As the near-term effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue to be felt across the global economy, businesses and creators in the influencer-marketing industry are doing their best to adapt. As with most businesses in the ad industry, professionals are trimming budgets, cancelling events, and looking for alternative revenue streams.
As people are forced to change their normal routines, and with much more time spent at home without face to face social interaction, they find new creative ways to gain fulfilment. Digital connectivity has been the safety net in keeping society running, and as people have turned to online channels and platforms to fulfil their needs, they’ve also uncovered the benefits of using them.
At a time when brand building and audience engagement is absolutely key, influencer marketing is giving brands an essential means to reach and engage audiences in ways which are meaningful and relevant to them. At the same time, influencer marketing is set to be a strategic tool to build up a brand’s position as we start to approach the ‘new normal’.
Lockdown trends: more social media usage and a shift in content
During the outbreak, many of us have undeniably had more time on our hands at home.
In a recent research performed by globalwebindex.com and influencer.com, they found that 72% of consumers who follow influencers in the U.S. and the UK say they’re spending more time on social media per day since the outbreak of coronavirus. Around two-thirds also say they’re likely to continue using social media to the same extent once restrictions are lifted.
During the lockdown social media has grown to become a place to consume entertaining content, to discover new products and services, and to interact with brands.
Digging deeper, we can also see a shift in the type of content users seem to enjoy online. Since the outbreak, categories like news and current affairs, food, physical wellbeing/fitness, and health food/nutrition have experienced the biggest growth in new followers.
Most of us re-discovered the pleasure of cooking at home or simply had more time to do it (or no other choice with the restaurants closed!). Food influencers have proven their ability to keep us wanting more. Not only were food influencers the top accounts followed before the outbreak, but 26% of consumers in the research also say they’ve started following food creators during lockdown – clearly showing the expanded reach of this category.
As might be expected, consumers are also turning more toward physical wellbeing and health and nutrition categories. Exercise at home was the top activity that consumers expect to continue doing more of after the outbreak is over.
Consumers also seem to enjoy more uplifting, humorous content. 65% of internet users in the U.S. and the UK approve of brands providing funny/light-hearted videos or content to entertain people during the outbreak. Memes or funny content is the top choice especially for Gen Z customers, while Gen X and baby boomers seem to prefer how-to and tutorials.
According to the same research,30% of consumers who follow influencers say they follow them to learn about new products and brands and 68% say they’ve researched a product/service after viewing a creator’s post. The main motivators to follow influencers is to learn something new (51%), for entertaining/uplifting content (49%), or to pass the time (49%).
What is the role of brands?
Consumers who follow influencers want brands to be informative (47%), to be a source of positivity (41%), to stand for something/have a purpose (37%), and to be more human/have a personality (35%).
This isn’t something which was born out of the pandemic; it’s a sentiment that has been growing for some time. But under the current circumstances and with the huge economic implications that all economies will have to face in the next months or years, empathy and humanity are sentiments which have been propelled. Younger generations are more likely to be negatively impacted by the current economic situation, and Gen Zs weren’t old enough to remember the 2008 recession. Brands can establish a more meaningful connection by having a more human and personal approach. Additionally, 31% of internet users say that brands which helped during the outbreak would influence who they buy from also after this is over. Consumers are looking to brands to lead the way.
How can influencer marketing help brands during and after the Covid-19 pandemic?
Just over 2 in 5 consumers who follow influencers say that creators offered welcome distractions and helped them feel positive, which closely ties with what consumers expect from brands in the future too. Influencers provided a greater sense of community during the outbreak and it’s easy to see why people might feel more lonely or isolated, with many being unable to see family members or friends. As a result, many people are turning to social media and messaging apps to fill this gap, stay connected and retain a sense of normalcy.
Overall, the research highlights the hugely positive impact creators have had on followers during the outbreak. This could potentially have a knock-on, beneficial impact on influencer trust, highlighting just how important creators are in helping brands to meet consumers’ changing expectations.
As a result of the pandemic, many influencers have been forced to pursue new revenue streams and content strategies. Whether that’s diversifying themselves onto different platforms like YouTube and TikTok, or pivoting their offerings into alternatives such as print, illustrations, or paid Zoom sessions. The unique circumstances have provided them with more opportunities to engage with their followers.
In the world of influencer marketing, trust and authenticity are some of the most-used words. But there’s a good reason for this. Trustworthiness is crucial to influencer marketing success – it’s the backbone to building relationships with consumers. More superficial features like follower count or the number of likes are not important determinants overall for influencer trust. Instead, followers value a creator’s passion for what they do, transparency about brand partnerships, and their knowledge of the product or service above all else. All of this shows how crucial it is for brands to make sure the creator is the right fit for their brand, by being selective and ensuring an influencer closely aligns with their values.
Influencers and brand discovery
One-third of all generations included in the research say they discover brands through ads seen on social media. Gen Z is also much more inclined to discover brands through endorsements or recommendations from creators they follow and they’re are just as likely to be discovering brands via influencer recommendations as they are via search engines.
Across all generations, around 30% of consumers who follow influencers say they use social networks for product research. This underscores the importance of social media and influencer-based content in building brand awareness –and this importance increases especially among younger audiences.
Among followers who specifically discover brands/products through influencers, the top two reasons for doing this are to see the product in action (58%) and to find products that they wouldn’t have found otherwise (56%), with just 34% saying it was for offers and promotions. This highlights influencer marketing’s unique ability to advertise in a way that is welcomed by an audience, not for a financial incentive, but because they know it’s well-targeted and provides an authentic opportunity to see the product in action from someone they trust.
The way consumer behaviours have changed during the pandemic is set to stay
Throughout the lockdown, consumers started shopping online more, and we expect this to last after the outbreak: they’re consuming more media content; they’re cooking more often at home, and intend to visit restaurants less once restrictions are lifted; they’re practising more distanced learning – to name just a few.
As a result, many categories are set to benefit. Consumers who follow influencers have purchased products in beauty/personal care, fashion, entertainment subscriptions, and food delivery services/cooking kits the most over the past 2 months. A steep increase in the use of online education platforms is also on the agenda. Similarly, travel is also likely to experience a bounce-back as an intention to purchase holidays and flights after the restrictions are lifted increases.
Among all influencers, digital creators with specialised production skills appear to be better positioned than most to continue working with limited disruptions during an extended period of sheltering in place. As production companies shut down photo and video shoots to adhere to social-distancing measures, some brands have been turning to influencers to create advertising content.
For the first time, big brands aren’t able to make those big-budget television ads. On the other hand, you don’t need even that full-blown production anymore. YouTubers taught us that.
Despite the increased social-media usage, the prices paid per post on all social media may fall dramatically in the short term and continue to drop, depending on the length of the coronavirus outbreak and its overall impact.
In conclusion, never before influencer marketing has been under such a spotlight. Agencies and clients alike are seeing it as a budget-savvy alternative to traditional advertising at a time when consumers are looking for human connections and purpose in brands, have more time to engage and expect brands to entertain and inform them. In exchange, they offer trust and long-term loyalty.
We can’t wait to get stuck in working on our latest influencer project with Annzup, blog coming soon!