With marketing budgets being cut because of the coronavirus pandemic and an uptick in consumers shifting to online purchases, SEO – a cost-effective, long-term results method of getting your message, products, and services out there – matters more than ever.

But if you think traffic is all your SEO strategy should deliver, then you’re underutilizing it. Set up correctly, SEO can become your most efficient digital marketing channel in 2021. It can be leveraged to achieve your most important business goals, including increased revenue, improved brand sentiment, a bigger market share, and higher marketing ROI.

Working in healthcare? Financial services? Manufacturing? Don’t click away just yet. SEO is no longer just for big-name retailers. For organizations in digitally-immature sectors, SEO can help them stand out and move into the lead via a greater digital reach, improved brand perception, and more highly-qualified leads. Even if your organization is not investing in its discoverability online, you can bet your competitors will be. And with the average click rate for the top position on Google getting nearly 30% of all clicks, this is not a race you can afford to lose.

In short, 2021 is the year that SEO should be on everyone’s agenda. Read on to discover how to prepare for SEO success in 2021.

1. SEO requires a more holistic approach

Many organizations are waking up to the fact that when it comes to their SEO strategy, not everyone is on the same page. The key point of contention? Who in the organization actually owns this business-critical function. Some elements are managed by the IT department, some by web teams, while other parts fall under marketing’s remit.

Global enterprises with dispersed workforces are most at risk, but even smaller organizations can fall into this trap. For example, a member of the marketing team might identify a good SEO opportunity for their organization’s website but be unable to implement it because responsibility for SEO lies with the web development team. An analytics expert might spot some intriguing content gaps that your organization could plug and reap the traffic rewards from, but be unable to draft compelling, high-quality content for that purpose without help from the content team. Especially in larger organizations, it’s generally not as simple as shooting across a quick email to get an update made.  

It’s clear that coming out of 2020, many organizations are still struggling to unite key SEO stakeholders behind an organic search strategy that positively impacts wider business outcomes. With so many players – and siloes – involved, SEO strategies risk becoming confused, resource-intensive, and at worst, ineffective.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. This siloed approach to SEO will never deliver the results your organization needs. Rather than an unorganized mix of employees who occasionally optimize your site for certain SEO elements – perhaps on an ad hoc basis – a proactive, cross-functional SEO team with clear SEO roles, responsibilities, and processes must be carved out. The more closely key SEO stakeholders work together, the more likely it is they will have the information and resources they need to run a highly-effective SEO strategy.

Start by identifying who should be part of your cross-functional team. This list should include anyone who works with your website in a way that influences or impacts SEO. Though this list will look different for every organization it might include:

  • SEO specialists 
  • PPC specialists 
  • Content writers and strategists
  • Marketers
  • Web developers
  • Analytics specialists 
  • Sales
  • IT
  • PR

If your organization outsources its marketing or SEO efforts, you should also list any external vendors you’re using.

Tip: Transparency, clear task allocation, and status updates are essential for any SEO strategy to succeed. Invite all your key stakeholders to use real-time project management software or a specialized SEO dashboard to effortlessly stay on top of what’s completed, what still needs to be done, by who, and when.

Once you have defined your 2021 SEO taskforce, it’s time to get them all on the same page and working towards your broader business goals. Which brings us to trend number two.

2. SEO reporting needs to prove ROI

It’s not enough to claim that organic search ‘drives traffic’ to your website anymore – SEO cannot operate separately from your business goals. To prove that SEO positively impacts your bottom line and get C-level buy-in and funding for your organic search initiatives (especially in a time when marketing budgets are under scrutiny), you organization needs to definitively link SEO to producing a competitive advantage online.  

The best way to do this is with data. Organizations need access to robust SEO reporting to make their case, especially when it comes to presenting organic search performance to the C-suite. While they may not have time to dive into the minutiae of every SEO campaign, it’s vital that decision makers are able to quickly and easily understand how the company’s SEO strategy impacts top-line company targets: revenue, brand recognition, and share of voice. With organizations regularly relying on multiple tools, including web analytics platforms, content optimization tools, keyword finders, broken link crawlers, and so on – with diverging and complex data – to report on their SEO activity, it can be challenging for decision makers to get a clear, cohesive picture of how SEO delivers more than just extra clicks.  

