After COVID-19 forced multiple industries to shift focus, companies, brands and their influencers are now changing the way they do business. With traditional retail strategies halted or altered by consumer brands to allow space for health and safety messaging, influencers have been using their platforms to raise awareness instead of solely promoting products. Americans are spending more time online, but many could also be wary of frivolous spending, making them a captive audience for educational content on social media. As beauty, lifestyle, and travel brands take a step back, local government, family services, public health and pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to utilize influencers in awareness campaigns to drive impactful results.
New Areas of Influencer Opportunity
This past spring, the UK Department for International Development announced a new initiative indicating that they will work with YouTube influencers to help spread accurate COVID-19 information, ranging from tips on social distancing, to providing resources on mental health. Globally, influencers are also utilizing their platforms to raise awareness on more evergreen safety concerns such as seat belt safety and the risks of vaping, particularly among teens and young adults.
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Family services organizations are using influencers to bring awareness to online information pages while also inspiring offline dialogue on mental health, peer pressure and child safety in communities. Similarly, in campaigns providing information on topics such as elder care, pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to use influencer-inspired messaging. Although advertising through influencers has yet to become a popular tactic amongst the pharmaceutical industry and municipalities, educational campaigns are needed now more than ever, and we expect to see an increase in influencer activity in these areas. Across these sectors, a campaign’s goal will be to use relatable people with influence to bring attention to local trends and issues in order to drive traffic to pages and forums managed by these entities.
The Emotional Appeal of Influencers
Unlike other forms of direct marketing and advertising, influencers have the power to engage more personably with audiences – making them and their platforms powerful tools for companies looking to raise awareness in a meaningful, timely, and authentic manner. In 2020, influencers are not simply a channel for selling products – rather, their relatable ‘everyday’ persona can be viewed as its own brand – one which inspires action among like-minded followers. When it comes to awareness campaigns regarding health, safety and support, influencers must be empathetic, trustworthy and appropriate for the subject matter. A personal story about using available mental health resources delivered from an influencer who frequently speaks out on similar topics can drive meaningful engagements in a way that a traditional advertising cannot.
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The same goes for targeted awareness campaigns – it’s important for government entities, social services departments and non-profits to promote awareness campaigns more effectively on platforms where these individuals spend the most time. In the example mentioned previously, for a campaign on the dangers of vaping, teens are more inclined to listen and respond if it’s delivered in a catchy way by a teen TikTok influencer, versus someone speaking on behalf of a health department who they could feel is scolding and lecturing them.
Size and Location Matter!
Marketers and advertising executives cannot go wrong with micro-influencers who offer higher engagement rates often for lower costs. Now is the time for local government, pharmaceutical companies and social service entities to learn the value of these influencers, not just for product promotion but for driving overall awareness. These companies and departments don’t need to stray far outside their community when engaging potential influencers, particularly when the campaign is geared toward local trends. A locally connected influencer who is communicative and friendly with their followers will likely attract more interest in an awareness campaign than a higher-profile influencer with millions of followers who may come off as inauthentic.
When determining which platform is best for your campaign, it’s important to remember not all platforms are built the same or have the same user demographics. The popularity of TikTok among teens makes it a great venue for generating organic and creative engagement. But it would not be recommended to target those teens’ parents. This is where forming a relationship with influencers will come in handy as they know their audiences – and their most impactful platforms – best.
Let the Creativity Flow
All campaigns should encourage influencer creativity wherever possible. This approach might be out of the ordinary for government departments and big corporations used to rigid, pre-approved messaging but it is a crucial component to a successful influencer campaign. Remember, the purpose of a PSA is to provoke an emotional response that leads to action, so it’s important to be as dynamic as possible with messaging to avoid coming off as impersonal or insensitive to the audience. Real-world thoughts and experiences shared by influencers can be the difference between a post inspiring action and one that is written off as just another piece of branded content. If agencies and marketing teams in these industries are willing to trust influencers to get creative with how they present key themes, it will produce more meaningful results and enhance the perception of the company – and cause(s) they’re promoting.
For instance, an Instagram post or video in which a mom blogger shares resources she found helpful for balancing work and taking care of family will resonate better among her followers (many of whom are within the campaign’s ideal audience!) than a sponsored photo from a Department of Family Services account targeting similar demographic groups. Creativity is even more important on platforms like TikTok, where users and creatives are adept at weaving branded messaging into memes, songs and challenges. Influencers know their audiences and platforms best and, when given a little creative leeway, they can deploy this knowledge to create dynamic educational campaigns.
Even in a short amount of time, influencer marketing has greatly altered how brands reach target audiences with organic, impactful content. While educational campaigns must be treated differently than traditional sponsored content, they will still work best when carefully selected influencers can lend their voice to a campaign and inspire followers to act. At a time when consumers are constantly online and sharing reliable information is paramount, we can expect to see more government, public health and social entities add influencers to their promotional strategies to increase awareness and authentic engagements.
By: Sarah Ware, Co-Founder of Markerly 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.
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