This holiday season looks quite different than previous ones. Customers are shopping online even more than usual as COVID-19 remains a public health threat around the world. Further, many brands are finding themselves walking a tightrope to find tasteful, respectful ways to promote products and deals in a particularly polarizing political and social environment and at a time when many shoppers are wary of tone-deaf and and self-serving messages from retailers. Throughout the pandemic, influencer marketing has remained an impactful, cost-effective tool for brands looking to connect with customers through brand ambassadors they relate to. Here are few tips brands should keep in mind to keep their holiday influencer campaigns on the right track this year.
Research influencers early and often.
Thoroughly vetting any potential brand partners is the most important early step in any campaign. It helps you find ambassadors whose lifestyle and interests are aligned not just with your brand but your target customers. Perform a deep dive into the influencer’s past posts to ensure that their overall image and style is appropriate for your campaigns. This year, also look out for any activities that might isolate customers or bring negative attention to the influencer and your brand by extension. This includes any obvious inflammatory or disrespectful language or illegal activities as well as behaviors that go against COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Remember, influencers are real people who are entitled to live personal lives aside from their sponsored posts! Continue to check up on them throughout your campaigns as well to ensure they’re still a fit for your efforts and goals.
Involve influencers in message development.
Don’t let your vetting process stop with researching your influencers. As soon as you have them on board, turn the tables and encourage them to vet your brand strategy and holiday campaign plan. Hopefully, they are already familiar with your company and products and can offer personal thoughts and anecdotes that can be woven into their posts. These types of messages always resonate well with followers and can help them see how products and brands fit into their lives. If your influencer has suggestions for how messages can be tweaked to be more effective, listen! If you’ve selected an influencer who is well-attuned to your target audience, they should share many of the same sentiments and will be able to give you a fresh, trusted perspective into what these customers are looking for this season. Lastly, if they tell you that any proposed messages or posts might be misconstrued or viewed negatively by customers, take that feedback seriously and work with them to adjust your approach to ensure you’re on the right track.
Meet consumers where they are.
Which platforms are your desired shoppers spending the most time (and money) on? Your holiday campaigns need to have a strong presence in these spaces, in both native ads and sponsored content. Any influencer you consider for a holiday campaign should already have an established following on channels popular among their peers and be fluent in the culture of that app as well. Look into their engagement across these networks and refine your strategy during the vetting process. If they’re serious about their partnerships, they should be ready and willing to brainstorm ideas with you.
Practice social listening
This year, it’s crucial to take time to assess how your customers and followers are engaging with one another and using social platforms to identify any shifts in behaviors or sentiment as a result of the pandemic or other events. Influencers can help you here, as well. They are likely more attuned with these audiences and participate in the discourse on these apps every day. They can tell you what these groups are talking about and how their values and interests may have shifted since last year’s holiday season. For instance, some may be wary of overspending this year or looking more critically at how and if certain brands are giving back to their customers, employees and communities. Taking the time to listen and understand customer sentiment this holiday season will help you craft campaigns that don’t just promote products and services but also start a conversation about bigger issues and connect with your audiences.
As we approach the end of a truly unprecedented year, it seems everyone is taking time to reflect and assess. Brands should be no different. It’s been a difficult year for many companies and their customers and making an effort to understand shifts in trends and sentiment can help brands reconnect with customers and offer relatable, familiar content this holiday season.
Sarah Ware is co-founder of Markerly, an influencer marketing technology partner focusing on identification and tracking for some of the world’s largest brands.