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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Wilson

Influencer marketing during the pandemic

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed the way we conduct our lives offline; it has also dramatically impacted our online behaviors.

Cooped up at home, Americans spend more time on social media than they did before the coronavirus pandemic and have turned to online shopping more than ever. In a recent study conducted by IZEA, 99% of respondents said that they'll likely purchase something online if they're stuck at home. Similarly, a Salesforce survey found that almost three-in-five consumers expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than they did before it.

Many companies have benefitted from these changes in online behavior. "Our sales have skyrocketed due to the average consumer spending more time online shopping while staying inside,” said Bella Gillman, public relations manager at SkinSolutions.MD.

These changes in online behavior have impacted the social media strategies developed by Gillman and her team. “We have implemented more sitewide sales and organic social marketing across various social media platforms with posts about tips and tricks to stay busy and positive during these uncertain times," Gillman said.

So how does influencer marketing come into play?

Brands are leaning into influencer marketing to keep their publics engaged during the coronavirus pandemic. “As a skincare brand that does in-person procedures, we have been faced with many challenges because nobody wants to come in. Instead, we have been reaching out to influencers on Tik Tok and Instagram," Gillman said.

A recent eMarketer study found that 40% of followers wanted more how-to tutorials, 37% wanted more memes/funny content and 33% wanted more "short-form videos." The study highlights that the most effective way to reach consumers and keep them engaged is quick, easy-to-produce content consumers can easily view.

Given the importance of content, Gillman provided a list of some of the key tactics she follows to effectively use her influencer relations:

1) Create a personal discount code such as "ALLY20" that followers can use

2) Share Instagram stories featuring a try-on clothing haul for retail brands

3) Develop "how-to" Instagram stories explaining how to use the product

4) Share TikToks from people with large followings speaking about the company

A few examples of influencers speaking to their audiences are included below:

How does this apply to PR practitioners?

As PR practitioners we need to constantly stay up to date with consumers' wants and needs.

Jayla Lee, Lecturer at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University, spoke on the importance of online marketing during COVID and highlighted the following three points:

1) Pick influencers that appeal to your target audience. If your demographic includes young women that are 18-21, you want to make sure the influencer is someone relatable.

2) Influencers should make stories in real-time for a more personal appeal. Videos that are placed on Instagram or Snapchat stories usually disappear within 24 hours. This entices consumers to check their phones more frequently because of the social phenomenon known as "FOMO" or Fear of Missing Out. Consumers feel obligated to watch these sponsored videos because they know the time is ticking.

3) Product placement is critical. Whether it is a video or a photo, the product must always be in sight. It is a constant reminder of what the influencer is speaking about and helps consumers remember.

"Influencer relations are a worthy investment in PR. Consumers trust people more than ads. Just look at TikTok. One person's great day skateboarding with Ocean Spray made a world of difference for the juice brand,” Lee said.

Lee is referring to the story of Nathan Apodaca, a 37-year-old man who filmed himself coasting down the highway on his longboard chugging a bottle of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice and lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” People loved his TikTok and it rapidly received tens of millions of views.

Ocean Spray noticed his video and decided to surprise him with a gift: a cranberry red Nissan pickup filled with jugs of Ocean Spray juice.

Ocean Spray CEO, Tom Hayes, said:When we saw Nathan Apodaca’s video and the joy it created, we knew we needed to celebrate him and join in this movement of spreading good vibes worldwide.” Not only did this act help Nathan, but Ocean Spray now has created a genuine partnership that will boost sales for the company. This partnership highlights that genuine relationships with a company can be a powerful advertisement technique.

Final takeaway

Everyone has had to adapt to a new normal with COVID-19. Influencer marketing is not an exception. Using social media effectively and embracing new opportunities have become necessary for organizations seeking to succeed in these turbulent times.

By Natalie Wilson

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