“It’s very common that the CMOs we speak to get SEO reports that have traffic increases, position increases, and that have click-through rate improvement, which are all great metrics for marketers, but it doesn’t speak to the bottom line or how it’s impacting goals for their business,” says Diane Kulseth, Senior SEO Consultant at Siteimprove.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. SEO stakeholders across an organization should prioritize working with a ‘single source of truth’ to move their SEO campaigns forward with confidence. That typically means working from a single, comprehensive SEO platform. Platforms built around the specific needs of enterprise organizations, like Siteimprove SEO, are useful for keeping track of all the moving parts of your SEO strategy across disparate teams – but that’s not all. Their intuitive dashboard overviews and metrics also help decision makers to effortlessly connect the SEO dots between content, traffic, and ROI.

3. The user experience is about to matter a lot more

Anyone who works with websites know that Google and other search engines constantly review and revise the algorithms that determine search engine result pages rankings. In 2021, this will reach a whole new level with the rolling out of Google’s new user-centric Core Web Vitals.

This algorithm change will officially make the user experience a major ranking signal for websites. Normally, it only provides limited transparency into how its algorithms operate, but in this case, Google has published extensive new guidance on how to measure page experience from the user’s perspective, including a supporting set of metrics that can be used to benchmark websites.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. Organizations need to prepare for this change now by evaluating their existing page performance and making the adjustments required for their content to rank according to the new algorithm. Luckily, good SEO and a positive user experience tend to go hand-in-hand. Examples of the intersectionality between SEO and the user experience include:

  • Fast page-loading times
  • Mobile-friendly content
  • Providing a secure visitor page experience
  • Improving web page usability

4. PPC and SEO must work together

While marketing and advertising spend is shrinking in the current environment – a trend that is likely to continue into 2021, organic search remains a cost-effective way to fill the gap. After all, you don’t need to pay every time someone clicks on your organic content, but you do pay for clicks with PPC – and depending on your chosen keywords, that can be costly. The moment you stop paying for ads, your traffic will dry up, whereas the benefits of well-ranking organic search results can last for years. Even more persuasively, good SEO can actually improve your PPC results – helping you get more value out of your paid search campaigns by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies and wasted spend. Let’s find out how.

Tip: SEO results can be harder to quantify than those from PPC and undoubtedly take longer to show ROI. So, it’s important that your SEO and paid search teams work together closely to produce a mix of quick search wins and long-term results. This should be straightforward if you’ve assigned roles and responsibilities across a cross-functional SEO team as described in step one.

What you need to do ahead of 2021. Repurpose the data from your existing PPC and SEO campaigns to plug the budget gaps in your paid search strategy. If you have a keyphrase that’s performing particularly well in a PPC campaign, you should consider using that same keyphrase in your SEO campaign to try to dominate the organic search results as well. This is a good way of growing brand awareness and trust, since users will see your brand twice in their search results. If they don’t click on your ads, the presence of your brand name at the top of the search results page will help position your organization top-of-mind.

When your search strategy is suffering from keyword overlaps, for instance, when you’ve allocated PPC spend to phrases where you’re already ranking well organically, it makes sense to lessen your spend in that area and redistribute your budget, ideally to areas where your organic search campaigns are performing poorly. This approach is even more compelling when you know that organic desktop listings still produce 20 x more clicks than PPC ads.  

Enterprise SEO tools help you organize for success   

As much as SEO is increasingly indispensable, it’s set to become even more challenging for organizations to execute successfully. In 2021, SEO teams will be expected to create larger numbers of high-quality content, keep up with search engine algorithm changes, conduct keyword research, perform technical site audits, and present clear evidence of ROI for their SEO campaigns – not to mention managing day-to-day SEO tasks – all on an even tighter budget with fewer resources, to socially-distanced, dispersed stakeholders. It’s going to be a really tough job.

