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Guide to Influencer Marketing During COVID-19

Evy Wilkins
April 13, 2020

For brands, the last month has probably felt like a scramble. As the realities of COVID-19 sets in, marketing teams are having to completely rethink their 2020 plans while asking themselves fundamental questions like: 

  • Should we stop all paid collaborations?
  • Should we even be posting right now? 
  • Should we engage with our influencers right now? 
  • Should we only post about COVID-19? 
  • Should we avoid posting about COVID-19?
  • How can we engage without being tone deaf? 

These questions are important to ask and even more crucial to answer as soon as possible. Because, for better or for worse, what your team does now will define your brand long after this pandemic passes. 

You’ve probably tossed your Q2 plans in the trash already, but that doesn’t mean Q2 has to be a wash.

Ways to Keep Your Influencer Marketing Program Running During COVID-19

Understand Influencer Data Trends
Now is a great time to leverage data from your influencer marketing platform to understand how your influencers are talking about COVID-19 and their “new normal”. How has content production changed? Who and what is earning engagement on social channels? How have social mentions of your brand or category (i.e. skincare, cereal, workout clothes) changed? These insights will help inform your brand about where it can strategically fit in. You can also leverage data to find influencers who are creating the most engaging and creative content by searching for up-and-coming creators with super high engagement rates. 

Be Adaptable
#QuarantineLife has us all on social networks more than ever before. Your customers still want to be informed and entertained, but their needs have probably shifted. Your team should still be posting, but the content needs to be adapted to your consumers’ current needs. Make sure your team is asking itself, how can we help our consumers, influencers, providers, etc. In marketing, we often say, give, give, get. However, for the foreseeable future, our focus needs to shift to give, give, give. Don’t ask for anything, don’t expect anything to lead to immediate sales. 

Monitor for organic brand mentions and engage as often as possible.
This is best practice in the best of times and even more so today. You may not be throwing a new store opening party, or shipping out new samples, but that doesn’t mean your fans aren’t active. This is the perfect time to develop strong relationships with your advocates at every tier. 

Nurture Relationships
Perhaps you’ve put some paid partnerships on the back burner, but that doesn’t mean you should cut off connection with your influencers. Just like you, they are living through this health crisis. Use your time to reach out, ask how they are doing and see if there is anything you can do to support their content creation. Don’t let a lack of paid influencer activations prevent you from nurturing relationships with your influencer community. 

That said, if the budget is still available, your team should continue paid partnerships with the influencers you trust to promote your brand in an authentic way. With a growing unemployment rate, paid contractors are often the first to go. It is important to stress that though there is a perceived privilege attached to a full-time influencer career, they are ultimately entrepreneurs who are likely nervous about their next paycheck. When COVID-19 passes, they will remember the brands that stuck by them, and that is how true loyalty is built. Not to mention, Influencers are a solid replacement for creative agencies during this time.

Experiment Like an Influencer
We are in totally new territory. There is no playbook to guide us. But, the influencer community is showing us that it is okay to experiment with new types of content. You don’t need to have it all figured out, but you do need to start. For example, we’ve been meaning to start the Traackr podcast for six months, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 that we gave ourselves permission to just do it.  

Host Virtual Events with Influencers
For example, Carbon38 is hosting online workouts several times per day. Bon Appetit is filming cooking videos from inside their staff’s homes. Some beauty brands are connecting their founders and experts with influencers for virtual consultations. If possible, these should be shared afterwards on YouTube or IGTV, to make sure they are accessible for people living in every time zone.

Connect your Founders or Leadership Team with Influencers
Find out how your influencers are coping with quarantine life. Share your brand’s response to the crisis. Brainstorm how you can work together in a #StayHome world. Many influencer trips are about inviting your partners behind the scenes. There’s no reason you can’t do that virtually.

Provide On-Brand Tips for Adapting to Our New Normal
Does your brand have a unique perspective on working from home, managing stress, balancing childcare and work, cooking with limited supplies (bread making), or distance learning. Constraints are great for innovation

Set Up Extra Layers of Branded Content Approval
In these trying times, it’s easy to say the wrong thing, or come across as tone deaf. Having an extra set of eyes on your work can help ensure the right message comes across as we’re all moving fast and hopefully, trying new things! This can be as simple as adding an extra review stage in your publishing workflow. 

Challenging times can bring out the best in us. Let’s see how creative and purposeful we can be in the face of adversity! What ideas do you have for adapting influencer activations right now? 


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