Like many industries, COVID-19 has made a strong impact on influencer marketing: campaigns are being paused and influencers are reducing rates.
But at the same time, engagement on sponsored content is increasing as Instagram usage has increased by over 40%.
Coronavirus has impacted every corner of our lives, and yet, with strength and resilience, businesses and influencers are looking to find a new normal amid the crisis.
We asked James Nord, founder of influencer marketing platform Fohr, to share his insights and data on how COVID-19 is affecting the influencer marketing industry, and how to build a strategy while the future is uncertain:
Influencer Marketing During COVID-19: How Audience Engagement Has Changed
About a month ago, the Fohr team started to prepare for the effects of COVID-19 on the influencer marketing industry.
We started to dig into how influencer marketing budgets could change and the potential challenges that influencers may face.
We also wanted to be prepared to support our audience in a sensitive marketing landscape and guide our community on identifying a brand tone in a time of crisis.
Our aim is to be able to provide as many useful insights as possible for our community, and we continue to share everything we know on our dedicated Understanding COVID-19 resource page.
As the likelihood of COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic became more likely, one thing we were prepared for was an increase in influencer marketing and digital marketing spend, as more and more people spend time on their phones instead of socializing in real life.
And part of this prediction has already come to fruition. Our research shows that the average screen time is up to 5h40m per day, an 18% increase from weeks prior.
We assume this will only continue to increase or at the very least stay the same, while we continue to socially distance ourselves from the non-digital world.
For brands, all is not lost when it comes to audience engagement.
As more and more people turn to e-commerce, there is an opportunity to put out impactful messaging that will nurture your current customers and provide value to them during these completely unforeseen circumstances.
When we analyzed influencers’ patterns, we noted that because screen time is increasing, so is the standard of content.
A big learning for us has been that the more time people are spending consuming content, the more time they are spending monitoring said content. Mistakes seem more egregious than they did pre-COVID-19 and striking the correct tone in your visuals and captions is vital.
Followers are paying attention to this new era of content creation, with nearly 80% of influencers reporting higher engagement from their followers.
What followers are looking for right now are friends and familiar faces that they trust and who symbolize a sense of normalcy from a time before this global pandemic.
The opportunity here is to engage audiences with content that is hyper-aware of and sensitive to its surroundings. People are much more likely to engage with content that is authentic and tasteful, than that which is ignorant of extenuating circumstances.
If you’re struggling to know what to post right now, find your niche and voice in this situation.
Speak about the current climate in a way that shows your audience you are engaged and dedicated to being part of the solution, rather than the problem.
For example, Chriselle Lim has been sharing the realities of their family trying to work from home while also taking care of two young children at home. Her captions are real and relatable, while also offering a few tips that have helped their family.
This content is paired alongside her sponsored content, which she continues to post, but in a thoughtful manner that doesn’t ignore the new normal for many people:
We discussed influencer and brand challenges (and how to overcome them) in our first-ever digital summit: The State of Influence During COVID-19.
In conversation with Grace Atwood, Chriselle Lim, Reesa Lake, and Matthew Kobach, we heard from influencers, brand, and agency perspectives — shedding light on the challenges that each group is facing and best practices for how to cope moving forward.
You can watch the replay here:
Looking for more resources and advice? Later has created a dedicated COVID-19 resource page to help brands, businesses, and influencers navigate the uncertain waters together. Check it out here.
Influencer Marketing During COVID-19: The Impact on Marketing Budgets
A second scenario that we prepared for was marketing budgets, in general, being tightened exponentially, with every dollar spent being much more scrutinized.
This is definitely true. As companies make cuts in drastic ways in order to ensure their survival, influencers, in general, are reducing their rates in order to continue getting business.
We sent out a survey to influencers in our community and collected 500 responses on their practices during COVID-19. Our results found that over 40% of influencers currently are reducing their normal rates, and the reductions average at 30%.
Influencers, you have an opportunity here to think of your most admired brands and reach out to them to see how you can help.
If you’re reducing your rates and getting creative with production, chances are, brands are doing the same. Who do you want to work with? Do you have ideas on how you can help them market? Now’s the time to get in touch.
Influencer Marketing During COVID-19: How to Plan for the Future
We also thought about future challenges that would be presented to certain influencers — specifically, those that rely heavily on travel for their campaigns, as well as intricate photography shoots that require sets, locations, and (of course) being outside of one’s home.
This has started to ring true, as the same survey above revealed that 20% of influencers have had 100% of their campaigns paused or put on hold until further notice.
Fortunately, very few campaigns are getting fully canceled, but there will definitely be a lull in a larger scale, travel-heavy campaigns until the world edges back to normal.
So What Can Be Done to Shoulder These Challenging Times?
Thankfully, brands, businesses, and influencers have risen to the challenge and have found ways to support each other, whether through useful COVID-19 resource pages, financial relief programs or aid, or simply continuing to engage and support on social media.
If you’re an influencer who has had your campaigns put on hold, it’s time to start thinking about creative ways to keep up your sponsored content.
Are there brands you’ve always wanted to partner with but never have? Reach out to them, offer to participate in a (remote) gifting or a free post.
Many brands are in need of content creators that can work outside a traditional, commercial/editorial scope and would greatly benefit from one-stop-shop advertisers such as influencers.
If you’re a brand, start to think outside the box of who best represents your mission, vision, and values during this time.
Take for example Sephora. The beauty giant has created an online portal to apply to be part of their 2020 influencer marketing program: #SephoraSquad.
With applications extended to accommodate COVID-19, the brand is seeking a new crew of “unique, unfiltered, sorry-not-sorry storytellers with a diverse range of followers, points of view, and interests.”
Search for the content creators that are true ambassadors for your brand — not necessarily those with the largest following, but those with the most personal connection to your product and service who will be able to be your brand voice for the millions of eyes and ears that are on social media right now.
To help you, Fohr is giving free access to our influencer platform to any brand. What we can offer is what we do best, connecting brands to influencers and creating community — even in the most trying times.
Many audiences are relying on influencers for both their sponsored and non-sponsored content. There’s value in both the escapism aspect — being able to distance oneself from the news and buy a new hydrating sheet mask — as well as the authentic, transparent posts from influencers about how they are coping with the situation and assuring their followers that they aren’t alone.
Right now, social media is a time for community, not competition. The influencers that are tapping into that are finding a way to keep their followers more engaged and use Instagram as a uniting, connecting, force for good.
Many predictions that we made have yet to be expanded upon, but we are committed to continue monitoring the situation and providing our community with the best insights that we can.
Knowledge share is more important than ever in unprecedented times, and we will make it out only by working hard and working together.
Looking for tips on how to communicate on social media during Covid-19? Read our blog post here next, or sign up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date: