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INSTAGRAM INFLUENCER MARKETING 2.0: THE POST-PANDEMIC APPROACH

Unprecedented times in a hyper-connected world; a fire has been lit and there are new sparks of meaning about what being human is about. Viral has been re-signified this year, and “we are all the same” has never felt more real than now. Maybe social distancing has brought us closer together.

Powerful marketing’s always been about telling stories. The ones that hit close to home not only gain the attention of the masses but have the ability to turn mere spectators into faithful consumers, believers in the idea of that one brand. This is not about using honesty as a means to an end. The real concept refers to building meaningful campaigns instead of putting on a show.

Hectic months, unexpected chaos and the inspiring rise of every-day heroes. We have come to a tilting point in every aspect of life; and yet marketing done right is still about telling truthful stories.

Most of what we knew about marketing strategies laid on a foundation of spreading a message fast and efficiently. What happens when people can’t leave their homes and massive billboards are left unspotted?

Small yet not ordinary heroes step in.

Example of an influencer:

Lakshmi Colombero is an Argentinean TikTok micro-influencer and entertainer. She’s author of innumerable comedy videos; she’s made it her life’s mission to make people smile.

Even though contributing to lifting the spirits of those who cannot yet leave their homes, she doesn’t stay behind when it comes to environmental concerns. After man-caused fires have been eating up her home country; she has used her Instagram account to spread relevant information as a solidary hand towards her local community; in this case with a shout-out to firefighters who put their lives at risk.

Influencers are not only the pretty face of social media. They have turned into channels through which life-changing messages can reach people at a meaningful depth and have a real impact on the planet.

This is the case of Kenny Belaey, Belgian MTB world champion with an Instagram community of over 40K followers, who has used his Instagram account to remind the world that the virus is not our only social concern.

(Kenny Belaey via belaeytrials.com)

He’s shown another side of charity while raising funds to support victims of international tragedies such as the explosions in Lebanon.

Micro influencers have become true role models of a sense of global community and genuine human empathy. Whether it’s lending a hand locally or trying to share awareness on international issues.

So, what is it that has changed?

Well…in what it feels like forever, most are now on the same boat.

MICRO-INFLUENCERS

Micro-influencing is not micro-company-exclusive. There are huge corporations who also reach out to micro influencers because of the kind of customer relationships they can achieve. “Huge” actually means huge, we’re talking Coca-Cola and Forever 21 here. A couple of years back, even Amazon launched an influencer program. All of this simply confirms how important these mini personalities have become when dealing with organic traffic for your brand.

Every business that has implemented micro-influencers into their campaigns has been keeping at it. They’ve been reaching all-time highs because when everything seems futile or shallow, they have been capable of maintaining real bonds with their usual customers, and creating relations with new potential ones as well.

Because of the smaller circles micro-influencers work within, they have two elements in their favor, accessibility and exclusiveness. These might sound contradictory but they are very much not.

It is really a no-brainer, when people have actual access to conversations with human beings they are automatically not another lead in a chain of clicks and likes. Individual or even personalized approaches build the component of exclusiveness offered to the ones that are part of that smaller group.

This might seem like a big energy investment for a shorter reach. That’s because it is.

But engagement probabilities go up when one-on-one or nano-group dynamics are involved. And quantity over quality makes all the difference when aiming at not only being seen, but being bought.

WHAT CHANGED?

Let’s unpack the stanchion instagram influencer marketing is in right now + Marketing has been put on pause -big time

When quantity loses its intrinsic value it means influencer marketing must be restructured if it wants to survive. A brick barrier stands now between viral influence as a means to get your name out there, this happens when people cannot be bothered. You could attribute two main generic causes to it:

#Corona noise

Pressing obvious matters have made it virtually impossible to break through the amount of very much needed news to keep the world updated about the global situation. Plus, the virus excuse to gain mega traffic is the exact opposite of humanizing a digital marketing campaign.

Too much is not too good

Because of every-day people are getting more attention as local heroes, a celebrity-like statement could actually do more damage than help the perception of the audience towards that brand.  

Despite the blow, a fourth of companies surveyed about this economical massacre have stated they plan on increasing their marketing budget almost up to 10% of their total costs. At the same time almost 70% of them will be seriously decreasing their ad spending. Marketing as we knew it has come to a big-time halt.

Slowly getting back up from what has been tragic previous months, the pandemic has already lost the novelty component which surrounded it. Yes, it crashed-landed and changed reality. Now we’re left with picking up the pieces, and putting back a new norm.

