diverse representation has been made increasingly during the pandemic, but still, brands are learning how to tap into their powerful network of customer-generated content. Luckily, there are more tools now than ever before to collect, distribute, and measure user-generated content across all channels.
4. Influencer Program Success Will Need to Be Measurable
Especially in difficult times, marketers need to prove the ROI on all activities. While many influencer programs highlighted engagement and awareness as the main goals, many are working to tying their influencer programs directly to sales and average order value. This can be challenging to directly attribute – but creativity goes a long way in understanding how to measure influencer success.
Rather than measure direct sales only, brands are looking at measuring the return on investment from influencer marketing by the content they collect from the influencers. This content can then be used across many monetizable channels such as emails, product pages, and digital ads. Brands like Alo Yoga work with influencers across their engagement-driven channels in addition to their sales channels,
5. Creativity will Flourish on New Channels
Influencer marketing is not what it was before the pandemic, and influencers must learn to adapt to the new normal. Travel bloggers are stuck at home, and lifestyle bloggers are deprived of their usual inspirations. Similarly, every type of blogger is facing reduced opportunities to produce creative content due to the lockdown. But that doesn't mean the content is any less compelling. Influencers and brands alike have found creative ways to adopt unique content strategies on different channels even with limited resources. For example, look at the increase in engagement in TikTok since lockdown began. Although the platform is receiving backlash from some government officials, there's no doubt that marketers need to pay attention to the creativity coming out of this channel.
Influencer marketing has faced some turbulence, but it is not going away anytime soon. Whenever a life-changing event occurs, brands prepare to deal with its consequences. COVID-19 is perhaps the biggest event of the century, and therefore it's bound to shake up a few leaves. As influencers move forward in the new reality and adjust their content to gain the trust of their target audience for higher conversions, brands must keep themselves visible and focus on developing relationships with their consumers through the right influencers.
Maria is a ghostwriter specializing in digital marketing for B2C companies. She writes for multiple clients worldwide, including Carpet Cleaning Westminster.
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