You don’t need me to tell you that we are in unprecedented times; as businesses, brands and human beings, we have never seen anything like this before. And while we are all slowly but surely working it out, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about how to do the jobs we used to do with our eyes closed. For marketers, there is a constant battle between needing to continue doing our jobs and not wanting to risk seeming insensitive.
These are conversations we’re having with many of our clients daily. The studies that have already been published are telling us that social media usage is up and brands should be harnessing this attention. But our brains question this, not wanting to appear to be too opportunistic but not wanting to miss out on what is, let’s face it, an excellent opportunity.
Content creators’ main power lies in their ability to build and maintain engaged communities; people who trust their recommendations and follow them because they want to know more. This is part of the success of influencer marketing, which allows brands to tap into these engaged communities and harness the creator’s voice, in order to speak to their target audience. And creators still have this power. Content creators are speaking to and engaging with their followers every day. We have seen a huge increase in creators doing Questions on Instagram Stories, which allows their followers to directly ask them questions. These might be around their COVID-19 fears or what they had for lunch; either way, the creators are constantly gaging their audience’s mood.
In a recent conversation with the Influencer team, content creators in our network discussed the feedback they had received from their audience in response to a post they did, asking their community how they felt about them posting content in partnership with brands at the moment. They said they received hundreds of replies, the vast majority of which were incredibly supportive, with followers saying that it was a welcome distraction, especially as it gave them inspiration for online shopping, and that their followers stressed how keen they were to continue supporting them at this time.
Moreover, brands should always see creators beyond their following and their influence. Creators are able to build their communities due to their fantastic content creation abilities paired with a knowledge of what their audience wants to see. We advise our clients to think of creators more as part of their creative team than as a corner of their marketing strategy. We would, therefore, advise that brands that are nervous about appearing insensitive and opportunistic, talk to the content creators they are hoping to work with about the best ways to deliver the brand’s message.
Not only will the creator be able to help them build a strategy based on their audience knowledge, they’ll also be able to produce branded content at a time when many brands are struggling due to studios being closed or teams being separated. Many creators have home studios or can produce content digitally.
Finally, it’s important for both brands and creators to remember why people come to them and to take this into consideration when devising a content strategy. Currently, consumers are looking to their favourite brands and creators for inspiring or uplifting content that helps them to forget the situation we find ourselves in or informative content that helps to improve it. There is also so much misinformation out there. Brands must ensure that, should they feel the need to reference COVID-19 in their content, that the messaging is fact-checked and fake news-free.
The period of uncertainty that we are currently in is providing all of us with a great opportunity to show our true colours. Consumers will remember the way that brands made them feel at this time, long after the situation has changed. Those brands who show compassion, mixed with humour and intelligence will reap the rewards for years to come.