Influence in Lockdown: Acts, Not #Ads
Photo credit: @space.ram.
Covid-19 has slashed budgets and quickened brands' shift to e-commerce, digital communications, and influencers. Right now, as many as 94% of consumers are in a state of anxiety (GWI). However, that anxiety has not translated into a desire to be isolated from brands. Kantar recorded a recent study across 30 countries that revealed only 8% of consumers believe that brands should stop advertising. Whilst influencer trust is a debated topic, a recent Neilson report indicated that 92% of consumers are more likely to trust a message from an individual person than a brand - regardless of whether you’ve physically met or know that person.
Influencers are in a unique position as they are both the potential audiences and the potential ambassadors of brands. They exist at that intersection of living and representing the anxiety of the consumer, but also having their livelihood depend on consumer-facing communications, some of which have to be brand collaborations. Many have spent years building a digital community, and their futures will be shaped by how they acted during the greatest shift of consumer habits in living memory.
A Necessary New Era
Like all advertisers, influencers are more aware than ever over how their messaging lands. Currently, a focus on product marketing is not the answer. Kanter reported that across 25,000 consumers, 77% desired brands to lead with how they can help day-to-day life, rather than advertise their product.
For influencers, this translates into a re-focus on two ‘authentic’ aspects of the market - creativity and community. Traditionally, Whalar only works with premium content creators, those who are followed for the content they produce not for who they are. However, looking at the wider industry, there has been a clear shift away from what marketers would refer to as ‘aspirational’ content since Covid-19.
Authenticity, the fabled word, is now the apex of influencer content. As we’ve all stayed indoors, Creators cannot rely upon curated lifestyles or idealised versions of reality. Content has been grounded, stripped down, and become increasingly relatable. Social media trends have been re-written, and the Creators who are gaining momentum are those using their influence to directly help others. Such as sharing of government messages to stay at home, maintaining social distancing, or creatively combining emotive imagery with fact-filled captions.
The Shift in Social Activity
As of right now, consumers are spending more time than ever online. Since lockdown began, there has been a 90% increase in download traffic and, crucially for influencers, there has been a 76% increase to engagement on #ad content.
From the influencers on the Whalar platform alone, we have seen a staggering 23.3% daily increase of content produced post lockdown. People are at home, either bored or worried, and want to connect. Looking further afield, the Google search for ‘How To Make A TikTok’ has increased by 400% since March 1st.
Whalar platform data showing Follower Reach Rate (FRR) trend, pre and post-lockdown.
As the graph above shows, as social media usage increases, as does an influencer’s FRR (ability to reach more people). The data indicates that overall reach was trending down until March - when global lockdowns began - before it performed a clear u-turn and started to rise.
Put simply, more followers are spending more time online and are being reached by more content.
However, the rise of ‘relatable’ content has triggered a content overload. As the majority of homemade content is naturally lower quality, there is likely to be more of it as it’s easier to produce. But this is not to say lower-quality content is not valuable. Instead, influencers must provide meaning in what they are posting beyond their profile.
Take Inspiration, Not Aspiration
For brands, successful campaigns have (nearly) detached themselves from what they produce and played on emotive messaging. Apple’s, “Creativity goes on” and Cadbury’s “This Doesn’t Need to End” can be looked as benchmarks the power of relevant advertising during the lockdown.
In particular, Apple’s was lower quality and relatable in comparison to their usual sleek, large-scale production finish. This strategy echoes the value of influencer content. Which, at its core, only requires two ingredients - a camera and internet connection.
Influencer campaigns now must attach themselves to a greater purpose and lean more into the Creator’s individuality. Creators who are cutting through the noise are that balancing creativity they can produce at home or stripping themselves down to their followers.
Less “Check out my 7-day cleanse” and more, “I’m feeling shit and worried, you’re not alone”.
Whalar Creators’s @teber (left) and @chessiekingg (right). Two very different styles of creativity, both resonating with their audiences.
Creators who are experiencing growth are those who are adapting their messages whilst playing into their strengths.
Bringing a clear voice to what is being posted, whether that sits in outright creative talent, community-driven messaging, social issues, or somewhere in between - is crucial to engaging with consumers. Ultimately, it is the ability influencers have to intimately connect with their followers that is their fundamental value to brands.
Creators with influence can capture the human condition more authentically and quickly than even the most socially dynamic brands. As we move further and further away from product selfies and memories of the Fyre Festival, social media is fast becoming the forefront currency for brands to exchange with consumers.