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  • Writer's pictureAina Ilunga

Influencer Marketing during a Pandemic: Expectations vs. Reality

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

It comes as no surprise that during the Covid-19 crisis many of us look to our social media platforms for up-to-date information on the virus, how to stay safe, but also for entertainment and ways to escape everyday life while things slowly get back to normal after the lock-down.

Choosing the right platform is key

Influencer posts and influencer marketing has increased since the global pandemic started earlier this year, with TikTok in particular seeing a 23% rise in average viewing time and that number increasing on a monthly basis. In fact, 56% of brands plan to include TikTok in their future influencer marketing strategies in 2020, a platform largely driven by user generated content as well as Generation Z influencers.

TikTok reached two billion downloads in April 2020 and had the highest engagement on any social media platform according to Influencer marketing Hub. TikTok is a social platform that has become addictive and one can spend hours swiping up on videos. Commercially led videos are very smoothly integrated into the short video format making it a great platform to organically advertise products and services that are relevant during the global pandemic - such as food delivery services and meal kits.

Your favourite influencer is going live

Live streaming has always been a feature that influencers used, however, with influencers finding new ways to connect with their audience there has been a drastic increase of live streaming formats such as interviews, online concerts and Q&As. According to GroupHigh, in many cases, users are notified as much as 200% more often about live streams than any other activity within their social media stream.

Since brands cannot create high quality production videos with influencers showcasing their products, influencers have had the opportunity to advertise these products in a much more natural and authentic way. Instead of shooting a video about how to incorporate a new skin care product into their life, the influencer would now host a Live stream where she speaks about her favourite beauty products that she genuinely uses during lockdown. Users do hear the product review by means of the influencer`s voice instead of the voice of a total stranger in a paid-for-commercial. By incorporating live streams into their content, influencers are turning social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram into places where users spend more time connecting with the brands they know and trust.

Live streams and webinars allow influencers to talk and interact with their followers in real- time, making the experience feel more intimate and personal, as if you’re having a conversation with a friend. Live videos have also allowed influencers to bring their followers on their lockdown-journey offering them real life tips on how to cope during the pandemic that has left many feeling alone and scared.

The pandemic has also allowed influencers to be a lot more vulnerable, relying on their followers for support which makes them a lot more relatable than before the global crisis.

Curated vs. spontaneous

Now more than ever people are craving social media content that is authentic and relevant – it is very easy to spot content that isn’t. Influencers understand that they are catering for their followers` needs and that’s how they bring value to our lives, as fashion and beauty influencer Mikai Mcdermott says, “People aren’t concerned with my regular content right now. They don’t want to see me only talking about make-up or fashion. They want to know how my family is, how I’m doing, how my mental health is”. In the era of COVID-19, people want to connect with influencers on a personal level, which means that they are mostly not focusing on how to live an aspirational lifestyle, but rather sharing relatable stories and tips on how to best get by during the pandemic.

Brands need to consider this when partnering up with Influencers, and carefully think through the message they want to portray about their brand. For example a UK based pharmacy partnered up with influencer Madeline Shaw to discuss how she has adapted to a new life during lockdown, rather than having Madeline doing the usual pushing of beauty products.

The Covid-19 crisis has forced us out of a curated social media space and into a more organic and spontaneous space. Travel bloggers can no longer take us on adventures through Fishriver Canyon or view Cape Town’s magnificent sunsets from Table Mountain. They had to become creative in producing content and to think outside the box.

Lock-down landscape

Since influencers cannot create their ‘usual’ content such as posting travel blogs, restaurant reviews or OOTD (outfit of the day) Instagram posts they have to be a lot more creative and offer value to people’s lives with newer, fresher and more relevant content.

Local digital content creator Woven, who is a travel and lifestyle influencer, posted a YouTube video about easy meal