What Brands Want Influencers To Know (COVID-19 Series)
Now that most of the Philippines has been in strict quarantine for a month already (and will be for a couple more weeks), many businesses throughout the country have slowed down, some even had to temporarily suspend operations entirely. Plenty of changes and adjustments in business plans of different companies are being plotted, all with high hopes that survival is certain. Marketing budgets have been drastically slashed (and I'm literally crying inside) and many campaigns that have been approved for execution pre-COVID have been postponed to a later, still undeterminable date or have been cancelled altogether (and I'm crying even more).
The past weeks of my life in quarantine was spent talking to partners, clients, mentors, and friends in the industry. Common themes of our discussions were extension of payment terms, condonation of penalties for delays, reasonable pay cuts, cashflow management, and basically strategies to survive the repercussions of this pandemic. To pick the brains of experts and thought leaders, I've also attended a gazillion of webinars -- you have no idea!
It's been day after day of realignments and agile responsiveness to the fickleness of the situation and stress levels have been through the roof. This is just one scenario of what happens in the world of marketing, that I believe most digital marketers can attest to.
With regard to influencer marketing however, there are a few common themes that I've come to learn from my conversations with industry thought leaders. I took the liberty to compile them all here to help our influencer community prepare for what's to come industry-wise as soon as the COVID-19 situation eases up, and also arm marketers with important things to consider as regards influencer marketing as we prepare for our businesses to resume normal operations.
This article will mostly be directed to influencers, as I deem it fit to be, because I want our influencers here in the Philippines to really, really #ElevateInfluence, especially now and when the whole country is starting to slowly recover from this crisis.
If you're an influencer or a content creator (or at least if you aspire to be), here are three (3) things I would want you to bear in mind as early as now:
1. Ask yourself what exactly can you bring to the table?
In one of my previous articles, I wrote that to be a legit influencer, it's important to know what you're really good at. It still is true of course, but post-COVID, I'm pretty sure that businesses will be extra prudent with their marketing spend of whatever little budget would be left, if any at all.
My forecast is that beyond the pre-COVID way of putting so many eggs in Instagram and YouTube, brands will slowly start shifting and allocating money to value-adding (but currently underpriced) channels where the attention of their audience seems to be shifting towards. Therefore, having significant traction in platforms like TikTok and Twitter or even podcasts will show some real commercial implications. Active sponsorship of well-written blogs with evergreen content could also stage a comeback from a deep slumber, commercial-wise.
To marketers: the relationship play (aka the "friendship card") could still work, but there has to be a real exchange of commercial value for it to be commercially sustainable. Everyone's going back to basics, so explore going back to the "basics" of where this all began: blogs. In terms of content shelf life, blogs are still your safest bets.
To influencers/content creators: this is a good time to invest in reputation and cement in the minds of people what you really stand for and what you want them to remember you by. What are you really, really good at? What do you want to be known for? Which of the online channels can cater to what you want to do? What is that one thing that when people think about, they will think of you? This is the time for influencers to be intentional and strategic in the way they put out content -- what is the intent behind the content? I wrote in a previous blog some tips to guide you through this.
Reach will always be important in a marketer's point of view, but I see that specializing on a niche will be valuable, as brands would be more deliberate in terms of alignment with the influencer's online persona, more than ever (so yes, clean up your social media!). The environment will be more competitive as there will always be new influencers on the rise, but having a niche that you specialize in will push your name to the top of every marketer's list.
2. Having the power to convert a sale is going to be very, very important.
One significant thing that I've noticed with influencer campaigns that were still activated during this time of quarantine is that the calls-to-action are mostly "instant"; i.e., along the lines of "buy this item" or at least "visit this website" -- something that the audience can easily do at the particular moment of interaction with the content, not much leniency in turnaround time. These short term calls-to-action are possible indications that companies are now extremely particular about the "conversion power" of an influencer, especially when it comes to a sale.
Quite predictably, many companies will be cash-strapped post-COVID and will have to recuperate the losses. As influencers, if we really wish to commercially engage with brands, it's important to think of them as our business partners. This means that if we want a long term working relationship with them, we should also think of how we can help them nurture their bottom lines by making them money from continuous sales.
Yup, that's correct -- think not only of how much you want to be paid because of your influence power; think also of how much money you can help the brands make through it.
3. Forget authenticity. Let's talk about congruence.
We've heard of the word "authenticity" thrown around so loosely that people seem to be so smart when they talk about it. Let me tell you this: Authenticity is queen; Congruence is king.
Allow me to explain.
Authenticity as most people would define it is being unapologetically yourself, whenever, wherever. And that's good; it works right now in a world where everyone craves for real, non-scripted, non-fabricated things. That's basically what people love about authenticity: the realness and rawness that make someone genuinely believable.
Congruence, however, is when your image and message in social media AND your actual behavior in real life (vice versa must also hold true) are all in alignment. It's when what people think they know about you because of what they see you post online is actually what they can see when they meet you offline. It's when what you make people see in social media is actually what they see behind its glamorous filters.
You could be authentic without being congruent. And that confuses people. So more than being authentic, strive to be congruent.
But then again, take this advice with a grain of salt, because while I see that striving for congruence is the more sustainable way moving forward, I also understand that people choose to make delineations between their online and offline lives for specific, often personal reasons. :)
Let me take this chance to invite you to a webinar that my company, Blogapalooza, is co-organizing with M2.0 Communications and Dentsu Aegis Network:
Attendees get exclusive access to social listening reports and complimentary media monitoring dashboards on COVID-19 from D+GILITY, M2Live, and Media Meter Inc. More details about the event can be found here. Admission is FREE!
'Til the next one, fam! What would you want me to talk about in the next article in this COVID-19 Series? I should probably make one for "What Influencers Want Brands To Know" also, 'no? ;)