The “this is 2020” memes are getting pretty predictable, the year is almost ending after all. The question is, what kind of world are we left with? And what’s the angle digital marketers should be working with everything that’s happened so far?

(memebase.cheezeburger.com via lurkerformemes)

Despite the obvious past (and still present) events, the answer is actually very simple:

The human approach.

The digital universe has also changed. It’s grown in traffic, users, subscribers and since everyone’s been spending more time at home; there is so much to be done to supply this newly restructured virtual market place demand. Around 25% of American businesses have shut down temporarily or for good, even international (seemingly unbreakable) franchises, like Starbucks, had to close an insane amount of stores around the globe.

…and yet, there’s still hope

A fourth of all companies surveyed about this economical massacre have stated that they plan on increasing their marketing budget almost up to 10% of their total costs. At the same time almost 70% of them will be making a halt when it comes to ad spending.

How to regain momentum – people are still buying – competitors are not spending money on marketing just like you

How come?

INDUSTRIES AFFECTED

What used to be some of the hottest topics on our feeds has now given room to an essentialist attitude towards a world that’s become, in a way, a more practical one. Subjects regarding traveling, retail, and luxury lifestyles have been submerged under an insane amount of back-to-basics content. The digital world’s search engines are absorbed by our very elementary needs

In the last few months, travel companies have lost up to 95% of their revenue while influencers that used to work with them have either not gained new partnerships or lost existing ones.

You might be wondering, how can sky-rocketing sales and business going broke co-exist in the same dimension?

Enterprises not offering high-demand products, such as cleaning items or food, have had it rough. Retail giants and service providers have had to slam many doors and whoever is left will have to adapt if they want to survive. On the other side, the exponential surge of having shops go 100% online has put the logistics area of every organization at hack.

If you thought that was complicated. 

Vital goods suppliers need their virtual game extra strong, provided they want to make it in a world where distance has become an explicit rule. Digital marketing was an almost-must in the “old world” but now it’s oxygen even to the smallest entrepreneurs for a shot at success. It does not stop, however, in businesses thriving on a highly efficient digital marketing campaign.

This does not mean eternal doom. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, alright. But, before getting your survival checklist, you should first start considering how the most important aspect of every successful company has been affected: the one who buys.

NEW VALUES, RE-VALUES – CONSUMERS

You might be well aware that influencer marketing is nothing new. But the perspective has suffered a 90oturn.

Just to make sure everyone’s on the same page; the focus of influencer marketing is expanding the depth of reach of a brand and what it offers by targeting a specific niche according to the influencer they pick.

Collaborating with a social media personality means reaching out to them as accurate representatives of what you and your brand stand for. This grants access to a specific group of followers through whomever you decide to work with. Your next thought might be thinking: let’s go viral ASAP! Right?

Wrong.

Empathy has gained a new value amongst consumers in the world. What’s “viral” has lost its appeal to the crowd (no pun intended); and marketing strategies au naturel will score big. People want to see people! They want to identify themselves with what they’re buying. 

Even though over 60% of shoppers opt for online shopping now; it’s safe to say paid ads are almost a thing of the past. Social platforms have foreseen millions in losses within their paid advertisement sections simply because consumers need to be able to recognize the human component in the campaign. Propaganda scattered around will not be appreciated; conversion marketing will actually profit from a more intimate approach.

Numbers are related to how the human component is perceived. Here’s why: nano translates into “easy to get to”. Along with the focus on the humanization of trends and communication channels, comes the desire of closeness to others. And the bigger the number, the further away the possibility of reaching out seems. This is when the micro-influencers step in.

The effects of a mega-influencing might be those of creating or sharing content that will end up being seen by millions. This is what a micro tier cannot achieve, and this is exactly what you’re looking for.

You’re not looking for voices to be heard, you want people to actually listen. When your goal is reaching out to the audience on a personal level, a micro figure is the way to go. The reason is not complex at all, the more personal the relationship gets, the bigger the impact a person can have over another. That’s how influence works. The closer the tie between an influencer and a follower, the higher the chance of being noticed (not just seen). 

It might not make sense on paper at first, but the human value invested in a marketing campaign will get you not just traffic but real engagement. This is how the current global context has given rise to micro-influencing. Take it from one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the decade. (@garyvee on IGTV)

 

You might’ve heard of Gary Vee. This business guy has hacked the marketing world by standing on authenticity as a foundation. What stronger base for your business digital marketing plan than its identity? 