Fortunately, there’s a simpler way to automate workflows, unite stakeholders, and prepare your organization for SEO success in 2021: investing in an enterprise SEO tool. Whether your organization manages its SEO in-house or partners with an agency, using an enterprise SEO solution will help you get more from your SEO campaigns by adding helpful automation, insights, and reporting capabilities into the mix. Remember, whatever initial investment an SEO tool requires in terms of budget and onboarding, it will swiftly make up for in productivity gains. According to Forrester’s ROI of SEO report, marketers that adopt an SEO platform report an average reduction of 28 hours per month spent on key SEO tasks. That’s 28 hours that can be better spent on formulating more successful SEO plans! Yet further research reveals that just one in three organizations are currently using one.

The author is Georgia James, content writer for Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth.

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Digital applications have been a key enabler in creating a connected digital life for consumers. With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the adoption of digital applications and placing more focus on online shopping channels and digital payments, holiday shopping and Christmas rush might be a little different this year. As the holiday season approaches, we are seeing a fundamental shift in social interactions, digital entertainment and shopping habits.

Online shopping continues to grow year-over-year. In 2019, Forrester estimates that 56 percent of shoppers in Southeast Asia (SEA) will make their purchases online.

With mobile as the main channel used by shoppers, the same study predicts that 62 percent of online retail sales in SEA will come from mobile purchases. This presents opportunities for brands to reach more than 150 million online shoppers from various markets across the region including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Online shopping statistics

When developing a marketing strategy for Christmas, it’s essential to check online Christmas shopping statistics and know how this will impact your overall strategy. For instance, due to the pandemic, the latest Retail Sales Index and Food & Beverage Index from the Department of Statistics in Singapore shows a – 5.7 percent decline on total retail sales compared to last year. However, items under Recreational Goods, Furniture and Household and Computer and Telecommunications category have a positive increase in sales this year.

 Digital payments for frictionless shopping

Online shopping is also gaining momentum in the region due to the rise of digital payments. According to Deloitte’s report, Indonesians and Singaporeans are amongst the highest proportions of people who shopped online and retail shops that prefer digital payments. Digital payments are fast and frictionless. As more merchants adopt digital payment channels, e-commerce apps must also ensure that they leverage digital payment channels to respond to the demands of the consumers.

Here are some of the best practices to keep in mind when developing your e-commerce marketing campaign for the holiday season. 

1. Free shipping
Adding unexpected costs at the final stages of the user journey may frustrate your customers and cause them to churn. This is why free shipping may be worth the expense. Entitling your users to free shipping during the holiday season is an effective gift to shoppers, and may give you the edge over your competitors.

2. Bundles and gift guides
Creating bundle offers is an effective way to autonomously upsell to your customers while also giving them a good deal on grouped purchases. Bundles are also a smart way to turn inexpensive items into a more significant gift recommendation for your users. Alternatively, you can include a ‘recently bought with’ function on your website or app to encourage multi-item sales.

You can also create curated gift guides to help shoppers with their search, combining best-selling items, surplus stock and discounted items.

3. Offer gift cards
Gift cards are a simple but effective way to generate revenue during the holiday season. For best results, gift cards should be purchasable and can be used digitally and in-store. This accounts for the preferences of all gift-givers and those who have received your gift vouchers.

4. Set up a themed landing page
Get your shoppers into the Christmas spirit by directing them to a Christmas-themed landing page – where you can share your curated gift guides and bundle options, and encourage customers to proceed with their purchases.

5. Branded hashtags
Using a branded, Christmas-themed hashtag across your social media channels is a smart way to raise brand awareness while also providing app users with a means to share their purchases on social media. Examples of Christmas-themed hashtags by brands include #SwishUponAStar (Lush cosmetics) and #BarbourChristmas (Barbour).

This also allows your social media team to gather user-generated content (USG), which can then be shared and retweeted.

 From a retailer’s point of view, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Despite the challenges of the year, the Christmas season is a great opportunity for e-commerce app marketers to boost sales, build their audience and reward loyal customers.

The author is April Tayson, Vice President for Adjust India and Southeast Asia. Adjust is an app marketing analysis platform, and provides services such as attribution and measurement, fraud prevention, cybersecurity, as well as automation tools for mobile apps.

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Fast-growing Software as a service (SaaS) and other cloud-based solutions providers in Singapore, and across the region, have developed data apps for a variety of business uses across functions and industries. These companies are receiving huge volumes of valuable data that promises to unlock significant insights for their customers, if managed properly. From marketing apps that provide customer insights, to Internet of Things (IoT) apps that handle device feedback, and data analytics apps that process both historical and near real-time data, the demand for data apps for analysis is growing exponentially. 

