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No one predicted that a virus that emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan would take the world into its grip. All around the world, life is on standstill and most economic and social activities have come to a halt.
Influencer marketing is among many industries that have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. With sponsor deals shutting down, trips cancelled and events postponed—the once-booming influencer industry is going through a curious time.
In December of last year, Business Insider estimated that brands will invest up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. Among other things, this estimate was based on the fact that influencers proved themselves to be highly effective promotional tools. Individuals with a significant following on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook became important voices for brands that were seeking to spread their word.
But under the current crisis, influencers are not seeing money flowing into their bank accounts.
Travelling from country to country and getting paid to do so is a dream life for many. But those who have been living this dream have been struck by a harsh reality. With countries suspending air travel and companies reluctant to invest in anything new, business isn’t exactly booming for vloggers and influencers who made a living travelling around the world.
Source: Zornitsa Shahanska’s Instagram
Zornitsa Shahanska, whose Instagram page usually features captivating images of fashion and travel is feeling the impact of the pandemic. Speaking to the Wired, she exclaimed,
“In the travel sector, the future seems uncertain.”
“In the travel sector, the future seems uncertain.”
The influencer further informed that most of her trips and contracts have been either cancelled or postponed indefinitely.
Travellers who are shut off from beautiful tourists hotspot that previously dominated their Instagram feed are the worst hit in the influencer community.
People who made arguments against lockdowns felt they would devastate every section of the economy. While this is proving to be true for many industries, some businesses are thriving in a socially distant world.
Fitness creators are seeing spikes in traffic to their pages. Videos of home workouts have already garnered millions of views on Youtube. With gyms closed, people are flocking to fitness influencers on sites like Instagram and Youtube so they might stay fit during the pandemic.
Since fitness influencers often promote their own programs rather than relying on advertisements for revenue, they are surprisingly safe from the adverse effect on the lockdowns.
Influencers have always used live streams to interact with their followers in real-time and generate community engagement. Social isolation has made this form of content even more popular as people are seeking connections digitally.
Twitch, which is a top live streaming platform, saw a 10% rise in viewership during the weekend of March 14th. A similar rise was seen on Instagram as celebrities and influencers conducted live sessions. Musicians, in particular, are using Instagram to perform virtual concerts, raising relief money for charity.
Live streams are currently the only source of back-and-forth conversations between influencers and those who enjoy their content.
Brands realize that these are sensitive times. Any campaign that comes off as tone-deaf and opportunistic would be a PR disaster that will haunt them for a time to come. This is why businesses are turning towards influencers for more purpose-driven campaigns.
With audiences trusting influencers more than faceless brands, they are more effective in promoting philanthropic messages. Brands and influencers are working together to raise funds from people affected by the coronavirus pandemic as well as to pay tribute to doctors who are on the front-line.
Governments and private institutions alike are enlisting influencers to promote social distancing and other precautionary measures.
Many brands are taking the page out of Ford’s book which was quick to replace its scheduled March Madness ads with car payment relief programs. Gestures like these might be the only way brands will be able to win hearts and continue to earn goodwill in this uncertain period.
Meanwhile, influencers themselves are shifting towards more solution-based content. Be it self-help or DIY tutorials, social media figures are finding new ways to help their followers.
While campaigns are currently on a pause, influencers are reporting more engagement than ever before. Social media usage has increased exponentially with people staying indoors resulting in a dramatic traffic increase for many influencers.
Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok serve as distractions for individuals who are practising social distancing. In the early days, the same platform saw decreased engagement with Twitter dominating the online world. However, people are back on their favourite social media sites and are showing great interest in organic and non-sponsored content.
Marketing firm Influence Central conducted a survey involving 389 digital creators. All of these individuals reported an increase in engagement on different social media outlets. The report analyzed the period when states and local governments first gave out the stay-at-home orders.
Influencers put in a great effort to have a carefully curated feed. Generally, their social media depicts a dream lifestyle that prominently features designer dresses, fancy meals, and breathtaking scenery from exotic locations.
But given that people are not interested in this content at the moment, influencers are thinking out of the box. Instead of stylish halter tops from famous retailers, they can be seen in more casual clothing.
Some have taken this opportunity to discuss issues like mental health and anxiety. Others are going down the memory lane, posting images from events they attended or locations they visited years before the pandemic gripped the world.
For influencers, the primary source of income exists via brand partnership and affiliate revenue they earn through tools like exclusive digital coupon codes. Currently, both of these revenue streams are under threat.
But rest assured, influencers aren’t going anywhere and neither are the millions of their loyal followers. While the circumstances have changed around their work, what hasn’t changed is the power influencers wield over big sections of the internet.
Social media personalities are proving themselves to be flexible enough to create content that still resonates with a quarantined population. Companies are taking note of this as many brands are still going ahead with their scheduled campaigns.
Inevitably, when things go back to normal, brands would need these important voices to amplify their message on the digital realm.
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