How Influencer Marketing Can Make Campaigns Authentic During COVID-19

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The scale of the current pandemic and its far-reaching effects will continue to reshape society in many long-lasting ways. It’s already changing the way we eat, travel, and shop; how we think about our health; and how we interact with friends and loved ones. Marketers and sellers alike are also struggling to find effective ways to engage members of their audience with this constant change in play. While every day brings a new challenge, it seems like an uphill battle to stay relevant and engage with consumers in an authentic way.

In the face of the present crisis, there is a select group of content creators that have found ways to increase engagement and connect with their fans: influencers. Not only are influencers helping online communities cope with fear and offering an outlet for entertainment or escape, but they are helping consumers make critical buying decisions. As brands continue to grapple with their corporate social responsibility, marketing approach, and financial sustainability during the spread of COVID-19, partnering with influencers could be the best option to thrive despite economic disruption.

What Is Your Corporate Social Responsibility During COVID-19?

Brands in many cases have had to pull the plug on their planned 2020 messaging and initiatives and recognize what is going on in the world, as well as the opportunity to do some good. During these unprecedented times, consumers are turning to brands for answers and guidance. Brands and the marketing industry have embraced transparency and trust, recognizing that their audiences are looking for leadership. During the pandemic, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has taken many forms, including corporate social innovation. According to the World Economic Forum, the main ways large U.S. corporations are demonstrating this innovation include:

  • promoting emotional, mental, and physical health;
  • taking care of employees financially (even if they cannot work); and
  • investing creatively in local business

But not every organization has the financial wherewithal to monetarily donate 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, brands can both extend their reach and have a positive impact on their audience members.

Creating an Authentic Influencer Marketing Strategy

COVID-19 continues to force retail stores to close or operate in a limited fashion, causing an unparalleled disruption in commerce. As the country and world turns to e-commerce as their main source of shopping, brands need to adapt and incorporate influencers into their marketing strategies to stay relevant among their customers and their changing buying patterns.

The key is to remain authentic to the brand while also being conscious of the challenges many consumers are dealing with in their personal lives. Put simply, marketers will be most successful when they focus on benefiting the customer. More so than most marketing channels, influencer marketing helps to positively impact customers with content that focuses on social awareness and positivity, creating relevance for their audience in a relatable way. In doing so, brands will not only earn respect from customers but also build a rapport that goes far beyond the sale of a product or service.

Influencers are uniquely qualified to engage audiences with relevant content, and to do so with trust and ease. They can intuit the needs of their audience and create content on demand. This approach to content marketing is known as “authentic media.” Authentic media neither ignores current issues nor encourages overreactions to sensitive topics. Successful influencers always strive for that balance, and they enjoy a special bond with members of their digital community.

Brands that want to create authentic media during COVID-19 are most successful when they partner with influencers. Not only will influencers help brands produce authentic media content, they will give invaluable insight into the concerns and needs of your ideal customers.

The Benefits of Influencer Marketing

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.

Solidarity draws people together during a crisis, and brands that work with influencers can benefit from this sense of “strength in numbers.” Influencers build their identities on integrity and authenticity, giving brands that hire influencers the ability to achieve solidarity with their customers. That authenticity extends from the influencer to the brand with whom they’ve partnered.

With influencers, consumers are then able to see a brand as an organization committed to helping them. From there, brands can become part of a broader social movement that empowers others, rather than one that makes money off of people’s vulnerability.

Bringing Brands and Customers Together

By the end of the pandemic, the bond between brands and customers should be stronger than ever. Focusing on social responsibility, public messaging, and the most effective marketing mediums for strengthening that bond will help achieve that goal.

No other marketing approach can forge a relationship with customers based on trust quite like influencer marketing. As consumers grow closer to their favorite influencers during the current crisis, brands can partner with influencers to achieve much needed authenticity and relevance with their target audience.

Brandon Brown is founder and CEO of GRIN, which provides influencer marketing software for e-commerce brands. With over a decade of experience in marketing, Brown is an expert in driving outcome through influencers, athletes, and tastemakers. Brown resides in Sacramento, California, and can often be found supporting local small businesses or listening to his favorite podcasts.

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