How to navigate influencer partnerships in an uncertain time

Tue Apr 07 2020
Best Practices

We know that it’s anything but “business as usual” right now during the nationwide shelter-in-place order, but we’ve been truly inspired by some of the efforts we’ve seen brands take to engage with their community in a time of utmost distance. We’ve seen some exciting trends emerging in the influencer marketing industry lately, and we want to tell you that not all hope is lost.

Now more than ever, people are jumping on social media to connect with one another and find content that can get their minds off of the current coronavirus heaviness. In fact, our internal survey showed that 56.6% of people have increased their usage of social media since social distancing.

This means that there is more than enough room for brands to engage with consumers. To do so, brands need to lean into their social media-savvy brand partners — influencers and brand ambassadors — to tell real, meaningful, relevant stories during these uncertain times. With their help, your brand can build a true sense of community online.

We’ve recently given you two other resources on how to navigate this unprecedented new landscape:

Now, we’re sharing 4 tips for carrying out influencer partnerships in these uncertain times, with real-life examples of brands that are doing it well. Let’s jump right in.

1. Be empathetic, not opportunistic.

Coronavirus has had a big impact on people’s lives, and not just because it’s making people sick. The virus has affected the economy around the world, businesses have shut down, and people have been laid off. On top of that, some are dealing with racism and social stigma as people misconstrue the facts around the virus.

In these sensitive times, it’s important to be empathetic — not opportunistic. Provide real value to consumers, not overly promotional ads. Be transparent about why your brand is choosing to continue your influencer partnerships and ensure that your influencers also address the partnership head on.

For example, an influencer can use purposeful language like: “It’s a really uncertain time right now. I’m so thankful to still be a [Brand] partner, because this sponsorship allows me to have peace of mind in a very tumultuous time. The team at [Brand] is dedicated to sharing tips and tricks with their community about new recipes and kitchen hacks! Go follow them for more.”

While we recommend staying away from overly promotional content, sales can also be addressed in a tasteful way. Ask influencers to say, “Some people feel like shopping right now, and some do not. [Brand] wants to support either choice. If you want uplifting fun content, go follow them and see what they are posting. If you want to shop, check out my IG story and swipe up. They are offering free shipping.”

Or, turn the tables and ask influencers to share what messaging resonated with their audience and what didn’t. Influencers are the true experts when it comes to their audiences (read: your shoppers), so take note. See what’s working for them to understand how you should be positioning your branded communications, and learn from their mistakes to see what kind of messaging you should avoid.

2. Focus on increasing brand affinity now, and sales in the long run.

While many brands are seeing an uptick in ecommerce sales, marketers should still be considerate of the fact that many consumers are looking to save money, rather than spend money. So, don’t ask influencers to make a hard sell, as this may not go over well with consumers and your brand may come off as being tonedeaf to the situation at hand. Instead, leverage influencers to focus on storytelling, and use influencer content for your own conversion channels to support sales.

Your goal should be to increase awareness and build brand loyalty by providing real value during this difficult time. That way, even if a consumer doesn’t have the means to make a purchase in our current climate, ultimately your brand will be top of mind when it is time for them to make a purchase.

Increase awareness by asking influencers to post a few times on their feed about your partnership. But remember, influencers have audiences who still want to see relevant content. Encourage them to continue telling meaningful stories backed by your brand, rather than directly promoting your brand.

3. Band together with your community to give back.

If you’re supporting a coronavirus response fund or organization, have your influencer partners discuss that as well. Leverage their power to promote a cause you support, and focus on the value created by your brand — not just the benefits of using your products.

For example, L’Oreal USA is donating $250,000 to Feeding America, with a promise to match all additional donations from its employees. Making this well-known will not only encourage others to donate to the organization, but it will also show that your brand cares about the wider community.

4. Co-create content with influencers.

One thing that isn’t changing in this new landscape is your need for content. But how do you source a diverse array of content when everybody is social distancing? You activate your influencers.

Influencers are master content creators. Regardless of where they are in the world, they can produce eye-catching, high-quality content. So, despite having to #StayHome, they will be able to:

  • • Feature your home decor item in their perfectly curated houses
  • • Dress up your trendy loungewear while working from home
  • • Sport your fitness gear in a home workout
  • • Have a picture-perfect spa day in the comfort of their own homes
  • • Cook a 5-star meal in their home kitchens

This is a win-win-win for brands, influencers, and consumers. Influencers want steady income, so take care of your creator community by giving them work and asking them to co-create branded content with you. This could mean lifestyle content, flat-lays, product-only shots, videos, and so on. In return, brands get a boost in awareness and consumers get relevant content that provides value and makes these stressful times a little easier.

After influencers create new content for your brand, you can repurpose it on your website, organic social, paid ads, email newsletters, and more, just as Stella & Chewy’s did.

Carry on your partnerships, but pivot messaging.

Now more than ever, people are turning to social media for content and connection. This means that although business isn’t as usual, brands should continue engaging with their influencer partners during this time. Influencers provide real value to their audience through their content, whether they’re working with a brand or not. So, work with them to tell real, meaningful, relevant stories during these uncertain times.

Need more tips? Contact us here.