Various data apps that promise to help companies take advantage of their data in real-time to improve business outcomes are emerging. However, many businesses using these applications struggle to extract and analyze these growing volumes of data efficiently. This is due to challenges that developers often face when building, designing, and supporting these applications including developing a 360-degree view of the customer data, handling IoT device data in near real-time, combining historical and current data for analysis, bringing data together for machine learning (ML) models, and embedding analytics in data-intensive applications. 

A key obstacle in overcoming these challenges is app developers’ reliance on legacy architectures that only enable limited scalability, concurrency, and performance. To address these challenges, software companies can turn to cloud data platforms to build and manage their data stack. By adopting a modern, cloud-based data architecture, developers have an opportunity to deliver differentiated and defensible value to customers who need powerful features and real-time insights to run their businesses better.  

Why does architecture matter?

While apps have been modernized, the infrastructure powering these apps still runs on a traditional architecture that was built on the assumption that small clusters of machines with predictable amounts and types of structured data would be created largely by internal sources. Not surprisingly, these companies struggle with large volumes of data, as well as schema-less and semi-structured formats from external sources, such as application logs, web applications, mobile devices, social media, sensor data, and IoT data. This legacy architecture, created long before the emergence of the cloud and IaaS and PaaS services, was not built to run massive SaaS applications with semi-structured data. Additionally, traditional data warehouses cannot scale to match data capacity or demand easily, which creates constraints on data availability. Adopting generic architectural plumbing and tools might be a quick and low-cost fix, but such strategy can cause technical challenges down the road that can lead to lower output and a disappointing customer experience. 

As a result, investing in new architecture is critical to delivering on customer expectations of data apps. Some key capabilities to look for in a modern data platform for data applications are:

  • Decoupled resources which allow apps to scale computing resources independently, and in a linear fashion for each job. It also enables multiple queries to be run against the same data without conflict. 
  • Elasticity to allow software companies to grow or shrink dynamically and adapt to load changes. 
  • Support for various data types to provide a holistic view of the data.
  • Developer tooling and automation to enable developers to “plug in” services with APIs, applying a building blocks approach, rather than rebuilding with each addition to the app.  
  • Strong security baked into the design to enable fast development, while protecting against security threats. 

To ensure that data apps deliver on their customers’ expectations, software companies need to align technology decisions with long-term product needs, keep evolving customer needs in mind and design with growth and flexibility in mind. App developers need a central repository to provide the workload isolation, instant and near-infinite elasticity, unlimited concurrency, and ability to natively ingest semi-structured data. 

Additionally, many data app developers adopt generic low-cost tools that allow for quick development without upfront investment, as well as using traditional data platforms. When developers do not fully consider what is needed from their data stack to deliver powerful data analytics apps, problems can arise down the line. These problems include data storage and computing strains on the system, difficulties supporting semi-structured data, frequent maintenance and upgrades, and a lack of employee resources to configure the platform to their requirements. That will eventually lead to a full re-architecture of the data platform to address these issues, which can leave customers frustrated by latency issues and incomplete data analysis.  

In order to develop powerful, modern data apps, software companies need to invest in a modern, cloud-built data platform. Consider the data architecture before technical issues arise to enjoy a lower total cost of ownership from the beginning, remove the restraints of traditional data platforms and deliver fast, differentiated customer experiences.

The author is Geoff Soon, Managing Director, South Asia, Snowflake. Snowflake equips organizations with a single, integrated platform that offers the data warehouse built for the cloud.

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When companies are operating outside of normalcy, it is more critical than ever for marketers to have a strong grasp on changing circumstances and the evolving demands and expectations of their customers and their businesses. To navigate through periods of uncertainty and beyond, marketers need to create a robust marketing measurement strategy– one that is shaped by data-driven decisions, in order to be able to understand their performance and pivot their marketing strategies if something isn’t quite working. Marketing intelligence is the key ingredient to an effective measurement strategy.  Through a single system of record, marketing intelligence platforms provide the insights and analytics needed to drive informed decisions. 

