There’s no doubt social media kept millions entertained (and sane) during lockdowns around the globe. And while Facebook and Twitter maintained their popularity (perhaps among an older demographic), the growth of Instagram, TikTok and Twitch has been phenomenal. How did brands take advantage of the captive audiences? GLENDA NEVILL asks South African digital marketing agencies working with influencers to share their stories.
Social is open for business. Quarantine culture is a powerful thing. And brands need to rethink existing consumer journeys and paths to purchase to align with changes in daily routine. Things are getting real out there, and marketers need to be aware of just how much consumers have changed, and continue to do so.
That’s the word from Swift, a WPP “creative agency for a digital world”. In its latest Global Social Conversation Report, Swift says as countries emerge from various levels of lockdown “the world of social has been reframed”. In fact, it has been reinvented, ensuring a new role for brands and culture.
Chief strategist at Nfluential, Anne Dolinschek, agrees, saying there was a big shift in people’s behaviours during the pandemic too. “Instagram became more real…to some extent, it moved away from the polished images and showing the best parts of lives. We started seeing people sharing their experiences being at home 24/7, the good and the bad. The platform saw a spike in engagement because we’re all in the same boat and content became a lot more relatable,” she explains.
Dolinschek says TikTok saw a surge in sign-ups and engagement too, even in South Africa. Suddenly it wasn’t just Gen Zs, but Millennials started using the app too. “It is a great entertainment platform and I assume that’s why so many turned to the platform during the pandemic,” she says. “In South Africa, it’s mostly a younger audience who are on the app, however. Some great South African brands also started creating fantastic content on TikTok to engage with their audiences.”
Founder of HaveYouHeard, Jason Stewart, says relevance of each social media platform for your target market and message is important. “Instagram is very much the prominent platform for influencer marketing (and has been for the past few years). However, TikTok has exploded globally, and is now an important channel in South Africa, albeit for a younger audience. And, then there’s Twitch, a relatively unknown powerhouse and a platform HaveYouHeard and its agencies often use, predominantly for eSports,” he says.
Twitch and TikTok
Where TikTok and Twitch are concerned, users are embracing the future of entertainment, which, says Stewart, is almost certainly going to be more interactive and social with audiences able to engage with the content, the creator and the audience – all at the same time.
“…Because of the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (causing much fear and uncertainty and leaving too many people with too much time on their hands), TikTok and Twitch both provided the perfect form of escapism into worlds far from the burden of reality. It was also a time when consumers were forced to create new habits and find new ways of being entertained, shopping and even influenced,” says Stewart.
And he rolls out the numbers, courtesy of WARC’s Global Ad Trends report (May 2020).
“Before Covid-19, social media was expected to grow by 9.8%. In our Covid-19 world, its growth has almost topped this – 20%. Online video growth was expected to increase by only 5% on the previous year, but has exploded to 20.2%. TikTok had 315 million downloads in the first quarter of 2020, the most of any app in history. As for Twitch, well, there were 1 790 million hours of video gaming watched on Twitch in April of 2020, up from 1 000 million hours at the start of the year. The growth experienced in the first three months of 2020 was equivalent to that of the previous six years,” he says.
Nano and micro influencers
All this spurred the use of influencers although not in the way most would expect. “During the pandemic, brands were pushed to move away from superficial campaigns. People want to be able to relate. This has led to brands using more nano and micro influencers instead of the macro ones purely because the former tend to be authentic and have incredibly loyal audiences who are highly engaged,” says Dolinschek.
“These influencers are great to drive campaigns with call to actions a lot more effectively. In order to add reach to these campaigns, macro influencers are often used to organically boost the content by sharing it with their much bigger audiences,” she says. “Another tactic that’s gaining momentum quite quickly is including performance media in campaigns. It’s used to target bigger audiences with authentic content created by influencers. Engagement and reach are not enough to report on anymore; many other measurements are available in influencer marketing these days to demonstrate ROI to brands.”
Pieter Groenewald, CEO of influencer agency The Salt, agrees there has been an uptake in the utilisation of nano influencers. “… They are perfectly paired with brands and in most instances, represent existing brand fans, who we then utilise to amplify brand conversations both on and offline in a very authentic manner”. The Salt continued to operate during lockdown. “The type of campaigns was dependent on the type of lockdown restrictions. Initially, there were a lot around food and FMCG related products, which was open for trade, and recipes and home cooking was very topical at the time.
“Then when e-commerce opened up, our influencers were used to activate a lot of campaigns around e-commerce e.g. driving online sales and opening of new customer accounts.”
He points to a campaign by a client in the financial sector as being particularly effective. #TheOlympian (a Sanlam campaign featuring gymnast Caitlin Rooskranz), he says, “was a great opportunity for influencers to start the conversation in an authentic way within their tribes around the special initiative. From an influencer perspective it had everything in it, user generated content, macro influencers tied to nano influencers, timing strategy and amazing brand follow through on the conversations”.
Stewart believes the type of content you create is what makes video so important. “The richer, the better; hence the success of video and the type of content created on TikTok and Twitch. What is important is that the expectation is for the platform to provide interactive entertainment where the user can take part,” he says.
So, what do we celebrate about TikTok? Stewart has a list:
- TikTok is a space that celebrates quirky fun instead of what many perceived as the superficial aesthetics of Instagram’s #BestLife.
- Influencers and their audience on TikTok seem more willing to engage with brands in fun, novel ways – anything, as long as it is entertaining.
- While TikTok is very young, its content is slowly permeating into adult audiences as pop culture influence rises up from the youth to older siblings and parents. (Over 70% of TikTokkers are under the age of 25, compared to only 30% of Facebook users. The average age of active Twitch users is 21 years old, so it’s a pretty young – and also mostly male – audience.)
- YouTube beauty videos are starting to be regarded as ‘too long’ and Instagram ‘too boring’, which has seen many of these beauty influencers transitioning onto TikTok. TikTok provided a way for these beauty influencers to showcase their looks in a fun way in 15 seconds. Some used this to push viewers to go to fuller and deeper video back on YouTube.
And who is using TikTok in South Africa? “A local streaming platform in South Africa is using influencers on TikTok to promote new shows being released. Similarly, music labels and independent musicians are approaching TikTokkers to use their music within their videos to bring attention to their songs,” he says.
“In fact, TikTok has shown immense power and influence in pop music. Most artists now release their chart-topping songs along with a dance challenge on TikTok. The first example was a dance challenge by Drake for his song ‘In My feelings’. Other examples:
- Doja Cat – Say So (Three weeks as No.1 on the Billboard charts)
- Kanye West with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dollar $ – New Body (Nicki Minaj’s verse went viral)
- Megan the Stallion with Beyonce – Savage remix
South Africa’s top TikTok influencers include:
- Wian Magician
- Daniel Vermaak
- Chane Grobler
- Jessica Ballinger
- Troy Shepherds
- Witney Ramabulana
- Connor Weyer
- Kelly Kikx
For Dolinschek, a campaign she enjoyed seeing come to life and which attained great results was an awareness drive that aimed to push customers to specific deals for a local mobile network provider. “The premise was that because people need to connect more than ever during this time, they wanted to create awareness of their great deals that saved people money. The response was incredible and proved that the brand tapped into a specific need South Africans were faced with.
The strategy was to use existing brand customers as nano influencers to spread the word and drive audiences to the deals. They did this by telling their own stories of wanting to be connected and how they’re saving money through these deals. It worked exceptionally well because it was authentic conversations by real customers. Because nano influencers don’t have massive reach, although have highly engaged audiences, micro influencers were used to tap into bigger audiences.
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