- Brands must shift from their pre-pandemic social media strategies
- More organic and engaging approaches are crucial when it comes to winning back customers or retaining new ones
- Select the most appropriate platform that fits the target audience, even if it’s uncharted territory for your brand
- Authentic influencer campaigns, user-generated content challenges and conversational tones are among the most effective ways to engage with customers
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, but businesses are starting to pick back up where they left off with traditional advertising and social media tactics.
However, the advertising and marketing landscape has shifted greatly and consumers are wary of self-serving content and tone-deaf messaging, especially post-COVID.
In order to win back former customers and retain new ones, brands must adapt promotional strategies to be more engaging and genuine and cater them to their desired audiences and the platforms these users are found on.
Authenticity is more important than ever
Authenticity is the name of the game. We’ve all seen both sides of the sponsored content coin by this point.
On one side are the ads and posts that feel naturally endorsed, and on the other side are posts that come off as though a person is speaking at you and not with you. One of the many advantages of sponsored content is the ability for two-way conversation.
Brands need to consider how a person will feel when they see a sponsored post. Will it spark curiosity? Will the target consumer feel compelled to comment and share a similar life experience?
Consumers know that influencers are paid for sponsored content. This doesn’t make sponsored posts less effective; honesty is an important part of successful brand relations on social media.
However brands must work with influencers who live a lifestyle authentic to their product, not influencers who are simply making sales pitches that are disassociated with their day-to-day.
Of course, the most obvious way of working with authentic influencers will be to seek out those who are already using your products. Another less common, but easily achievable strategy is to seek out those who are living a lifestyle that is on-brand for your products or your company mission.
This is achieved by looking at the way a person writes about their day, the pictures they capture that they share, and the moments they post. Many brands seek out influencers to share products that are only in it for an immediate pay-out instead of a long-lasting relationship.
This is not only the fault of the influencer, since many brands assume one sponsored post is effective, when in reality the brand ambassadorship, and multiple posts over the course of the year from the same influencer, is the kind of partnership that influences followers.
An example of a mis-match between brand and influencer would be a brand that has an image of “real moms.”
They want moms that share their vulnerability online and show themselves with messy buns and sweatpants. This brand should not be working with influencers who are overly produced in their images, only showing off the “best” of their life.
Influencers who only share an “aspirational life” conflict with a brand that wants to appear relatable to everyday moms who, also, cannot relate to the “aspirational life” influencers.
This doesn’t mean that “everyday moms” do not follow these accounts, but the messaging comes across differently, depending on who is sharing the sponsored post.
Storytelling is an art-form. The most powerful brand messages have story-lines interwoven into them that are seamlessly integrated into all advertising content.
An example of this would be Dove Soap celebrating diversity and body positivity. It would be strange to see Dove partnering with an underweight fashion model that only posts selfies in designer clothing.
This image is so off-brand for a company that has been at the forefront of a movement to empower women and children, regardless of their size or color.
Dove will partner with a social influencer who also actively encourages their followers to be proud of themselves and their individuality, regardless of income, color or shape.
Storytelling is important for successful brands, so think about what your story is and be diligent about partnering with influencers who uphold these values and can tell your story authentically.
Find the most impactful venue
Not all platforms are created equal. Think about the goals of your campaign and your target audience. Once again, turn to your influencers to see where they receive the most engagement.
COVID has increased the need for content creation, so consider working with influencers to create content for your display ads in addition to sponsored content. You also need to put money aside to boost content to reach more of your target audience beyond the influencers followership.
An influencer should be a representative of your brand – and you should promote them as such.
There are pros and cons to different platforms in regards to messaging and boosting power.
Instagram is well suited for sharing stories and photos that encourage long comments from followers (it’s important to consider whether or not the influencer you work with engages with their followers, as this increases their value).
Instagram is also the best platform for boosting content since you do not need to commit to a large minimum spend and the content can be advertised on Facebook or Instagram to granularly built audiences.
TikTok, on the other hand, is perfect for high engagement numbers. This viral video platform receives more views per video than Instagram and is a great way to get fun content created that others want to engage with, or copy.
Advertising on TikTok is wildly different from Instagram. While the rewards of paid advertising on TikTok are extremely high, the buy-in may limit the amount of brands who can reap the benefits.
Audience engagement post-COVID-19
Moving away from influencers, one of the easiest ways to humanize your brand’s social accounts is to engage with followers posting about your products.
Summersalt is an inclusive swimwear brand. From celebrities to regular moms, they’re big on sharing photos of everyone wearing their suits.
Not only are they highlighting relatable people actually using the products, they reward loyal followers by responding to comments, creating a two-way conversation about the products and overall lifestyle.
This approach encourages a “cult engagement” of sorts where users who tag the brand receive recognition and the brand earns additional free exposure.
Remember how I mentioned that the influencers who engage with their followers have a higher value? This is true for your brand, too. If you begin engaging (and rewarding) those who share your product on social media, you will encourage more shares and build a positive association.
Without a doubt, the novel COVID-19 pandemic has caused many brands to pivot their strategies. We are no longer using models in a studio, we are relying on everyday influencers to create our advertisements and share our stories.
We are not engaging with our consumers at events, but rather through social media and email.
While some brands might be tempted to go back to basics, and are eager to return to a time where we focused more on the in-person experience, take what we have learned from COVID-19 and adjust your future marketing plans accordingly.
You’ll receive more engagement and conversions if you think outside the box with influencers, utilize them in a way that maximizes value, and play around with new platforms and non-traditional campaigns.
A few small tweaks to your strategy will enable you to create refreshing, authentic content and incorporate fresh perspectives that will resonate with new customers and retain loyal ones.
Sarah Ware is Co-Founder of Markerly, an influencer marketing technology partner and platform working with some of the largest consumer brands in the world.