Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve watched the wave of COVID-19 infections play a role in the influencer marketing business. We saw how it affected programs in the Asian market, then Europe, and finally the Americas. As parts of the world begin to reopen as we hit the mid-year mark, we continue to observe how the world of influencer marketing has been affected and the role we can play in easing transitions.
Program Delays. It came as no surprise earlier this year that most major businesses were looking to postpone programming until they could get a better handle on the COVID crisis. As we approach Q3 of 2020, we’re beginning to see many of those hesitations ease up and budgets flow more freely.
Heavier Focus on Storytelling. Storytelling has always been the name of the game for the influencer marketing industry. It’s what sets this medium apart from other forms of digital marketing. However, we have seen an upsurge in the importance placed on authentic storytelling for programming and influencer selection based on an influencer’s authentic ties to a particular program. The Application Questions portion of our influencer briefing process has been critical in facilitating this client need. Essentially beyond briefing influencers on the premise of the partnership, the Application Questions allow us to ask each influencer specific open-ended questions about their connection to the project that are submitted to the client for consideration along with their quantitative data. We’ve seen this feature successfully used to help vet influencers’ connections to the COVID-19 crisis as well as other highly sensitive topics that would be addressed in a specific program. In evaluating the answers from influencer partners, we’ve noticed clients placing more emphasis than usual on the authentic stories and connections of those influencers to the program than the otherwise more surface-level aesthetics of the candidate.
Real-time Messaging Shifts. What goes hand-in-hand with the heavier focus on storytelling, is the need to pivot storytelling in real-time to calibrate with what’s going on in the world. Typically, we like to give influencers the full story-line of the program upfront so they can begin brainstorming and affirm their connections to it. As we work with brands and influencers in the COVID-19 climate, we’ve evolved to become much more fluid on that to best serve all parties. Our direct client-to-influencer messaging feature has helped make what could have otherwise been a messy communications process a highly streamlined one as we kept influencers abreast of the messaging fluidity necessary for success and tackled individual questions/concerns with each of them one-off.
Branded Content Development. When possible, we strive to include digital usage rights to influencer content developed in our programs. During the beginning of COVID-19, we’ve seen client interest in leveraging influencers as a temporary replacement for branded creative/production teams. This has been largely fueled by office closures that made creative studios unavailable, product availability and shipment issues that made large shipments near impossible, etc. Influencers are a perfect solution for this issue as many of them already have creative studios at home or areas of their home that lend themselves nicely to lifestyle photography. Again, this was not a way of working we were accustomed to, but the agility of our influencer communication platform has enabled us to brief influencers on the novelty of this ask and the role they would play.
Hyper-Targeting Strategies. As each region opens at different times and with different safety measures in place, ensuring the right messaging is reaching the right audiences at the right times has never been more important. Our Scuare and Mobile Wallet Tech platforms have made that a seamless process. Via Scuare, content is pushed via paid media to hyper-targeted audience sets based on location, online behavior, interests, etc. Similarly, for Mobile Wallet Tech, we leverage paid media to fuel the push notifications that speak to people in specific geographic regions or at specific times of day. This ability to send highly targeted messaging to niche audiences allows brands to send broad messaging without sacrificing relevance.
All in all, the COVID-19 crisis has been a learning curve for the entire influencer marketing industry. If this crisis has taught us nothing else about ourselves as a company, it’s that the team’s and our technology’s agility bear witness to ability to tackle global challenges.