Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down in a few short weeks, and in turn, marketers are grappling with how to proceed with their influencer campaigns.
Now is a critical point in time for brands to be agile, make necessary tweaks to their plans and use the power of trusted influencers for good.
There are many benefits to leaning into influencer marketing to fight this pandemic, but it really boils down to our duty of care as marketers and collective responsibility as global citizens in times of crisis. Sure, there are plenty of internal reasons to put resources behind COVID-19 campaigns: It will strengthen your influencer relationships, humanize your brand and build long-term equity.
Most important, it can literally save lives. Sounds like a dramatic statement, but it’s true.
Here are five tips to help brands and influencers develop effective COVID-19 content:
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
There are already many critical efforts picking up steam on social media, and marketers and influencers can get involved and get these important efforts in front of a different set of eyes. For example, the World Health Organization launched the #SafeHandsChallenge, and our company has extended this challenge to our full influencer network as part of our pro-bono cause marketing efforts to help the WHO get in front of different, harder-to-reach audiences.
@kittycowellWash your hands for @who ##safehands I tag @fordtography @luisachristie and @paigejoannaa to join me now. ##fyp ##foryoupage ##tattoogirl♬ Wash Your Hands – Hovey Benjamin
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Double tap if you’re spending most of your time entertaining yourself, your children or your pets…these are crazy times and things are getting more and more anxiety inducing. . We have all read the papers and heard the news. We all think we know what this virus 🦠 is capable of, but for most of us here in UK, right know we haven’t yet felt it. Hence the reason for this post. Let’s put a face to this virus and make it real to each of us. I understand many people think they ‘aren’t going to get really sick if they catch it…I’ve heard it be said. But many of our loved ones aren’t so lucky. The World Health Organization (@who) has 5 ways to keep us all safe from COVID 19. Number one is washing your hands throughly and frequently. I know it can be challenging to make little once to clean their hands many times but there is always fun way to do it. Here is how we did it 🤣 I challenge @happylifewithanuma to join me now 😉 #safehands
2. Remember that influencers have global reach and appeal to different age sectors.
Given the magnitude of this crisis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and underestimate the effects that influencers (macro and micro) can have in spreading credible, factual information.
The severity of this pandemic has hit people in different regions and age groups in waves (for example, the US saw spring breakers hitting the beach in Florida while Italy was in full-blown crisis mode.) Milan-based fashion influencer Chiara Ferragni has been particularly vocal in warning followers around the world to not underestimate the threat posed by coronavirus, while calling out other celebrities for downplaying its severity.
Furthermore, influencers are enjoying increasingly high trust levels from their audiences. Our recent whitepaper found that an overwhelming 91% of people between 16 and 24 in the U.S. and U.K. credited influencers with motivating their purchase behavior. Trust is imperative right now, considering many young people aren’t getting the messages from public health officials.
The U.S. Surgeon General even made a plea to Kylie Jenner and other influencers, asking them to tell their millennial and Gen Z followers to stay at home.
Bottom line: if you’re activating a COVID-19-related influencer campaign, make sure to tap a diverse mix of trusted influencers. They can effectively educate their followers, and they can make important messages more relevant to a broader mix of people.
3. Now is the time to launch an authentic social good initiative.
CSR has grown in importance in recent years, not just because it’s trendy but because we are living in generally turbulent times and it’s the right thing to do.
With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to spiral, brands should take this opportunity to look inward and be as resourceful as possible. For example, Christian Siriano and other fashion designers quickly rebooted their operations to help with shortages of masks and gowns in the coronavirus pandemic. The goodwill that efforts such as these will create is immeasurable.
This extends to the influencer space in that content creators are quickly adjusting their own strategies and focusing on other types of content that they wouldn’t normally do.
Now is the time to get your brand’s CSR campaign or social good initiative off the ground, and you’ll likely find that other influencers are eager to join in to promote your effort. The best brand-influencer relationships have been built over time and are great conduits for a complex and constantly evolving crisis like this one.
No one knows what curveballs will come during this pandemic. Influencers are nimble and can help drive targeted messages and interact with consumers in an empathetic way, no matter what the current needs of the public are.
4. There’s still a place for for-profit, branded content if it is legitimately serving consumers’ needs.
If you’re a for-profit brand, the answer is not necessarily to halt all influencer marketing. Consider whether your content can legitimately serve a consumer need, then make sure to select qualified influencers and proceed with sensitivity.
Another pro-bono campaign we’re currently executing on TikTok and Instagram is #TheMindfulMovement, which is focused on protecting consumers’ mental health and promoting mindfulness during this pandemic. The resulting influencer content is full of ideas for books to read, exercises to do, teaching apps for parents, gaming and social apps and other ideas to try.
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Oh hey there Tuesday— I think 🤔 Who else is losing track of their days? . So I just finished #OpenBook, a memoir by @jessicasimpson on @audible yesterday. I jumped into this read not really expecting much but a distraction, however I was pleasantly surprise! . As she narrates her own personal thoughts throughout the book, she makes you feel like you’re having cocktails with a friend and catching up. Even if you’re not a fan of celebrity memoirs, her combination of vulnerability and strength are undeniable— definitely worth reading 🎧 📖 . By the way, if you’re an @amazonprimenow customer you can download + listen to two @audible selections — any suggestions for the next selection? #athometogether #themindfulmovement #socialdistancing
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#athometogether 𝚃𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚊𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚢 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚛𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚍𝚞𝚝𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚒𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚋𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚏𝚞𝚕. -𝙱𝚎𝚗𝚓𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚗 𝙵𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚕𝚒𝚗 _______________ Today was the first day of #schoolathome, and my girl handled it pretty well. With all the information and news going around right now is kind of hard not to get a little stressed. Things are so uncertain, and even a little scary at times . It can really be hard on us mentally, so having something like Nylah’s first day of school online, as something to put our focus on this morning gave us all a little sense of normalcy. Join the #themindfulmovement and share how you took your mind off the news today, to protect your #mentalhealth? Also NY peeps, how was the first day of school for your littles, were the platforms easy to navigate for them? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #coronavirus #coronavirusnewyork #quarantinestories #covid_19 #nycmom #newyorklockdown #nyckids #athometogether #takumiforgood #quarantinedcreatives #mytinymoments#liveinthemoment #capture_today#myeverydaymagic #theyoungsmiths#nycmama #motherhoodthroughinstagram #nycblogger #piecesofmotherhood #unitedmotherhood #mytinymoments #sharedjoy #simplemotherhood #thesearethedays #nycliving #documentingmotherhood #mymamahood #distancelearning
These offer real opportunities for well-meaning brands to make the content even richer. Booksellers can contribute to reading lists, fitness brands can share at-home workout ideas, food brands can share recipes, etc.
5. People still need reasons to smile and have fun.
In addition to amplifying critical information, influencer marketing is also a source of entertainment and positive energy to keep us going in this time of fear and uncertainty. Social media is churning out “COVID-Influencers,” a new class of everyday influencers who are providing entertaining content (e.g. chefs teaching cooking classes on IGTV, teachers hosting classes on YouTube, etc.). One breakout star is Joe Wicks, a.k.a. the Body Coach, who has been running live-streamed workouts and is building a massive global online following.
Brands can work with this new frontier of influencers to create happy and entertaining content that is designed just to make people smile and get a reprieve from the bad COVID-19-related news in their feeds.
COVID-19 is stacking up to be a defining moment for influencers who, when mobilized can serve as a trusted voice, and help fight this global pandemic in meaningful ways.
Mary Keane-Dawson is the CEO of Takumi.