Some weeks into the Coronavirus crisis, we’re starting to see the pandemic’s impact on our lives and our industry. Although it’s too early to predict the crisis’s full impact, we’ve asked industry experts how the pandemic has changed the way they work with influencers so far, what works and what doesn’t (anymore) for them. Our experts weigh in on the number one question: How will the pandemic’s impact shape our industry now and in the long-run?

Our experts

pandemic's impact - Marcel Heinrich

Marcel Heinrich

Senior Influencer Marketing Manager DACH at foodspring

Hannah Sollé

Community Manager at hi! share that

pandemic's impact - Marius jansen

Marius Jansen

Managing Partner at Social Match

pandemic's impact - David Völler

David Völler

Founder and CEO at ai GmbH, all impact artist management


How do brands and agencies react to the crisis so far and how does it impact their spending?

In summary, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. As the coronavirus started to gain more and more coverage, panic set in and some clients decided to cut marketing budgets, with influencer campaigns being directly affected by these actions. However, industry experts soon saw that due to the unique situation, time spent online in the private sector was booming and users were readily engaging with influencers and social media personalities. Implementing vital learnings and concentrating on the right approach, lead to the scaling of some campaigns to dimensions we have never pushed ourselves to before.

We’ve seen different reactions among different brands and industries. Some shut down all measures, some postponed their campaigns, and others started campaigns asap to benefit from the special setting. That really depends on the situation of the individual company. If revenues are at risk then marketing budgets are as well. If there is a chance to gain revenue or more market share, there is also an increased budget. We recommended freezing most influencer campaigns during the first two weeks after the lockdown to ensure appropriate communication without any risks and pitfalls.

A change is definitely noticeable. Most of the collaborations that we planned before the crisis were still completed. Regarding new campaigns and new artists, some of our clients weren’t able to proceed with new budgets. Of course, that is unfortunate, but in a crisis like this the smallest problem. A few clients asked for a change of plans, so we moved some collaborations to later dates in May, June, and July, but nothing has been completely canceled. Since we are probably not even close to the end of this crisis, I don’t want to make any premature conclusions, but especially in the beauty and fashion field, we noticed an increase in activations. But I don’t think this will result in increased profit.


What impact does the crisis have on content on social media? Is there any specific kind of content that works best or not at all?

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt around the world, our marketing teams are going the extra mile to find solutions to this challenging situation, such as implemented innovative features like social virtual gyms, live cooking classes, fitness and nutrition Q&A‘s with our experts & athletes, and influencer Instagram takeovers throughout the day. We are doing everything we can to add value to our services and support our social & influencer community as much as possible.

The extent to which coronavirus can be a focus of a campaign is a controversial topic. We assessed the situation case by case and were able to create specific campaigns based on indirect connections to the crisis, such as money-saving tips or innovative ways to keep in touch with loved ones. It is important to react to the new demands of certain target audiences. However, a strong principle that should be at the forefront of marketing activities, is that a brand can not be built upon the implications of a crisis.

We screened community reactions within social media and reviewed campaign concepts to adapted most of them. As the crisis communication settles down, we are ramping up our campaign efforts now to provide a distraction, beneficial content and relevant branded stories with help from every influencer’s individual perspective.

Especially those of our clients, which generate most or a 100% of their sales online now increasingly vet the profiles of the influencers they want to advertise with. We definitely observed that money is spent more on a smaller amount of selected targets. Some clients are temporarily deactivating their discount codes, as they won’t be able to handle increased traffic and orders since they cannot guarantee timely delivery for example. Similarly, companies are rather looking to sell their already established products to guarantee cash flow, instead of the risk of bringing in new products.


How does the crisis affect your work with influencers and the conversations you’re having with them?

To be honest, the crisis hasn’t really changed the frequency of how often I communicate with our influencers, as I usually talk to most of them on a daily basis. What has slightly increased is the requested feedback and guidance regarding the overall messaging and posting behavior in a situation like this. The influencers themselves hold the strongest, most responsive and quickest market research tool to answer concerns. Influencers and brands should use this time to connect with their communities, it can be as simple as:

  • asking your community questions
  • be open, transparent and engaged
  • share your current thoughts and struggles
  • create impactful, meaningful, sustainable and authentic content

On the whole, influencers seem to be less active or delayed in their communication. This is mainly due to the fact that priorities have shifted; many are working from home, children are no longer at nursery and school and private and business life is merging into one. This means every single person is confronted with new challenges. Moreover, some influencers are currently taking a break from advertising in their social media career as they grapple with the idea of its appropriation. Other influencers wish to continue with their usual routine, hoping to offer followers and fans an element of normality. Finally, a percentage of influencers have noticed a drop in demand and are open to cooperating with new pricing models.

We are much more aligned with Influencers as we were already. For us, it is important to ensure that the Influencers are comfortable with our campaign idea and the way they are briefed to tell the story. We are having more feedback loops to ensure that there is no room for misunderstandings, checking wordings and content with a maximum of empathy for the situation of the community.

A lot of Influencers raised their concerns and were or still are seriously worried about various aspects. Whether it is their own independence, the unforeseeable end of this crisis, obviously their own and their families’ health and their relationship with their clients and contract partners. Fortunately, we were able to resolve those worries quickly. We reached out to all of our partners and discussed all matters with them immediately. This is the advantage of the personal and trusted relationship we have with our clients, because in this case it also guaranteed, at least in terms of security, that everything proceeds as planned.


