The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost the entire population’s daily lives. Non-essential stores have been shut, people are confined to their own homes, and many businesses have had to make difficult decisions regarding staff and spending cuts.

While some brands – especially those in the travel sector – have been hit extremely hard, others are flourishing – namely those that are geared towards staying indoors, such as Netflix, Houseparty and Peloton

Research from Econsultancy found that 55% of UK marketers and 57% of North American marketers will be delaying product and service launches; and 55% and 56% will be delaying marketing campaigns respectively.

The reality is, that when businesses look to reduce their spending, marketing is usually the first area of choice. But it’s not necessarily the right one. Whilst you may be saving money in the short term, you won’t be increasing your brand awareness, ready for when consumer spending picks up again.

Whilst you may decide to reduce or stop spending on one specific marketing channel; one area that represents an opportunity during the COVID-19 outbreak, is influencer marketing.

With influencer marketing agencies noting that brands are postponing campaigns, during a time where engagement on social media posts is higher than ever before; this offers a real opportunity for brands. The key however, is that the collaboration – and the messaging – needs to be right.

The role of influencers during COVID-19

Being confined to our homes, with the exception of essential trips and a daily dose of exercise is difficult for all of us. This is also true for influencers, who are used to being out and about, shooting in beautiful locations in order to create content for their masses of followers.

As reported by Bloomberg, many influencers’ lives have changed dramatically, with product launches and other large events cancelled – taking away a large portion (if not all) of their salary.

However, with TechCrunch finding that both Instagram and Facebook Live views have doubled week-on-week; for influencers who are able to tailor their content to these new lives we are living, they will still see plenty of engagement. This is also true for the brands that have relevant, meaningful relationships with these influencers.

Joe Wicks, for example, truly has become a household name. Whilst he’d already accumulated a massive following across his social media channels due to his workout tips and healthy recipes; he’s now essentially become the nation’s PE teacher, with families across the country tuning in at 9am every day, to work out with him.

Fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencers are also adapting the way they present their content. Victoria Magrath of Inthefrow continues to publish regular content for her 888,000 Instagram followers, with recent posts including the various ways of styling blue jeans and a white T-shirt, and a makeup tutorial. The only difference is that rather showing off her latest outfits on the streets of London, Milan or Paris, she’s showcasing them in the comfort of her own home.

It’s times like this where you realise just how influential influencers are (as if we couldn’t tell from the name!). If these well-known, respected influencers such as Victoria Magrath and Joe Wicks are promoting the fact that they are following the rules and staying at home, then perhaps it will encourage their followers to do so too.

Plus, if influencers are sharing how they’re occupying themselves during lockdown – whether it’s organising their wardrobes, doing an at-home workout, or cooking a healthy meal – then it adds to the feeling that we’re all in this together, which can have a positive effect on followers’ mental wellbeing.

The UK government has leveraged the power influencers have in a positive way, by partnering with some of the top names, in a bid to spread accurate information about COVID-19, and quash fake news. One example is Dr Joshua Wolrich, an NHS doctor with a 276,000 following on Instagram, who has been using his platform to debunk coronavirus related myths.

 

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The latest report on COVID-19 from the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre in the UK is pretty conclusive. There is no evidence at present to suggest that BMI is a risk factor for admission to ICU with COVID-19 (n=672). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Looking at the data graphically (swipe left on the post) you can see that the distribution of those admitted critically ill with COVID-19 (blue bars) follows the BMI distribution of the general population (orange line). BMI is not a risk factor. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Interestingly, a higher BMI even seems to be slightly protective against admission when looking at a previous data set from 2017-2019 of patients with non-COVID-19 viral pneumonia (blue line). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Previous research has also suggested that patients with a higher BMI have a lower mortality risk when requiring mechanical ventilation for ARDS (PMID 22430246) – the type of respiratory failure seen in COVID-19. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Going back to the ICNARC report, there is currently no significant difference between BMI cohorts and successful discharge/mortality once admitted to critical care (chi-squared p=0.0996 – thank you @kevinnbass for doing the maths on that one). However, this is less conclusive at present and may change, as there is currently a lot less data to be able to analyse (n=151). Therefore despite BMI not impacting risk of admission to ICU the extremes may impact mortality, hence my previous IG highlight on the matter still applies. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I hope this have given some of you some reassurance about what we know already; BMI is a poor predictor of health at an individual level.

A post shared by Dr Joshua Wolrich MBBS MRCS (@drjoshuawolrich) on

Ultimately, while influencers have been hit – like the rest of us – with the change to our daily lives, there are still opportunities for them. With more people taking up activities such as fitness, healthy eating, reading, gardening and cleaning; Instagrammers that adapt their content to these topics will continue to experience high levels of engagement. And if your brand embodies these types of activities, then through influencer marketing, you can start to see the benefits too.

For example, German-based fashion influencer Leonie Hanne has switched designer parties, with creating content for a loungewear brand from her home; and Under Armour is collaborating with a range of fitness and lifestyle influencers to promote their clothing range.

How brands can work smartly with influencers

With Econsultancy’s statistics showing that 62% of UK businesses, and 63% of North American businesses have had their marketing budget commitments delayed or under review, it’s likely that many of these brands will be halting their work with influencers.

However, this decision shouldn’t be made so quickly. Already, we can see that influencers who are publishing useful content that reflects the mood of the times have had a positive reception. Similarly, TechCrunch found that Instagram users have been posting 6.1 stories a day on average – an increase of 15% week on week – with views increasing by 21%.

With almost a third of the entire world’s population unable to go outside and meet with family and friends, instead we’re turning to social media to try and fill a void.

For brands, this means there is a captive audience on social media. However, you need to be smart about it. Influencer Intelligence advises that during this time, brands must use their voices to humanise themselves, as opposed to focusing on sales – but this has always been the case.

Similarly, brands should only seek to collaborate with influencers where the relationship is formed organically. Do they embody what your brand starts for? Are they an accurate representation of an advocate for you? If you answered no to these questions, then don’t work together – your (and their) followers will see straight through it.

Brands that will succeed with influencer marketing during these unprecedented times are the ones who will use their partnership to spread positivity amongst followers, and highlight important messages such as the celebration of key workers, or supporting local charities, and those most vulnerable in our society.

Final thoughts

Over the years, brands that have collaborated with relevant influencers have seen successes, with 49% of consumers admitting they depend on influencer recommendations when making a purchase.

Understandably, you’re no doubt looking at the ways in which you can cut your brand’s costs; but if you can find the right influencers to collaborate with, whilst sharing positive messages amongst Instagram users, then even in these unprecedented times, your brand can start to see the benefits.

For the latest news in marketing, head on over to our blog. Alternatively, to find out how we can help you, get in touch with us today.

 

Elle Pollicott

Elle Pollicott

Content Strategist