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How Smaller Brands Can Use Influencer Marketing to Connect With Consumers

Marketers came roaring into 2020 with plans to spend heavily on in-store experiences and brand activations such as pop-ups and parties. But with a large number of Americans still facing stay-at-home orders, industry experts are observing a shift to a different marketing approach: influencers on video platforms.

“Many small- to mid-size apparel brands are focusing in on three platforms: TikTok, YouTube and Instagram,” said Clayton Durant, founder and managing partner at consulting firm CAD Management. “Quarantine has bumped up the amount of time spent on these platforms.”

Influencer marketing is not new, but the financial strain felt by many consumers is changing the way brands approach it. Durant said traditional advertising campaigns are no longer deemed tasteful nor are they driving the meaningful engagement required to convert sales. Instead of glamorous, aspirational images, consumers want meaningful, authentic content from sources they trust. Increasingly, that means social media micro-influencers.

For many brands, partnering with a series of micro-influencers is becoming a more reliable source of marketing than traditional campaigns. These influencers usually have 50,000 to 2 million followers on social media, but speak to an engaged audience with more followers than many top celebrities. They are also less expensive to partner with.

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“Many of these influencer deals give the brand the most amount of leverage in the transaction, allowing the brand to get a better ROI,” said Durant. “If you handle micro-influencer campaigns right there is more of a ‘partnership’ feel to these transactions; many micro-influencers are going above and beyond their deal points.”

Finding the most cost-effective marketing approach is more critical than ever, with many brands suffering from sales drops. But the disappearance of live marketing has also allowed for the redistribution of resources to social media, SEO and influencer campaigns. Durant believes that investing in these partnerships now could also pay off in the long term, as brands and consumers adjust to the new retail landscape.

“I expect brick-and-mortar foot traffic to take at least a year to get back to ‘normal,’” said Durant. “To make up for the loss of foot traffic, brands are going to turn to platforms like YouTube, TikTok or Twitch to create one-of-a-kind virtual shopping experiences that mimic walking in the store. That is where partnering with influencers to host digital store experiences could be quite powerful.”

TikTok, one of the pandemic’s success stories with 315 million app downloads this quarter, has also observed this shift. The platform has recently launched an ad format for influencers, enabling its more prominent users to include “shop now” links in their videos. For brands to capitalize on this feature, though, they will need to partner with that select group.

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