He goes out of his way to remind his audience that, in a world where things evolve exponentially there are two things that will always remain constant:

Humanity & Change

Unlike viral content creation, micro influencers offer that one component that will most likely stick for a very long while: real connections. It’s not about pouring meaningless unwanted propaganda, you’ll be listening to what people want and giving them what they asked for.

HOW IT WORKS

An individual’s consumption drive is all about endorsement. Now that humanization has been revalued, its worth goes up according to the closeness of the connection between brand and consumer, influencer and follower. This is why lower scale recommendations have been growing a lot in effectiveness when it comes to modern digital advertisement.

Contrary to public figures, who can sometimes reach millions with a single post; micro-personalities (as the name might suggest) encompass a much smaller amount of people but can actually get to them in an extremely different manner. Going for micro influencing tactics means opting for the more tangible solution. So, if you’re looking to influence people on Instagram, you might want to find a human influencer as well.

Aren’t all influencers human?

As a matter of fact, they’re not. There’s already some AI doing the job as well.

However, humanizing the digital marketing method means striving towards authentic empathic-based relationships between consumer and brand. It’s harder to establish a connection with someone with millions of followers, not because they don’t have the ability to do it, but because of the large number of people they have to deal with on a daily basis. Public figures that keep a low(er) profile are by default building more intimate connections with their followers.

Due to the large number of paid ads, social media has been losing organic traffic, this means trust has been compromised. You can take it as an advantage. A human strategy means putting more into less. It might seem at first the brand is not getting the intended attention. Remember, you’re running a business not a show. Not little hearts, but engagement and conversion percentage will be what determine the success of your campaign.

FINDING A MICRO INFLUENCER

It all adds up to customer service. Authority, knowledge and position are super important when it comes to searching for your brand’s ambassadors. But these lose their meaning if real connections are not part of what you offer your buyers.

Landing the accurate social media figure is about understanding where you stand, and how you stay relevant tothem. This person will be representing in the eyes of existing and potential new clients. They should stand for what you stand for.

But guess what? Influencers are people.

You are ultimately dealing with people who deal with other people. The key to finding a micro-influencer who’s a perfect fit lays behind understanding what kind of relationship they hold with their followers. Your brand identity will be determined by the core values that hold it together; but it is the influencer who will be the messenger of your content. So, you might want to be on the same page before you jump in bed with them.

These are some of the things you want to watch out for before partnering with a micro-influencer:

Real influence: Make sure your public figure has an actual relationship with their niche, they need to be able to do more than put up a good word out there.

Faux followers are a big NO: You’d be surprised to know how many fake accounts and bot followers are creeping on IG. Be 100% sure your influencer has a well established base of human followers.

Omelet, not scrambled: It’s highly likely you’ll encounter influencer pals. When teaming up with them make sure their audiences don’t merge. This way each micro-influencer will get you access to distinct groups of people.

Long term: As stated before, building a connection with an audience through an influencer is building a relationship with them. Make sure you’re on the same side of the story. A long-lasting collaboration is what you want, this will not only give you stability but encourage trust.

Don’t overspend:Do not partner up with someone just because they have high prices. This doesn’t necessarily represent the relation they’re able to build with their followers, not the engagement you’ll get in return.

So, are we exclusive? Avoid influencers who’re working with a ton of other brands. It’s unlikely you’ll be the only one working with them, but make sure they’ve enough time and energy to organically put your content out there.

Out of your comfort zone: Don’t stay put on Instagram-only personalities. Multi-channel is not a given, so try to be on the lookout for influencers who’re expanded their reach to other social platforms such as TikTok or YouTube.

STEP GUIDE FOR IG STRATEGY

It can’t be that hard to find your micro-influencer niche. Coca-Cola did it, so why can’t you?

There’s a slight probability you’re not a multi-billion-dollar company who has a whole department working solely on marketing campaigns (and an over-the-moon budget to make it happen).

Good thing you don’t have to be.

Want to build a successful post-pandemic Instagram campaign?

Here’s the how:

Keeping your chill & soul searching

Panic-based decisions stop you from seeing under social media noise. Ask the right questions so your plan starts with a set of good pointers.

Be sure you know who you are and the purpose you stand for. These two will be the foundation of an unshakable identity. The only way building a relationship with your customers and finding your micro-influencers starts is through authenticity.  

Ground yourself & set realistic goals

Know your field, know your assets, use them wisely.

Understand the variables that make up your demographics, pin-point them and work strategically towards that goal. What, where and addressed to whom are three figures that will fence your ideas to keep them from spreading and losing relevance.

