Our dining room tables have become our offices, our kitchens have become our favorite restaurants, we’re regulars at our Keurigs and our phones have become our main connection to the outside world. The digital landscape has shifted drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic began and brand marketing strategies are changing daily. But what does that mean for influencer marketing? We’ve taken a deep dive into the “new” influencer marketing landscape – the one shaped by stay-at-home orders and closed businesses – to give you the scoop on how to best move forward with your influencer marketing strategies in these unprecedented times.
While we all can agree that Apple should read the room and stop notifying us of our outlandish new screen time averages each week, the data has a lot to tell us about where our stay-at-home focus is directed, and it’s right at our phones. Later.com and influencer marketing platform Fohr recently studied the changes in screen time amidst COVID-19; their research shows that average screen time is up 18 percent, to five hours and 40 minutes each day. But what does this mean for brands? More eyes on social media = more eyes on your influencer-produced content. The same study found that nearly 80 percent of influencers are reporting higher engagement from their followers, an increase that hasn’t been seen since the latest Instagram algorithm launched.
Now that we know the followers are present, what if brands don’t have the budget for influencer campaigns? In 2019, Influencer Marketing Hub’s Annual Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report found that 63 percent of brands surveyed planned to increase influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months, which was perhaps influenced by their 2018 findings that for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, the average earned media value was $5.20. With these stats, however, came exponential increases in what influencers were able to charge for coverage. Today, nationwide lockdowns and severe marketing budget cuts have left influencers with fewer contracts, with 20 percent of influencers surveyed by Later.com and Fohr reporting 100 percent of their deals have been paused or postponed until further notice. This has led to shifts in influencers’ pricing strategies, with 40 percent of respondents stating they’re reducing normal rates by an average of 30 percent. Now may be a good a time as any for brands to re-launch and re-focus influencer marketing strategies, as budgets could be cut as much as 30 percent but still see the same return from pre-COVID-19 campaigns. Our assumption is that smaller influencer accounts (typically those who recently launched into paid campaigns) will be even more willing to negotiate, as the playing field between macro and micro accounts is leveled.
This increase in influencer engagement is also a great time to consider branded influencer partnerships. Have a restaurant takeout menu you would like to promote or a discount on an upcoming holiday meal package? Consider partnering with local food influencers to promote your menu to their followers and perhaps even offer those followers a discount if they order directly through your business to help avoid third party fees. This will also identify new followers and brand ambassadors, which will ultimately provide a more robust client base to market to when in-person dining resumes. If you’re launching a new product in several markets, create a list of some key macro and micro influencers in each of your target markets and work with them to be the first to try your product and offer their followers an honest review with a link to order. Virtual influencer happy hour events are also becoming more widely utilized during these times and are a great way for an influencer to interact with their audience while also introducing that same group to your brand.
We urge brands, however, to be sensitive to the content their influencer partners are creating, especially as we continue to navigate uncertain waters as a community. CEO of Fohr, James Nord, put it best when he said, “Right now, social media is a time for community, not competition.” Brands are still able to sell products and garner awareness; however, it must be done in a way that is relevant to the world we are living in today, which is mostly formed by four walls and creating communities more interested in “The Good” of the new normal.
While we continue to navigate the uncertainties of the foreseeable future, there are marketing-related benefits for the unknown. Increased screen time and social media usage provides more engagement for content produced by influencers, and holes in influencer content calendars leave opportunities for negotiations. It may seem hard to navigate, however the team at BPR is always here to work in partnership with you to help produce top-of-the-line influencer marketing campaigns, global pandemic or not.