As quarantine takes effect in many countries around the world, brands and influencers have had to adapt quickly to navigate a new landscape where priorities have shifted and actions may be highly scrutinised.

In March, we saw major shifts in the types of content and even platforms where influencers were active. Here’s what’s changed and what brands can do today to seize new influencer marketing opportunities in relevant and impactful ways.

What’s changed: the insights

It’s no mystery that COVID-19 has brought swift change to the influencer landscape. Social media usage has been up and in particular, TikTok usage has sharply risen since March. The platform was originally popular with a young user base, however, lately, it’s become cross-generational. Influencers from all categories and ages are using it to share entertaining and engaging content.

At the same time, there’s been a decrease in some types of content. For example, beauty category mentions and engagement rates among influencers both declined in March. Yet these same influencers were posting new types of content, demonstrating just how quickly influencers can pivot to continue providing content that provides entertainment, education, and inspiration.

We are seeing influencers appear in the public sector with governments partnering with celebrities to get the word out about coronavirus safety and social distancing. Certainly an interesting new avenue for influence.

What does this all mean for working with influencers? Here are three ways to approach influencer marketing in the coming months and make the most of the current situation to add value and continue to build brand equity.

Experiment with new formats

Unfortunately, your Q2 plans were probably irrelevant before the quarter even began. But necessity is a great motivator for innovation! Use this time to try out new ideas — it could be new content or formats. Audiences want to be entertained and educated so it’s more important than ever. Start by asking how your brand can uniquely help your audience during this time of crisis?

We’ve seen this approach in a number of ways, from brands diverting their production facilities (like fashion brands working to sew masks for healthcare workers) to brand partnerships with charities (like P&G raising awareness of critical hygiene and safety information with Charli D’Amelio).

If there is a silver lining in all of this, perhaps it’s that you have the freedom to try new things and unlock your brand’s creative edge.

Leverage your brand’s relationship with creators

Perhaps you’ve put some paid partnerships on hold, but that doesn’t mean you go silent 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. Use this opportunity to strengthen relationships, check in with your influencers, engage more with your organic advocates and find ways to support your influencers that go beyond sponsored content. How we treat our influencers at this time will reflect on our brands, so it’s important to maintain positive relationships.

Let data guide your decision making

Our current circumstances require everyone to look closely at their plans and budgets and figure out how to adapt. Having the data to make the right decisions about where to invest your reduced influencer marketing budgets is going to be critical.

Analysing the fast-moving online conversations will help your brand understand what type of content and formats are resonating and why. What factors are important right now? Consider how content production has changed, and look at who and what is earning engagement on social channels. Take a closer look to see if mentions of your category have changed.

Taking an insights-first approach 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.

Putting it all together

Navigating this new ecosystem requires accepting a “new normal.” We don’t yet know when or how business returns to normal. But what we can do at this time is get creative, build relationships, and seek out opportunities where they lie. The influencer ecosystem may be shifting, but brands that can adapt to the “new normal” will not only survive, but they will thrive during and after quarantine.

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