Find out how your target consumers were affected by the pandemic and where they stand today.

Learning from what makes up your niche’s environment will help you determine how to grow your relevance before presenting it.

Lastly, recognize what you have at your disposal and work within your scope. Don’t invest big, invest smart. Take the new values placed upon organic marketing and micro influencing and offer what consumers want and need through a humanized approach.

Always have a plan

Before jumping you want to make sure there’s water in there.

There is no way your marketing strategy can be flexible and ready for what’s to come if it doesn’t exist. 

It’s pretty clear that things have changed. The environment works around a new norm, so build a plan founded on the new rules of the game: think micro, not viral. Understand organic social media advertisement, get a grip on Instagram influencer marketing; learn from existing feedback and put together a strategy that adjusts to these new humanized consumer expectations.

Don’t have a plan B. Have a kick-ass plan A

Let’s get two things straight.

Kick-ass does not mean bullet proof, and stability is a myth.

Your plan should be bounce-back. This doesn’t mean constructing an unlimited amount of plans. This means you take what’s happened as hard-core field experience and make sure high levels of flexibility are a practical aspect of how you carry out your scheme. And remember the impact is not yet over.

Be ready for what consumers need

The capitalist aspect of buying patterns has taken a big blow. The consumers’ buying range has shifted almost exclusively towards purely essential goods and services.

Global-crisis events impact the economy directly, and so spending habits change. Be able to adjust your brand (as much as you can within your field) to offer a solution to a relevant problem.

Micro-influencing will leverage the accessibility the consumers are looking for. Now that you’ve been granted entry to their personal urgencies, listen to what they need and provide the most pertinent solution your sector can offer.

Digital relations are real relations too

You already got the micro, not viral, part. Now understand that micro marketing through smaller niches of influence take more effort, it only makes sense if you’re getting more engagement in return.

Did you know a lot of people who’re now married met on Tinder?

Contactless is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean connections made through the web are not meaningful. Public figures who inspire their followers have reached the stage of real life authenticity and this is what micro-influencing done right is about.

Understand influence

To boost your organic traffic, you need to organically reach out to your faithful buyers and your potential ones. Don’t make up small talk with your audience. Your content should show you care, and a micro-influencer that really connects with their followers should be next on the list. This leads to grasping the concept of real engagement, and the percentages (usually between 3%-7%) you should be on the lookout for.

Get your online presence right

Getting people to notice your authenticity is providing them with variety, but do not compromise their interest before they give you a chance.

Ever wonder what people do when scrolling through IG watching cat videos?

They’re watching cat videos.

Who’s not specifically looking for your brand doesn’t need to be slapped with advertisement in the face while they’re doing their thing. The influencer strategy will be how you introduce your brand into the conversation in a natural way. Always make sure you’re able to offer bite-sized content within social platforms without killing people’s vibe.

Don’t “fake it till you make it”

The new-found sense of global community has reached every aspect of everyone’s lives.

Humanizing IG marketing strategies involves caring for real struggles and offering relevant problem solving services or products that adapt to a new mindset.

Not in a single way this means using tragic events to sell a story. Detach your marketing content from yet another corona-based crusade. Gain the trust and attention from your audience without baiting them with a hashtag or a misguided campaign.

Consumer practices can take decades to evolve, or a virus can spread around the planet and change them in half a year.

Not only has digital interaction turned into the nucleus of global connections for the past few years, but the mindset of buyers is moving in that direction as well. Selling and buying conditions have changed, and so have the channels to advertise it.

Follow the way consumers interact with social and emerging online platforms and accommodate the messages you put out there to their behavior.

Repeat

Digital marketing is founded on the psychology of habit, which is why as consumers’ mindsets evolve, so does the need for new approaches.

Don’t be afraid to be bold, but don’t compromise what makes you, you.

CONCLUSION

The growth in the amount of data that’s being slammed in the virtual realm will only make it harder to push through. And once again, it has come to survival of the fittest. Now these are not just business parameters to take into account. This is to be applied to every aspect of life. Depth is more valuable than width.

Taken into the social media marketing field. It is virtually impossible to break through; the noise is just too loud. But you’ll be able to scale even though some things might not make sense on ROI, you’ll engage the people in the right way. 

Contactless has become the new normal yet humanization is what will make your strategy survive. It is time to evolve. It’s not easy, but a right micro-influencing-based social media strategy will make you one of the many companies that made it in the middle of economical world-class chaos.

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