Building a Cult Brand in a Pandemic-stricken Influencer Economy

Social media is more essential than ever to remaining connected in a remote world
Social media is more essential than ever to remaining connected in a remote world

With widespread stay-at-home orders in place to stem the spread of COVID-19, the influencer economy is in a state of flux. Lavish parties and getaways are off the table, and many bloggers are pivoting the focus of their content to at-home fitness, recipes and other topics that resonate with housebound followers.

Social media is more essential than ever to remaining connected in a remote world—and with screen time at a record high, influencers can play an integral role in fostering a sense of community at an isolating time. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that brands focus on supporting their influencer families and building sustained, authentic relationships.

The following are some tips for fostering and retaining a loyal network of advocates and driving continued growth in Earned Media Value (EMV)a—a metric for determining the estimated value of digital earned media—through this challenging moment and beyond.

Group Influencers by Brand Loyalty to Conduct Tailored Outreach

We all crave connection at a time like this, and reaching out to your supporters with tokens of appreciation can prove key to sustaining valuable relationships. But for many brands, keeping tabs on all your influencers at once is a near-impossible feat.

For this reason, it’s helpful to segment your community into smaller groups based on the strength of their affinity to your brand. Tribe Dynamics classifies bloggers as potential fans, recent fans, loyal fans and past fans; loyal fans are your most passionate and consistent supporters.

To understand the key role that loyal fans play in your community, look to leading cosmetics brand e.l.f. In 2019, influencers who had also mentioned the brand the previous year collectively drove $145 million EMV of e.l.f.’s $230.1 million EMV haul—well above the $82.6 million EMV contributed by e.l.f.’s recent fans, and the $22.5 million EMV generated in 2018 by the brand’s past fans (see F-1).

Moreover, this consistent cohort’s 2019 contribution marked an impressive increase from $98 million EMV the previous year, a testament to the growing value of sustained relationships over time.

Beyond helping you identify your most impactful supporters, segmenting your community based on loyalty allows you to create targeted outreach plans for each group. A handwritten note or thoughtful DM can let a potential fan know you’re following their content and care about them at this time. Your brand could keep a recent fan engaged by sending them a refill of a product they’ve shared in an “empties video” (if you’re currently able to mail products).

You could even mobilize your loyal supporters for a campaign promoting mental well-being. bareMinerals, for example, recently leveraged its ongoing “Power of Good” initiative, which has historically focused on women’s empowerment, to promote self-care at home. By tailoring your outreach to meet the specific needs of each influencer cohort, you can make the most of limited time and resources while maximizing your impact.

It’s important to note that these groups are dynamic. Like leads in a sales funnel, you should nurture influencer relationships such that bloggers who start as potential fans eventually become loyal fans, who can recruit new potential fans.

And don’t neglect your past fans, either. You can bring bloggers who have previously expressed interest in your brand back into your influencer family through gestures that demonstrate you’re still invested in the relationship. By taking a holistic, always-on approach to outreach, you can foster increased loyalty across your network and sustainably expand your community at a time when solidarity is essential.

Make Retention Your #1 Priority

In a rapidly evolving influencer ecosystem, it’s especially important to build connections to bloggers that stand the test of time. Not only are loyal fans your most impactful advocates, but they’re also the most likely to stand by you under difficult circumstances. 

For the full article, check out Global Cosmetic Industry's September 2020 digital magazine.

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