Love them, or hate them, influencers have continued to become one of the strongest marketing tools for brands. According to Business Insider Intelligence, the influencer marketing industry reached $8 billion in 2019, with the projection to hit $15 billion by 2022¹. Year after year, brands have significantly reduced their marketing dollars on print ad media, or tv advertising. Instead, they are cutting large checks to influencers with niche, trusted audiences.
However, gone are the days of our social media feeds being filled with luxury travel vacations, shopping hauls, and chai latte runs. Now that everyone is stuck at home, these influencers will need to adapt more than ever to remain relevant and relatable during this time.
For an influencer, so much of their image is based off of the idea of ‘aspiration’. Essentially, curating the ‘perfect’ life to their audience. In the midst of a global pandemic, this is near impossible. When it comes down to it, we are all experiencing the same thing. Money, class, and status can’t ‘buy’ you out of it. Therefore, influencers will need to creatively think about changing their message during this time.
Now that we all have more time on our hands, many of us are turning to social media for entertainment. In the midst of a crisis, social media usage has rapidly increased. A recent study of 25,000 consumers across 30 markets showed engagement increasing to 61% over normal usage rates. Twitter is seeing 23% more daily users than a year ago, while messaging across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp has increased by nearly 50%².
Nevertheless, with all this extra time, the majority of society has become more hyperaware and grounded in what really matters. With a deathly virus looming in our world, trivial topics such as beauty hauls, home renovations, and spin classes are becoming irrelevant. For some, even rude. How can one post a $1,000 shopping haul, while our loved ones are getting sick? Influencers need to take a cold hard look at what they are showing their audiences during this time and re-evaluate their values.
Topics such as health and charity seem to be positive talking points for influencers these days. Using their platform to shoutout small businesses that may need help, charities who require donations, or offering at-home workouts to motivate those of us at home is a productive use of their influence. I believe that the influencers who adapt to these trends will remain relatable to their audiences.
As a travel influencer myself, I saw first hand how some of my fellow creators reacted when the news first broke of the virus. With travel as our niche, many decided to stay in place and not return to their hometown. The severity of the situation was not yet clear, and many believed they would be fine staying in their hotels. Needless, to say, three weeks later they were on the phone negotiating with airlines, paying extra money to change flights, and returning home.
The travel industry has been hit particularly hard. Creators in this niche have been forced to adapt creatively. Photographing ourselves visiting the Great Wall of China, or documenting our fifteen-hour train ride through India is no longer an option. For me personally, I have taken this time to invest in writing about my travels, creating a blog, and practicing my photography skills at home. In many ways, I see this virus as a blessing in disguise. It has allowed for more self-reflection, and evaluation. We need to take a minute and think critically about what content we engage in and how it makes us feel.
So while the idea of the influencer is not going anywhere any time soon, the idea of a ‘perfect life’ is. Influencers will need to re-brand themselves if they want to remain relevant.
: Audrey Schomer. (December 17, 2019). Influencer Marketing: State of the social media influencer market in 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/influencer-marketing-report
: Kantar Study. (April 3, 2020). COVID-19 Barometer: Consumer attitudes, media habits, and expectations. https://www.kantar.com/Inspiration/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Barometer-Consumer-attitudes-media-habits-and-expectations