2020 has seen more change and obstacles than any of us could have predicted. The economy has been rocked by current events - and influencer marketing is no exception.
Now, I could tell you what most of the platforms and agencies who want your business right now are publishing - influencer marketing is PERFECT for the "new normal" and our current conditions and "we are not impacted at all!" I'm about 95% behind that. Influencer marketing provides a very unique opportunity for brands to continue their content creation practices, to humanize their brands, to innovate new use cases for a different kind of living, to improve the personification of the consumers of their brand, and so much more - I believe we will see an increase in influencer partnerships.
But that other 5% of me knows that prior to moving forward with a more aggressive approach, it's really important to sit back and look at how current events are changing influencer marketing and influencer relationships. So much has happened in the past 4 months that put influencers, brands, platforms, and influencer-brand relationships under a microscope. The four most important:
Tone Deafness / Timing
Are you up to speed on the changes happening in influencer marketing? Let's help get you there.
According to BigCommerce.com, the rising cost of influencers remain one of the top 5 challenges for marketers. Simply put, influencer prices are inflating and ROIs are changing. It's been fascinating to actually take a step back from my biased interests as an agency and really take a look at what is happening from both the influencer perspective and the brand perspective and dig into what exactly FAIR PAY should look like. But they aren't a lot of pre-existing materials that reflect a mutual perspective - just a lot of complaints on both sides. Brands are struggling with declining metrics YoY at similar price points - they need prices to still be competitive. Influencers are struggling with brands not honoring how much work goes into creating content, high expectations for little pay, and unequal opportunities - they need prices to be worth their time.
There are a LOT of factors that have shifted what felt like it used to be a mutually beneficial relationship, to one that requires incrementally more negotiation and communication: competition, supply and demand, campaign complexities, talent management, and the rise of content creation as a business have put market pressure on prices and caused a divergence over what is considered fair pay.
In Spring 2020, the account @influencerpaygap cracked the conversation further by calling out for better transparency over pricing. The account has uncovered both low ball and high-paying gigs, pushing influencers to fight for more pay. The account was started largely to uncover the gaps due to race, but quickly spread into showing questionable programs, unrealistic expectations, wide variations in pay calculation and unethical practices from some fo the world’s top brands.
It’s also angered the marketers as we re-assessed, what is an influencer and how is the role of money viewed? What is actually WORTH investment? What is not? What are the ethics around pay.
Fair pay is just seeing the start of big changes to influencer marketing programs, as The Influencer Marketing Association vowed to conduct a study on pay (but still have not answered my request on how they will balance in the needs of brands as their current circulated surveys only address creators.)
4 Things You can Do Now:
- Get really clear on how to extract the most value out of influencers. Increasing your ties to value can help you uncover new ways to measure ROI.
- Integrate Qualitative Analysis into your program measurement
- Remember to prioritize building relationships over transactions or ad space
- Be kinder and more professional in how you respect and communicate with your influencer relationships
Tone Deafness & Timing
The difference between a good joke and an insensitive one is bad timing. It’s the same for a well timed promotion, launch, collaboration or marketing push - most perform best when attention is high. The masses saw huge changes in attention over the past 6 months - with both positive and negative consequences. Timing is both a matter of attention as well as ethics.
Let’s talk about the positives - quarantine drove up social media usage as isolated humans vied to stay connected with friends, family and yes - strangers. While risky, those who moved forward with campaigns had the ability to return better impressions and engagements due to the sheer increase in attention given to social media.
However, timing was also challenged as civil rights conversations took center stage after the death of George Floyd silenced a nation. Those who trucked on with business as usual - both brands and influencers - were accused of tone deafness, or failure to understand the implications of a consumerism-driven messaging in relation to the “mood” of the masses.
The past 6 months have given us lessons in how important it is to monitor “attention” and world mood against the timing of our promotions campaigns and efforts.
4 Things You Can Do Now:
- Coordinate your timing to attention. This is also a great case for having short-campaigns tailored to key seasonal conversations.
- Update your Standard Operating Procedures for your Social Team. You should proactively identity under what cases managers and team members should call timing into attention based on the learnings from the past 6 months
- Be a part of Conversations and Solutions; even when it’s not a direct promotion. You can promote a brand through both product and action.
- Act Human
Our nation was dealt reality that silenced with the #BlackLivesMatter movement; despite it being 50+ years since the Civil Rights Movement, BIPOC were still dealing with inequality and racism on many levels. In response, brands are being called to take a hard look at their systems, including their marketing practices to see what must be improved.
The practice of diversity is not limited just to the color of someone’s skin and ethnic background - racism was a catalyst for us to consider not only race, but gender, sexuality and also ability. It was a catalyst for breaking up homogenous feeds and partnerships - period. It was call for better diversity.
As part of the work of being a better white ally, I listened to the voices speak about failures of brands in equality, pay, representation and misappropriation. We can do better. We should do better.
4 Things You Can Do Now:
- Revisit your Casting Strategy and build intentional diversity goals
- Create Bias Checks. Have at least 2 people appointed to reviewing casting specifically for biases.
- Assure that your measurement of these partnerships include additional value for personification and ethics. This is a reflection of your brand’s values on equality.
- Bring more objectivity to your pricing, including the heavy use of metrics to determine pay and close unequal pay gaps forged by race.
In Q1 of 2020, Tik Tok saw expansive user growth, netting over 315M installs and $5.6B in revenue. Brands became more familiar and started rolling out influencer campaigns netting better returns and cost-effectiveness than Instagram and YouTube campaigns. Yet the future of Tik Tok has suddenly become unclear with talks of a national ban across the United States due to privacy and data concerns.
Though the brand has claimed they are “not going anywhere”, a shut down threatens to displace nearly 43+ MILLION active Gen-Z users who are spending an average of 1 hour a day on the platform. To add to the drama, Instagram rolled out their copy-cat dupe of Tik Tok style video and distribution in early August: Reels.
While the future of Tik Tok is uncertain, we know that 1) Teens want their own platform, their own signature thing, and their own space to express, create and connect; and 2) Personalized, quick moving content style is not only a top preferred consumption method of Gen Z, but also quickly spreading to millennials and older generations across Instagram and Facebook. We know Tik Tok will put up a good fight to stick around or a brand new platform will emerge to fill the gaps that existing platforms cannot fill.
4 Things You Can Do Now:
- Be mindful of how your brands investment in Tik Tok advertising could be misconstrued with your value of privacy and data of your consumers.
- Promote other platforms you are on from within Tik Tok. Be sure to grab your Tik Tok audience for other platforms where you can. Preferably to platforms where you can engage them with similar content.
- Don’t sleep on the Tik Tok content state - try pushing out via Reels, Snapchat and try experimenting with newbies like Triller
- Pay attention the news and be ready to pivot your strategy quickly as the future of Tik Tok becomes more known.
We go DEEPLY into not only these 4 topics, but a few additional topics including Loop Giveaways and Measurement in MAKE THE SHIFT, V1. Make the Shift is a short digital workshop series designed to highlight what's trending and what is changing in influencer marketing RIGHT NOW, with real, actionable solutions on how to adjust your influencer marketing strategy to accommodate them. MAKE THE SHIFT provides additional insight as to WHY things are changing and provides additional explanation and solutions to implement into your strategies over 45-VALUE PACKED pages for only $50. DM or email me me for discounts and partnership opportunities!