How essential are strong relationships between brands, influencers, and their communities in times of crisis?

I wouldn’t necessarily say relations are only important in times of crisis, as I am a true believer that influencer relations are the key to success no matter the situation. Brands and influencers can learn and benefit so much from each other, I think it’s fatal if you don’t use the opportunity to build a strong relationship and work together as a united team from the beginning. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Influencer relations have never been more critical and their significance should not be underestimated. An open dialogue and exchange of viewpoints is necessary to make informed decisions about the compatibility and success of pending influencer marketing campaigns.

We think there is a huge chance for brands to prove their loyalty to their ambassadors in times of uncertain deals. If brands invest in relationships and deals now the will pay off in the near future as influencers are insecure about their jobs now and thankful for having a trusted partner in those times.

Especially now during a time like this, influencers can become more important. They have a high status, get a lot of attention and can be examples for their followers. It was important for us to choose the middle ground, when it comes to discussing the current crisis and the handling of the Corona Virus. We didn’t want to play down the threat of the virus, but simultaneously not dramatize the current events. I think it is important to stay level headed right now and follow the advice of health experts, which we advised our influencers to do as well. A lot of our artists thought about how they could make their followers’ everyday life more enjoyable, entertain them and distract them a little bit to spread more positivity and happiness.


Can you highlight a recent influencer activity, campaign or post that you’ve created as a reaction to the crisis?

We knew from the beginning that we should strive to add value rather than ‘just content‘. Our challenge was to decide which content would create a positive impact and what would meet the current demand in our community. Together with our influencers and our foodspring community, we have been able to find one common necessity, which leads us to the idea behind the campaign concept: We are staying strong and keeping FIT together AT HOME throughout this difficult time! We are motivating each other through live workout sessions and reminding each other to stay positive. This sort of content will remain accessible for everyone and be a source of free information, education, entertainment, and positivity. It truly blows me away how strong the support is from the influencers and how positive the reactions have been. I must say I feel pretty proud to see just how powerful we are together. 

In saying this, within 10 days we inspired and motivated 39,6 million with all of our content out there, had 200,000 participants/viewers at our live workout sessions and grew our foodspring community with an increase in around 31k.

foodspring - pandemic's impact on influencer industry

foodspring offers a variety of workouts in the brand’s IGTV media library

In the lead up to Easter, we implemented an uplifting influencer campaign in collaboration with MyPostcard. The campaign focused on encouraging people to use the digital age to easily connect with loved ones they currently cannot see by sending personalized cards and messages, all thanks to the app. The personalized cards and messages created in the app are transformed into physical products that are automatically sent via post to grandparents, relatives, and friends.


Which advice can you give other businesses on how to handle their influencer strategy amid this crisis?

Do:

  • get the influencers involved in your strategy moving forward
  • work WITH your influencers rather than letting them work FOR you
  • create mutual beneficial scenarios for every party involved
  • take the time to question your current influencer approach and set up
  • already prepare for ‘the time after‘

Don’t:

  • stop your influencer marketing efforts
  • choose influencers primarily based on the largest following
  • copy others. Try to be creative and find your own way that fits for your brand

Do:

Ask yourself as a business: What are new needs in this crisis that I can cater to with my product or service or how can I adjust my business?

Don’t:

Try to make the coronavirus crisis work for your business and/or influencer campaigns if it has no relevance.


Your guess: How will the pandemic’s impact shape the influencer industry in the long-run?

Influencer marketing is still a very young and evolving discipline. There is still a lot of fraud and questionable communication out there. Though in saying this, the industry is on a good path to tackle these problems and legitimize its practices. I personally feel that COVID-19 has helped accelerate the cleanup process of the fraudulent landscape. Brands now more than ever should be magnifying their influencer selection as well as the way they work with them. Brands and influencers will realize that social media is all about the community, sharing knowledge and expertise rather than competition and working against each other.  Be united and connected in order to create a long-lasting, meaningful and impactful message. I’m looking forward to new creative content formats that will pop up and bring new opportunities to challenge the status quo. I am slightly optimistic that the industry will be a ‘winner of the crisis‘.

We are yet to see the real implications of the crisis on the economy but with influencer marketing having established a firm place in the marketing mix, there will be corresponding impacts during the whole of 2020 and the years to come. We see a huge increase in follower engagement (more follows, likes, and clicks). This is the time for influencers to get back to the basics and really connect with their audience to strengthen the personal connection they have. Even bigger influencers who’ve lost touch with their audience due to the number of followers, can now win back their trust.

pandemic's impact - David Völler

I hope that companies that rely heavily on retail, so those seriously affected right now, will open themselves up to influencer marketing and use digital channels available to them. Similarly, during this crisis, TikTok is already gaining a massive amount of importance as a platform for companies. Next to Instagram and YouTube, there are two new big players with TikTok and Twitch, which have just seen an increase in their value for other companies.


We’ve discussed the pandemic’s impact on the influencer industry in our latest webinar! Watch the video-on-demand to learn how adjusting your influencer strategy and investing in the right processes sets you up for success in times of crisis.

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