A recent study revealed that 65 percent of marketers face moderate to significant budget cuts as a result of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While many displayed cuts between 10 to 20 percent, some reported deeper cuts, especially in industries where demand has decreased. With budgets fluctuating, having visibility over marketing activities across all channels can help marketers see the efficiency and effectiveness of every dollar spent. A clear view across all moving parts enables marketers to consistently adapt and reevaluate goals.

Additionally, customers are dealing with disruptions to their day-to-day life, causing behaviors and expectations to shift. For example, the consumer goods industry has seen vast changes in shopping behavior first-hand. Customers are prioritizing purchasing necessities and home entertainment products. Categories such as food, beverage and tobacco, toys and games and sporting goods were in top five for growth in page views and order count. While, luggage and bags saw a 14 percent decrease in page views due to travel restrictions. To respond appropriately to these shifts and deliver engaging and helpful experiences to address changing preferences, it is important that marketing teams double-down on measuring tactics, messages and content across all touchpoints.

Here are four key steps to building a measurement strategy that can guide marketers through this volatile time and into the future: 

  1. Connect cross-channel data  

The modern-day marketer uses a number of different channels to connect with customers, making it complex to keep track of the effectiveness and performance of a single campaign. From Facebook to LinkedIn to Google ads, the sources are endless. The dispersion of marketing data across different touchpoints means it ends up both siloed and inaccessible. In today’s landscape, where marketing teams are challenged with fluctuating budgets combined with changing behaviors of customers, they need to be as efficient as possible with their time and ad dollars.

Harmonizing data into a single source of truth gives marketers a cohesive view of the information they have at hand. Cutting man-hours spent bringing data together can be achieved by automating the process. This enables marketers to spend less time organizing data and more valuable time on campaign analysis and optimization.

2. Set up consistent taxonomies and ensure data hygiene 

Organizing and standardizing data is a crucial step in order for marketers to gain actionable insight. This involves formulating rules and naming conventions to dictate campaigns and media buys.

When data is derived and categorized in the same solid foundation, it can be used more accurately and consistently. This is key to gaining data accuracy– something that 84% of marketers lack confidence in.  By having all stakeholders work from a set of standardized data, teams can seamlessly report and share findings, as well as scale insights to launch new initiatives.

3. Set goals and track progress 

Now more than ever, the marketing landscape is impacted by the disruptions taking place across economics, politics, public health and more. Marketers must act swiftly and be flexible in the way they respond to, plan for and adjust to this new environment. 

Marketers can use this time as an opportunity to reset goals and benchmarks. Setting goals builds accountability and urgency, and helps identify and monitor specific key performance indicators (KPIs) across channels, regions and business units. Benchmarks such as industry standards and competitive benchmarks are helpful ways of allowing teams to track how campaigns are progressing toward these goals. 

4. Align and collaborate across a single system of record

With organizations adopting remote working, marketers need to overcome the geographical silos and team silos to stay aligned.  With data connected and standardized across a single system of record, marketers can visualize goals and benchmarks through shareable dashboards. This enables internal and external stakeholders to collaborate and work toward shared goals.

Moreover, marketers should adapt visualizations to tell the right story based on the audience. For example, the chief marketing officer and the executive team may be more interested in key KPIs that impact the broader business, while channel marketers may require a closer look at each tactic or data, broken down day by day, across creative, messages and more.

By creating a marketing measurement strategy, marketers can arm themselves with the data and insights they need to help answer difficult questions and pave the path to certainty for their customers and their businesses. 

The author is Leah Pope, Chief Marketing Officer of Salesforce Datorama. Salesforce Datorama provides the leading cloud-based, AI-powered marketing intelligence and analytics platform for enterprises, agencies and publishers. 

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According to the Research and Market Report, Southeast Asia digital advertising market is expected to grow by 13.93% and reach $15.35 billion by 2026, representing the fastest growing regional market in the world. But ad fraud remains a major challenge in the sector — even among social apps. In fact, in 2019, Adjust found that around 11% of all social installs were fraudulent. 

