Will influencers survive the COVID-19 pandemic? That question seems to be a recurring theme today. Many brands are pausing spend. Some are cutting marketing budgets for the year. A few influencers in verticals like travel are looking for work.
The sudden evaporation of lucrative opportunities will certainly set more than a handful of influencers back. But we’re talking about people who built online audiences out of free social network accounts. Doubting a group of resourceful, entrepreneurial types in the fact adversity isn’t a good bet.
Budgets will come back. Brands will spend again. Some have even upped the ante despite obvious fiscal challenges posed by quarantines and social distancing. When the smoke clears, there will be plenty of online influencers left. And all of them are likely to have one thing in common.
Influence Marketing is a Business
Last week while negotiating an influencer marketing activation for a client, I found evidence one influencer might not survive the pandemic. My brief outlined the project goals and success measures, which focus on driving retail sales. I was clear our intention is to correlate influence marketing activities to sales, but will ask them to provide standard analytics for social posts.
A representative of one influencer responded, “The hope would be that there are conversions, but I won’t have a way to measure that.”
The reason this influencer is in danger of falling off the radar for brands is two-fold:
- They are only promising hope that the campaign works
- It’s clear by that they do not understand their job as it relates to the business of influence marketing
You Can’t Sell Hope
Influencers that only hope they drive conversions or sales will fail. Why? Hope doesn’t register on the company’s P&L sheet. The only people in history to get away with selling hope fall into one of two categories: charlatan or prophet.
I don’t know about you, but there’s not an online influencer out there I, or any rational person, would treat as a religious figure. That means hope sellers fall into the other category.
The response a brand wants to hear — that shows the individual does understand their job as it relates to the business of influencer marketing — is more like this:
“I’ve got some ideas of how to motivate my followers to get out and purchase. There are no guarantees, of course, but I’m going to work to solve this particular puzzle for you.”
Even if they don’t and the analytics show as much, a brand still has confidence in the influencer. They have a clear comprehension of what is important to the brand. At that point they aren’t selling hope. They’re selling their creativity and their effort.
The Fallacy of Guarantees
We all hope. The brand hopes the influencer motivates their audience to take action. The influencer hopes that, too.
But the brand also hopes the television commercial catches on and does the same. It hopes the print ads cause people to stop and take notice. It hopes the online media entices people to click.
There is only one guarantee: We’re going to try.
No matter how many widgets the last TV campaign sold, or what click through rate the online media company says it always gets, they can’t guarantee repeat success. Likewise, an influencer can’t guarantee they can motivate people to go out, visit a store and make a purchase. But, like the television station or online ad network, they can guarantee they’ll try.
Influencers need to understand once they engage with brands and accept money for access to their content, their audiences and their influence, their job changes. It is no longer only about creating the content that makes them and their audience happy. It is now about doing so in a way that makes those paying the fees happy, too.
The online influencers who understand the business of what they do and the way their role changes with brand engagements will be here long after COVID-19. Those who don’t? Well, they can sure hope.
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