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Yesterday Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the coronavirus shutdown in New York City will be extended until May 15th, confirming that New Yorkers will still be at home for at least another month. Mayor Bill de Blasio also warned that he's not confident social isolation will be lifted before the summer and management consulting firm McKinsey & Company is predicting that the virus isn't going full away before the end of this year. As much as everyone has been wishing that this "will all be over soon", there is no guarantee life as we know it will go back to normal anytime soon. We need to begin to accept that 2020 will be the Year of Social Isolation.
Those direct words aren't meant to bring doom and gloom, but it is a much needed reality check for all advertisers, brands, and companies who chose to pause or cancel their marketing efforts until things "blow over". However, if you as a business owner are not actively engaging your customers, you're going to fall behind. While our physical contact might be limited to our immediate families, loved ones, roommates, pets, and plants, there is still a captive audience who is likely spending even more time online.
Mandated social isolation has forced us to shift our daily habits and has already caused some shifts in consumers' digital behaviors. Businesses need not to stop their marketing initiatives, but instead pivot their existing strategies. Here are five ways to pivot your marketing efforts for the rest of 2020.
1. Shift your compensation for influencers from all-in deals to affiliate programs.
For years, influencer marketing has gotten a bad rap, but it still works. Influencer marketing has fallen under the microscope again due to controversy from a select group of high profile influencers whose tone deaf posts flaunt their privilege of wealth, status, and connections to benefit themselves. From having the means to escape their hometowns to getting access to early testing, the posts struck a cord. An influencer's audiences like to vicariously live through them, so reminders that these individuals are not "just like you" can be earth shattering, especially during a time where we are all a bit more sensitive. The fact is, some of these high profile influencers-turned-brands have been around for years and live a very different lifestyle than the average 9-to-5 working consumer.
However, there are still plenty of influencers and content creators who know how to remain authentic and approachable to their audiences by pivoting their content to show their current reality: in home, in their pajamas, also making fluffy coffee. While some industries are definitely suffering, there has been reported outreach activity from beauty, home goods, wine and spirits, and entertainment brands. There is an opportunity to provide relevant context to why your brand or product is relevant now by leveraging influencers. If budgets are a concern, consider leveraging an affiliate program that might encourage influencers to continually talk about your product.
2. While social media usage is up, advertising is down, which means less competition for ad buys.
With people stuck at home and needing to fill the void through connection, social media and messaging apps have seen a vast increase in activity. Ironically, Facebook is reporting a decrease in advertising spending. Usually, social media advertising (especially during the spring) can be financially competitive because of a crowded marketplace. Because many sponsored events are now cancelled, it means that previously allocated advertising dollars have been removed, clearly the way for smaller brands to reach their target audiences at much more affordable rates. Shifting advertising dollars to social and digital from more traditional outlets could provide an opportunity to experiment with audience targeting, tracking, and data capture.
3. Increase in digital content consumption on larger devices lends itself for brands to be creative with long-form or live streaming content.
I remember a few days into social isolation I was talking to one of my sisters about how she was amusing her two small children. She remarked there was more than enough content and resources online, then said sorry but the Cincinnati Zoo was showing a livestream of their lions and she had to drop off. With more people at home with time on their hands, it feels like there has never been more original content created. Instagram Live usage has dramatically increased since the beginning of mandated social isolation to the point that the founders of DBA and chloedigital launched their own version of a TV guide for Instagram live content. Marketers have been experimenting with making content launches events in and of themselves.
One shift that I find fascinating is that because people are clearly not on the go, mobile usage has been down and a preference for desktop has been rising, especially when consuming content. So if you've been wanting to experiment with long-form content with higher production value, now is the time to do it. If you have been wanting to test Instagram Live and mobile content that requires lower production value and risk, now is the time to do it.
4. Email is safe harbor for building relationships with consumers.
Last year's predictions that email newsletter popularity will continue to rise is coming to be fully realized as reports of email marketing ad revenue increases despite (maybe even because) of enforced social isolation. If nothing else during this pandemic, driving to email signups for lead generation should be every business owner's main objective. Engaging with consumers within their inbox allows marketers to have a more focused, direct relationship since there are less distractions compared to social media. This is also a direct way to promote sales, new content, or gain feedback from customers.
5. Nothing is the same, and consumers might be forever changed.
The coronavirus pandemic, and the Year of Social Isolation overall, is a life-defining global event for us all, and it might leave some consumers changed in what they prioritize and value. This Medium article about the inevitable gaslighting on "getting back to normal" has been grabbing attention since it echoes some truths about what consumers are learning throughout the pandemic:
1. What they actually need to get by in the day to day
2. What their true life priorities are
3. A new way of learning to live without
4. A sense of "we're all in this together"
Most important for any marketer to remember is that context is still key, and requires a sensitivity to how consumers feel. Getting constant feedback or input on what your audience needs is invaluable, especially as events continue to shift on a weekly basis.
What are some ways you're shifting your marketing strategy this year? Was anything above surprising? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!