Despite all its challenges, 2020 is undeniably proving to be a year of growth, but that can easily be undermined by ad fraud. Fast-growing regions like Southeast Asia can be especially attractive to fraudsters, as fraud prevention tools aren’t as commonplace. The losses aren’t just monetary — fraud also skews the accuracy of datasets, drives bad user acquisition decisions, and hides the best-performing channels. To make the most of 2020’s opportunities, fraud prevention needs to remain a key priority for growth marketers. 

So how do we prevent fraud? First, we have to understand it.

Ad fraud, simplified 

Mobile ad fraud describes the actions that fraudsters take to siphon off advertisers’ budgets by exploiting mobile advertising technology. Fraudsters use four main methods to commit their crimes: Click Injection, SDK Spoofing, Click Spam and Fake Users. Ultimately, you can distinguish between two types of fraud — those that spoof ad engagements (like views or clicks) and those that spoof app activities (like installs, sessions and events). The former is known as Spoofed Attribution. The latter is called Spoofed Users.

Fraudsters are also incredibly resourceful, and once they realize fraud filters are blocking a certain type of fraud, they will try and find a workaround or move on to those that are not protected. 

But the ripple effects of fraud, the ones which aren’t talked about, are how marketers are affected by fraud-filled datasets which influence their marketing decisions. 

What fraud means for your metrics 

Ad fraud doesn’t just steal from advertising budgets — it also interferes with user acquisition decisions. 

For instance, a partner might look like it’s bringing tons of new installs, but there’s a chance these attributions are fraudulent. If marketers can’t tell the difference between fake and real users, they’re likely to spend more money with the networks that appear to be yielding more or better users — effectively opening themselves up to further fraud. Marketers get caught in a feedback loop, directing money away from those sources that bring them real, high-quality users.

We also haven’t considered the domino effect fake users have on in-app activity and purchase data. Some marketers may not be too concerned about fake installs: in some instances, they may even view it as a good thing as their user acquisition numbers look great on paper. But other valuable metrics, such as retention and lifetime value, won’t match up, and that’ll become a serious problem down the line. 

Dishonest industry players could also attempt to poach organics by using Click Spam and Click Injection methods. The table below shows an example of the extent to which these methods of fraud could be affecting your metrics — just take a look at the difference in returns and ROI.

While most ad networks are reputable and have their clients’ best interest in mind, sources further down the chain may be taking advantage of advertisers without the network’s knowledge. In an ideal, fraud-free world, a marketer could be working with a network that brings them 500 installs at a CPI of $5, the total profit of which could stand at $1,000. Alongside this, they may also gain 1,000 organic installs, from which they profit $10,000. That’s a pretty considerable ROI.

But let’s say the network now brings 800 installs at a CPI of $5. That’s a big increase, which looks great at first glance. At the same time, the number of organic installs drops to 700. While it’s not impossible, it’s more likely that this particular source of traffic is using Click Spam or Click Injection to poach organic users and users from other networks in order to pass them off as their own. Marketers waste their budgets on paying for them, and their ROI drops significantly. 

What’s the solution to ad fraud? 

While the industry may never be able to get rid of ad fraud completely, there are many approaches marketers can take to protect themselves. The most important step is understanding the problem, and then taking fraud seriously. Set up a clear process and internal point person to handle the issue. Growth marketers are in the perfect position to look at the numbers, see where they don’t add up, and then escalate the issue. 

It’s also important to work with your partners towards transparency, so that you know where exactly your ads are displayed. Fraudsters thrive off black-box models, so mobile marketers need to evaluate who they partner with and ask them how they’re fighting ad fraud. 

Ad fraud evolves fast, so stay educated. By joining summits and workshops, keeping up to date with the news, and opening up the conversation with networks and MMPs, UA managers can gain a better understanding of potential new threats and solutions. After all, bringing better education and awareness of the issue can help flush out fraudsters and keep your mobile marketing activities on track. 

The author is April Tayson, Director, Southeast Asia at Adjust. Adjust is a global app marketing platform. Born at the heart of the mobile app economy and grown out of a passion for technology, the company now has 16 offices around the world.

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The world has always been resilient, but the past months have proven to be one of the most comparably difficult challenges that we have faced in a very long time. The rising number of cases of COVID-19 has crippled many citizens and businesses, forcing all of us to hastily adjust to what we would probably consider our “new normal” moving forward.

