Influencers have proven to be one of the most powerful tools in modern marketing. The payoff is clear, but is it an outdated concept or is it the future? media update’s Taylor Goodman dissects the longevity of influencer marketing. 

When used in tandem with a solid social media strategy, influencers can completely transform a brand. Why is influencer marketing so effective, you ask? Well, seeing as influencers are trusted figures within niche communities, they are accessible to the consumer and come across as authentic. This trust builds consumer loyalty, a crucial aspect of any thriving business. 

Influencers mainly do business independently by creating content that is suited to the brands they’re working with and the brand’s advertising guidelines. An example of a brand that has mastered the art of influencer marketing is online retail giant Revolve, which has built a market capitalisation value of nearly $1.5-billion through social media starlets. 

The retailer built its brand through Instagram and sends clothes to trendsetters with large followings. In exchange, the influencers post about it and tag them. Revolve continues to grow on social media, promoting its brand through fully-funded influencer getaways and even hosting events at famed music festival Coachella.

Is influencer marketing the future?

The influencer’s role in CSR

During times of crisis, businesses must have a solid corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan. According to Grinbrands need to focus on marketing to benefit the consumer”, and influencers can be of great assistance in this regard. 

Businesses that employ influencer marketing as a part of their CSR strategy can build a stronger bond with their consumer through impactful messaging from the influencer. 

Here, the influencer plays the role of a trustee — someone who, instead of pushing a product, helps to create awareness around a particular issue and inform their audience about what they can do to stay safe.

The interaction between influencers and their followers will not only extend as brand’s reach in a way that engages their ideal customer but also builds on consumer trust and loyalty.

An example of a powerful COVID-19 influencer marketing campaign is the World Health Organisation’s ‘#SafeHandsChallenge’. Here, celebrities and influencers alike have posted videos of themselves washing their hands, accompanied by the hashtag on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. 

This campaign gained major traction on social media, with the ‘#SafeHands’ hashtag being used 3.6 billion times on TikTok alone. Not only did this challenge spread awareness of the disease, but it also was a fun and engaging way to educate viewers. 

The influencer’s relationship with the consumer

Marketing during a pandemic can be tricky, as brands need to be sensitive and cognisant of what consumers are going through. Influencers can help businesses advertise content with the consumer in mind as they tend to only partner with brands that align with their values and that they believe have their followers’ best interests in mind. 

One of the main reasons why influencer marketing tactics are so effective is because the influencer’s following believes that they have their best interests at heart when promoting a product. This is proven by Takumi, which reported that 60% of 16 to 24 year olds credit influencers for a recent purchase. 

Influencers' relationships with their followers aren't always strictly business. As most people are living in isolation, they find themselves with more time on their hands and hungry for content. During these times, consumers tend to use social media as an escape, with a study by Later showing that the average screen time during isolation is up to five hours and 40 minutes per day

Influencers play a unique role of being actors in this diversion, creating content that takes their followers’ minds away from the dubiousness of being in isolation. Followers find themselves looking for a familiar face or a friend that can coach them through these uncertain times, which has led to influencers having morphed into what Forbes dubs as the ‘homefluencer.’ 

Here, influencers are having to reinvent their content from globe-trotting, event attending personalities to a more wholesome ideal. An example of this is Instagram fitness influencers like Joe Wicks (@thebodycoach) positing at-home workouts and health tips. This provides his followers with content that keeps them active and allows them to take a mental break from negativity. 

The pitfalls of influencer marketing during COVID-19

Despite the many benefits of influencer marketing, some personalities are finding themselves strained during these difficult economic times.

As businesses are doing what they can to stay afloat, many are cancelling sponsorship deals and events. While it is proven that the versatility of the influencer could be useful to digital and social media marketing strategies, this will be almost impossible for businesses to integrate if they do not have the means to endure the storm. 

Here, businesses and influencers alike have to look at the big picture and consider how Coronavirus will change the landscape of marketing forever.

Influencers — specifically travel bloggers, Instagrammers and Youtubers — will battle the most during the pandemic. Influencer marketing firm Izea reports an expected drop of 15%- 25% in the price for sponsored Instagram posts, one of their main sources of income. To adapt, these personalities are having to drop their rates to stay in business, with Later reporting rate reductions are averaging at 30%

In an article for Business Insider, travel blogger and Instagram influencer Oneika Raymond explains that “companies are reluctant to take on anything new, and therefore, that is impacting the income of creators.” 

Gone are the days of shooting campaigns in any location you choose as well as lavish brand trips for social media campaigns. If influencers find themselves unable to adapt to the changing economic climate, and cannot relate to their audience authentically, they may just be out of a job.

What is your opinion on the future of influencer marketing? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to know more about marketing during COVID-19? Be sure to check out How to optimise your digital marketing during COVID-19
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy