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Here’s Where Influencers Belong in Your COVID-19 Marketing Strategy

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During #SMWONE Miki Rai and ViacomCBS’ Harvey Schwartz underscored now more than ever consumers crave a light-hearted distraction that speaks the truth through entertaining content.

Join us for #SMWONE May 5 - 28, 2020 and hear from 300+ speakers across 150 sessions.


In a pandemic that seems to suck the productivity and optimism out of the country, there are some individuals and some companies that are seeing creativity in ways that may be here to last. Two of those individuals — Harvey Schwartz, SVP Talent, ViacomCBS — and Miki Rai, a registered nurse with 1.2 million followers on Tik Tok sat down during #SMWONE to discuss how they’ve managed to navigate these difficult times.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Influencers offering a sense of positivity and normlacy are winning
  • Choosing trusted partners ise essential, especially for healthcare influencers
  • Be true to what you preach or don’t bother

Miki Rai didn’t follow the path of  your typical “influencer.”  She was born in Japan, moved to the U.S. when she was three years old and decided she wanted to choose a life-changing profession as a nurse when she was in high school. She was a natural, always had a love for posting videos, and when she was in nursing school she would post what she was learning. But who knew sharing a photo of her and a few friends in scrubs out front of a hospital at 6AM before their shift would go viral.

How does a nurse — or any non-celebrity — manage to build 1.4 million TikTok followers? Schwartz has an idea. “Influence has always been kind of a buy product of someone delivering and entertaining a useful connection to an audience whether it is a musician delivering an emotional performance, a yoga instructor teaching spirituality, a nurse tik-toking,” he said. During a pandemic that has serious global implications, the typical ways for building good content have to shift.

COVID-19 changes to the world

This has been an unprecedented time in history where no one is sure what the future holds, and days are blending together. Influencers are unknowingly finding organic opportunities to connect with their followers without a roadmap. On the other hand, followers are looking to influencers for a sense of positivity and normalcy.

Miki Rai couldn’t be a better example of this type of influencer. Rai’s reputation went from 0-100 on all of her social media platforms. By posting content that seemed so simple to her, her engagement levels went through the roof, and she’s so pivotal and useful to a growing list of followers on every channel during the pandemic. Even her handwashing videos are getting close to 15,000 likes on Instagram, all while it not being her main channel. Connecting her knowledge of nursing to social media during a crucial time, was the perfect recipe for her fame.

Choosing Trusted Brand Partners is Essential for Healthcare Influencers

Every content creator, ambassador, brand, and/or sponsor are all trying to figure out the right way to tell stories. Being a licensed professional, Rai is already held to a higher standard. Specifically, she cannot promote unhealthy habits because it would be a recipe for disaster for one’s health and essentially a double standard. In terms of content Rai believes, “when working with healthcare professionals it’s important that when choosing a brand/sponsorships to be careful of brands putting words in your mouth.” In other words, content creators need to stay true to their personal goals when agreeing to partnerships and be sure not to lose control of their own brand.

Practice what you preach

Being open and honest builds trust. Brands need to remember that if they are not true to what they preach, they are going to lose trust from their consumers. This works both ways for the influencer as well.

If the brand doesn’t match the influencer’s mission statement, influencers should not partner with brands. Influencers should not risk losing their credibility for just any brand/partnership opportunity. It is not worth losing your followers to distrust.

“When every content creator starts out, it is really important to outline what your mission is,” explains Rai. From the very beginning, before the coronavirus pandemic, her mission was to educate/inform. Post coronavirus, her goal is still the same. Harvey went on to ask if there would ever be a ‘fork in the road’, splitting two lanes one becoming a full-time influencer and the other continuing to be a telemedicine nurse. All in all, Rai explained that she would never give up nursing, this is her main priority no matter where social media takes her.

“Influence is an undercurrent and is deep-rooted in our culture, in the last 10 years it has been amplified by our social feeds,” said Harvey Schwartz.

The big takeaway: People want relatable exchanges so they can connect on a different level. Sometimes all they need is a light-hearted distraction that speaks the truth through entertaining content during these difficult times. While this pandemic reaches new places, it’s equally as important for credible influencers with significant audiences to make useful information go viral.

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