Many influencer marketing campaigns have been halted or completely cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, as brands put the brakes on any activity that could be deemed insensitive in the current climate.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these campaigns have been related to the promotion of future events that are now not happening, or certain industries that have been overtly affected by the pandemic (such as travel and hospitality). At the same time, brands are simply very wary of coming off as flippant or perhaps allocating marketing spend that can’t always be tracked to sales, during a period of such uncertainty and upheaval for us all.
But while brands might be struggling to find a way forward for advertising, there is still huge scope for social content, with influencers in particular being well-equipped to adapt to the current situation – and the changing behaviour of consumers that we are seeing as a result. An increase in social media usage, and the deliberate seeking out of content that people might find helpful during self-isolation could potentially be grist to the mill.
So, what kind of influencer content are we now seeing on social media? Here’s a look at how some are effectively adapting strategies. If you want to find out more on how Covid-19 is impacting influencer marketing, check out Influencer Intelligence’s aforementioned report on the topic, What COVID-19 Means for Influencer Marketing.
Live-streaming grows in popularity
Live streams have always been a popular form of content for influencers, allowing them to talk to and interact with audiences in real-time. Self-isolation has resulted in people increasingly looking to build and maintain connections, and a surge of this type of content happening online. Live streaming platform, Twitch, saw a rise in viewership of 10% during the weekend of March 14th, as viewers increase time spent on gaming and other forms of digital entertainment.
Fitness is another sector that has capitalised on live-streaming, with influencers like Joe Wicks (aka The Body Coach) streaming live P.E workouts each morning for kids stuck at home. Each video has amassed well over 1m views so far, which is over twice the amount of views Wicks’ videos usually generate. Others, such as London Fitness Guy, and Katie Dunlop, have also seen increased engagement on live fitness videos, as users enjoy the sense of community and encouragement that comes from working out with other people at the same time.
As the weeks go on, we could see brands getting involved with this type of content, as well as in other areas such as live-streamed cooking, baking, or beauty tutorials – as long as they are mindful about tone and messaging. Interestingly, a recent survey found that consumers do not want to see brands stop advertising altogether. Kantar found that just 8% of global consumers (out of 35,000 surveyed) want to see brands stop advertising, giving hope to influencers who rely on brand deals and sponsorships.
If brands continue to shy away, it’s been reported that some platforms are investigating new revenue streams for creators who are seeing high levels of engagement (but also experiencing refusal from their usual brand sponsors).
Brand purpose comes to the forefront
Influencer marketing has always been a way for brands to promote purpose-driven campaigns; capitalising on the often wide reach of influencers in order to get a specific message across.
Influencers can also act as an example of ‘doing good’, with audiences more willing to follow the advice of someone they like or trust rather than a large or faceless brand.
In Finland, the government has enlisted influencers to help communicate information about the pandemic, suggesting that they can be just as useful as mainstream media in getting a message across. Interestingly, Finland is also the first country that has marked social media influencers as ‘key workers’ (or ‘critical actors’ as they’re also known) for their ability to spread useful information in a crisis.
As coronavirus has unfolded, we’ve seen influencers elsewhere also help to spread the message of first social distancing and then self isolation.
The World Health Organisation enlisted a number of global influencers for the ‘Safe Hands Challenge’ – its campaign to encourage people across the world wash their hands properly in the fight against coronavirus. Other celebrities including Selena Gomez and Kate Winslet have also picked up on the challenge, helping to further amplify the message.
Elsewhere, influencers and celebrities have collaborated to create the #StayHome video, which was published on the popular Sidemen YouTube channel. Not only did the video aim to encourage the message, but Sidemen also stated that any advertising revenue earned would go towards the NHS. Again, we could see brands getting more involved in these types of influencer partnerships going forward, or enlisting influencers to promote their own initiatives, which aim to spread a positive message as well as generate funds for those in need.
Tik-Tok engagement soars
While overall use of social media is up, certain platforms in particular are seeing big spikes. According to MBW, TikTok saw downloads in the US reach 6.2m in March, up 27% compared to 4.9m downloads in February. TikTok also saw a 12% rise in global downloads in a single week, going from 25.4m on March 9th to 28.5m on March 16th.
Many people are surely turning to the short-form video app for escapism, but coronavirus-related content is also growing, with trends often started or popularised by influencers. On the other hand, these types of viral videos can also turn small creators into bigger influencers. One example is Rachel Leary, who recently created a viral video of herself ‘raving to the BBC News theme tune’, and now has over 19,000 followers on the platform as a result.
Stuck at home and needing creative inspiration? The, um, BBC News theme tune is here for you… https://t.co/bRaR5kkpIM
— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) March 24, 2020
As users spend more time scrolling on apps like TikTok, influencers are also seeing an increase in engagement on sponsored posts. A study by influencer marketing agency Obviously recently revealed that there has been a 27% increase in engagement on sponsored posts on TikTok between February and March. Again, this aligns with the findings from Kantar’s survey, suggesting that users are still open to ads – as long as they are not overtly insensitive.
More solutions-based content
Finally, a big trend that we are likely to continue to see is the kind of solutions-based content that influencers are shifting to. This could be anything from instructional or tutorial-style guidance, to advice on self-help or well-being. It’s also the case that influencers are turning to more interactive and community-building content. In short: anything fun or enjoyable that can help audiences pass the time whilst at home.
According to Influencer Intelligence, influencers such as Katie Snooks are using Instagram Stories to create quizzes and other forms of interactive content. The report suggests that this could be another way forward for brands hoping to connect with consumers in the coming weeks. It states that, “inevitably, for those brands that facilitate greater connectivity or can enhance lifestyles through isolation, the ability to commercially communicate appropriately via influencer marketing is far easier.”
Ironically, for an industry that has been a source of derision in the past – with people now searching for a sense of ‘community’ more than ever – influencer marketing is suddenly more relevant than ever before, too.