During this period of lockdowns and social distancing, I’ve seen our clients and partners forcing themselves to quickly adapt work-from-home arrangements with their teams and trying to recreate the traditional office environment through video meetings via Zoom or Google Hangouts.

The social media universe also saw (and judged) influencers and celebrities who made the industry proud because of their philanthropic engagements, be it in the frontlines distributing food and equipment to people in need, or as keyboard warriors making good use of their influence and reach in massive information and donation drives. Some even went as far as organizing and volunteering their personal resources to extend help to as many as they possibly can.

Consumer behavior has changed drastically, maybe the most drastic one I’ve seen in years. Amidst the changes in the way that brands would have to communicate their stories and value propositions in this “new reality,” many marketers may ask, “What are the implications of this “new reality” to the way that we do influencer marketing?” or maybe, “Can we still have campaigns and engage influencers given the current situation?” and possibly, “Is influencer marketing still relevant in this time of a pandemic?”

As someone who’s seen many evolutions and shifts in this industry, I have a couple of thoughts, insights, and recommendations that I could share with you:

1. This is a good time to review and re-align.

If you’re a brand, I suggest it’s high time to review what you value and assess the alignment of your current and potential influencer partners with your brand promise and value proposition.

If you’re an influencer, it’s good to know and be firm about what you believe in and stand for; even better if you could communicate this well in your online channels.

This way, brands and influencers are able to identify if their principles are in alignment, making it easier to work on future engagements.

2. Supercharge your social media presence.

The volume of content and conversations in social media rose in epic proportions, attributable maybe to the fact that many internet users are staying at home with very few things to do. Some brands stood out because of their timely (and very witty) appropriation of trending topics in their promotional materials, which earned them amazing engagement metrics.

Everyone is spending longer hours on social media during this pandemic. I, for one, get all the relevant news and updates through social media; I don’t even turn on the TV anymore. If you want to be where the people are, it’s the best place you can be, so take extra effort to increase your visibility.

Caveat: Stay true to your brand promise and go to where you believe you can create and provide more value. For brands most especially, if TikTok is particularly new to you, I don’t think now is the best time to start. For influencers though, maybe this is a good time to see if TikTok is something that will work for you.

3. Ask yourself, “How can I solve a consumer pain point right now?”

I understand that the “cancel culture” has made it very challenging for people to find their place and post their opinions in the organized clutter of social media. I also recognize that toxic positivity is frowned upon by many, and we all have to tread carefully for fear of offending somebody unintentionally.

My take on this is that different individuals have different ways to cope, and at this time, people also have different pain points that we can provide solutions to. As for me for example, one of my pain points is that I’m not able to take my regular fitness and meditation classes anymore. It’s good that some fitness studios like Plana Forma, White Space Wellness, and Beyond Yoga offer free classes via live guided sessions in social media.

What are other consumer pain points right now and how can we provide solutions to these? Businesses and influencers alike can actually be instruments in providing temporary solutions to these temporary pain points — just a quick fix while everyone is in quarantine. Many people likely have plenty of time in their hands and might have a need for educational articles or videos to consume, new recipes to try, instructions for building DIY stuff, tips for keeping the kids entertained and busy, exercises for physical health and mental stability, or even a simple uplift in spirits during this trying time. Those are just examples of situations where we can fit our narrative, tying the stories we wish to tell to pain points of people we want to speak with and reach.

4. Now is the best time to really show what “authenticity” looks like.

In general, people are interested to see what happens in real life, beyond the glamorous filters of social media. I do not expect people to engage very much with well polished, professionally shot and edited content especially at this time; what they want is content that is raw, real, and speaks to their current reality.

This is a good time for both brands and influencers to talk about a narrative that shows a bit of vulnerability. Unshaved beards? Check. Legit woke-up-like-this face? Check. I-haven’t-taken-a-bath-yet-but-let’s-do-a-video-call-nevertheless? Check. “Realness” is what’s most desired now, and we can make this difficult time more bearable with a trifle of humanity.

The author is Ace Gapuz, Founder & CEO of Blogapalooza. Blogapalooza is the Philippines’ premier influencer marketing company, having 7,000 influencers in its community of influencers and digital content creators.

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