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How Influencer Marketing Has Changed Amid the Current Pandemic and How Brands and Influencers are Responding

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As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we didn’t really know how long we’d be observing stay-at-home measures. In the midst of uncertainty, marketers quickly adjusted, many pulling advertising in an effort to reassess and create a new plan. This caused a disruption for many influencers as well. No more travel, dining out, concerts, trips to the gym, afternoons in a quirky coffee shop or parties with friends. Events were canceled and as the world stopped sources of content dried up. Influencers had to reassess as well—bringing some significant changes during these months.

What’s changed?
As brands pulled advertising dollars, they also pressed pause on their influencer budgets. Large brands often have a substantial amount of their marketing budgets earmarked for influencers, sometimes over 20 percent and even up to 40 percent depending on the product and target market. However, the beginning of the pandemic saw a quick stop to many types of marketing, including engaging with influencers. In addition to be affected by this direct type of revenue cutback, influencers were also impacted with a decrease in ad spend as advertisers scrambled to reevaluate their marketing efforts. So, not only could they not receive payment from brands directly, but advertising on their channels dropped about 30 to 40 percent as well.

How have influencers adapted?
Despite this unexpected turn, influencers did what they do best. They innovated and connected with their audience in an authentic manner. They shifted gears and showed what life was like in quarantine. Instead of workout routines in a state-of-the-art gym, fitness influencers shared at-home workouts and healthful quarantine recipes. Travel influencers shared their life at home, sometimes juxtaposed with throwback images from previous trips. Beauty and fashion influencers gave tips for looking your best on a virtual meeting or fun looks for lounging at home. Plus, since the population was stuck at home engaged in social distancing, impressions were up 40 percent as people sought out content and entertainment.

Brands are reassessing
Now that brands have had time to consider their next steps, many are wading back into the marketing mix with careful planning. This also includes re-engaging with select influencers. Online shopping has obviously seen a spike during lockdown, so in some cases it makes sense for influencers to be back in the mix, as they can provide a direct link to purchase. The most important thing is that brands make sure that posts aren’t tone deaf. It’s vital that any communication takes into account that many people are still in lockdown and that the virus is still running rampant through our population. Having an authentic influencer promote the brand framed in context of the lockdown is a good path forward. Many brands are choosing to share corporate social responsibility (CSR) stories at this time.

Picking up momentum
As influencers have shown brands that they can appropriately and authentically communicate with their target during the pandemic, more brands may be eager to reengage with them. Since ecommerce is the main way a majority of the population is shopping, it makes sense that influencers could be an important piece of a brand’s pandemic marketing strategy, especially since many have invested the time and effort to sharpen their communication skills as it relates to their target market during the lockdown.