In the era of social distancing, our notion of retail stores has changed. Popping into a store isn’t about leisurely browsing anymore. It’s neither experiential nor tactile. Out-of-home is currently out of favor and experiential is in RIP mode. So, almost overnight, brands have had to figure out how to do business during both the current lockdown and a post-pandemic world by adopting a digital-first strategy.According to a study by consumer insight firmSuzy, social media is now more than just a useful tool for networking and sharing content. For the millions of people who can’t see one another in person due to lockdown mandates, it’s practically become a utility.Nearly 80% of creators are currently reporting higher engagementfrom their followers. Demands are shifting and, as a result, both brands and creators need to output the right kind of content in order to succeed in a post-COVID climate. They have the perfect opportunity to be on the same page serving a loyal audience on one side and potential new customers on the other. Creators offer the most authentic way to do that because people are interested in what people do—not brands.
New habits are forming
It takes about 60 days for people to form a new habit, according to researcher Phillippa Lally. Since we’ve been in quarantine for months now, most of us have likely spent that time forming some novel habits—wittingly or not. The behaviors we see today in lockdown will become the new real-world habits of tomorrow. And those new habits have the potential to disrupt how brands speak to and connect with consumers. Before the pandemic, it wasn’t hard to occasionally become tired of influencer marketing. The endless stream of carefully curated images depicting the picture-perfect lives of beauty, fashion, and lifestyle creators was a daily occurrence. Macro and celebrity creators reaped sponsored product deals and brand collaborations along with enviable perks like first-class trips, front row seats at high profile events, and swag en masse. Everything ended up flawlessly staged on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube.Of course, Internet fame can be a double-edged sword, and there is always a massive potential for backlash in response to content that appears to be tone-deaf. Take thenow-infamous “Imagine” video from Gal Gadot, or consider clothing brand Fashion Nova’s text message to encourage people to spend their stimulus checks on the brand’s products. Reactions againstArielle Charnas’ Instagram feed, in particular, were so intense that some wondered if Coronavirus might “kill influencer culture” altogether.
Darwinism is a real thing
Interestingly enough, consumers don’t want brands or creators to stop putting out content or to stop advertising:
43% of consumers believe brands should still be using social media creators to provide information, positive messages, and promotions right now
49% still believe brands should remain an integral part of the social media experience right now
Creators who are using their social power to help the community in conjunction with brand collaborations will come out on top. As a brand, it makes perfect business sense to align yourself with creators who have authentic, personal Klout.
Step up your game
The pandemic fast-forwarded product development of social networks allowing creatives to unleash their imagination. Social media is becoming a new kind of publishing industry in front of our eyes with content creators ready for brands to leverage.However, this has do be done the right way. It means going back to the basics. Only the ones that figure out how they can serve their audience right now will make an impact and create continued interest in their products long term.There is no magic pill but there is a framework that can be used to stay focused when co-creating a campaign with creators. Starting with answering a few simple but meaningful questions is paramount: Why engage with influencer content? What is your objective? Do you want to sell a product or shift perception? Will the content sit on Facebook, Instagram feed, or story or potentially on TikTok and Youtube? Since the days of straight social content distribution are gone, every single platform needs its own specific content depending on where your audience congregates and what they are doing there.Know and understand the platforms. There are no shortcuts for faking this knowledge. Challenge yourself to go back to the basics and lay a solid foundation for a brand:
To be human, having empathy without hard selling
To be engaging with content that resonates with your audience
To serve your community as their wellbeing is your lifeline
To stay agile and be able to weather ever-changing climates
To play more and try new things helping you to stay front of mind
“Design depends largely on constraints” industrial designer Charles Eames once said. In other words, our creativity is inspired by the challenges we face. We’ve seen an explosion of great content by creators born within the constraints of being housebound—content that’s resonating with a wider community facing its own challenges too. That community is ready to reward those of us who genuinely connect because connecting is what we all want right now. As a brand, it’s a potent opportunity.