Influencer marketing during COVID-19 in a nutshell: brands, no matter the size, should not shy away from influencer marketing because Instagram and Facebook Live views have doubled in the past week, and YouTube is working on meeting increased demand for live streaming. The standard ROI on influencer marketing is 1:6 - for every $1 spent, there is a $6 return. With COVID-19 having turned the economy upside down, the lockdowns forced consumers to change habits.
It’s no secret that Millenial consumers are habitually using Instagram and YouTube and are being exposed to new products through their favorite influencers - and during COVID-19 that online exposure has doubled when experiential entertainment is no longer in the cards. Before diving into influencer marketing during COVID-19 let me explain first - a very important concept - how influencers serve as touch points during the consumer decision making journey. According to the McKisney study, which was done with 20,000 consumers across four different industries, there are a total of four steps, see the graph below, in the consumer decision journey. Influencers play a vital role in three of those steps: 1. Initial consideration - exposure, 2. Active evaluation - research, including reading reviews, and 3. Post-purchase evaluation and research - further following reviews. In other words, influencers have become key when consumers are encountering and evaluating the product for purchase. In other words, influencers have become key when consumers are encountering and evaluating the product for purchase.
Influencers have become a source of entertainment and such powerful voices that consumers can’t resist but to follow them on different social media platforms, which brings me to the crux of this article - brands should under no circumstances go dark on social media during COVID-19.
Why turn to influencer marketing during COVID-19?
Firstly, at a time when consumers are feeling increasingly vulnerable and looking to emotionally connect with others, who find themselves in a similar situation, brands should not be tone-deaf and create pandemic related messaging. Brands should create messaging that speaks emotionally to the consumer and who better to create relatable - and cost efficient - content than influencers?
How to set up a COVID-19 strategy with influencers:
Secondly, the COVID-19 strategy should involve brands forming partnerships with influencers to acquire new customers, retain customers, and re-capture ex-customers. COVID-19 strategies with influencers, should include but not limited to, donating a percent of proceeds of your sales to COVID-19 hard hit non-profits, donating medical supplies to hospitals, e.g., masks made from textiles, or donating food to non-profits working with vulnerable communities. The reason that cause marketing is so vital during a pandemic is because studies. show that 56% of consumers will stop buying from brands they believe are ethically unconscious and 91% of consumers will likely switch to a brand that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality. And who better to communicate the brand’s efforts - large or small - than influencers? It’s a perfect opportunity to gain new customers, by even doing small deeds like donating 10% of your proceeds to a COVID-19 related cause, and get attention from your ex customers and praise from your and existing customers for the good samaritan deeds during the pandemic.
How to stimulate eCommerce spending with influencers:
Lastly, use the increased Internet traffic, including Instagram Live, Facebook Live and TikTok, to work with influencers and have your customers take action - make actionable items. For example, influencers can share customized links with their followers, e.g., 10% of this product’s sale proceeds go to this non-profit, which is helping to feed vulnerable communities affected by COVID-19. Another way is for brands to use influencers as mouthpieces for their COVID-19 related efforts, e.g., we have donated 100,000 masks to community hospitals hardest hit by the pandemic. Socially conscious actions will echo through the Internet and the brand will stand out in the noisy Internet space. The final example is that influencers can use time sensitive discount codes which their followers can use to make purchases of goods whose partial proceeds will be donated to a COVID-19 struck charity - double the points for the brand in the consumer’s mind.
Hence, crafting non tone-deaf messaging, engaging in socially conscious activities and working with influencers are all parts of a strategy to stimulate eCommerce spending during COVID-19. It’s important to keep talking to your ex-customers, current customers and potential customers because people will forget what you said or did not say but they will never forget how you made them feel especially during a time of need and unprecedented vulnerability.
About the author
Amra and Elma are mega influencers with over 2.2 million social followers and founders of A&E, a digital agency with a large client portfolio of Fortune 500 companies like J&J, P&G, Netflix, VF Corp, and Wells Fargo. You can read and watch more about A&E in acclaimed publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg Television, Financial Times, Inc., and Business Insider Video.