Influencer marketing has been a hot topic in marketing and advertising circles for several years now. 2019 in particular saw a huge rise in the number of small and large businesses planning to invest in such strategies in the near future.
For the most part, 2020 has proved no different. According to a recent study carried out by Sensor Tower, approximately 56% of companies planned to up their influencer marketing spend during the course of the year.
But what’s important to acknowledge at this stage is how the COVID-19 is already having an impact on influencer marketing trends, and how strategies like these are being received by their intended audiences. The influencer marketing landscape is in a continuous state of evolution, meaning brands need to make allowances and efforts accordingly to generate the best possible ROI from their campaigns.
The Growing Importance of Storytelling
Now more than ever, brands are being forced to ‘keep it real’ with their influencer marketing strategies. Products and services being sold need to be portrayed in a realistic way, demonstrating how they fit into the target’s everyday life.
The pandemic has triggered a mass rethink of priorities and what matters in general among the consumer public. They’re no longer interested in the lavish for the most part, instead concerned with what they can do to make the most of their time in a realistic way – perhaps confined to their homes due to prolonged lockdown measures.
It’s therefore becoming important for brands to work with influencers who combine inspiration with relatability – personality with prestige. One example of which being Rui Duarte Catana (@ruiduartecatana), who through strategic and continuous adaptation has remained relevant and influential throughout the pandemic.
Long story short – now is not the time for the hard-sell, or to aggressively push your products and services on anyone. Now’s the time to tell your story and get your audience on your side through personality and relatability.
Live Content is the Next Big Thing
Again, the fact that so many people have been locked away for such extensive periods of time has had a major impact on the popularity of live video. Broadcasters and publishers suddenly found themselves with the most enormous captive audiences worldwide, with platforms like Instagram providing the opportunity to communicate with them in real-time.
Innovations like Instagram Live have really come into their own during the pandemic. Some of the world’s biggest businesses, most successful chefs and even the biggest bands on the planet have all been streaming to audiences of hundreds of millions of people. Given that ‘normal’ life (whatever that means) isn’t likely to resume until late 2021 at best, it’s a trend that’s set to continue.
It’s therefore something that should be factored into an influencer marketing campaign – the perfect way of having influential individuals speak to your audience directly. Recorded video clips, snippets and sound bites will still do the trick, but real-time streaming (ideally with the opportunity for your viewers to interact) is exponentially more engaging and impactful.
Bottom-Up Influencer Marketing
Lastly, it’s also fair to say that many (if not most) businesses venturing into influencer marketing are initially sceptical to relinquish creative control. Traditionally, it’s been a case of approaching influencers with a fairly inflexible script and a set of instructions, to be carried out in return for the agreed payment.
Today, businesses seem to be finally acknowledging the importance of communicating messages to audiences in a way that’s natural, authentic and relevant to them. When approaching an influencer to support a marketing strategy, you’re doing so for the simple reason that they have more influence than you do.
Hence, you can also conclude that they know how to talk to the audience you’re targeting better than you.
Over the course of next year and beyond, you can therefore expect to see a major shift in direction among the more proactive businesses. Near-total creative control can and should be passed to influencers without exception, if you’re to deliver a message anyone’s going to listen to.
What’s important to remember going into 2021 is how the appeal, impact and influence of a company’s have all reached rock-bottom. Scepticism among the consumer public in general has reached such an elevated level that almost every word you say as a business is instantly written off as sales and marketing spiel.
From user-generated content to customer reviews and recommendations to social proof, real influence comes from those who spread the good word about your brand on your behalf.