Will Covid-19 catapult the future of influencers into overdrive?
Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your ThngDo Your Thng
Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng on the future of influencer marketing

Will Covid-19 catapult the future of influencers into overdrive?

Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng on the future of influencer marketing
  • The lockdown that made people stay at home, brought businesses to a halt, paused travel and let to cancellation of events.
  • So what will be the future of influencer marketing, on the other side of the lockdown? Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng (DYT) tries to find the answer.

While nobody can pull a Nostradamus, it is clear that the pandemic has changed influencer marketing. These changes are not temporary or short-lived. They are fundamental.

Since we began battling the unseen adversary, travel has paused, events are cancelled and, worst of all, businesses had to close shop. No sector evaded the disruptive tentacles of the novel coronavirus. And it is the most sobering of realities that there is no going back to normal.

What we will face after we win the fight is a “new normal.” This much is clear from the actions brands are taking. Airbnb’s co-founder articulately wrote “We don’t know exactly when travel will return. When travel does return, it will look different,” while announcing that 25% of the company has to be laid off.

Closer to home, Zomato’s founder has shared an uncannily similar email. The company is letting go of 13% of their workforce, and they’ve “decided to make partial or full work from home a permanent feature of (their) lives.”

So, like the rest of the world, creators and the influencer industry have felt the winds of change, and these will only gain momentum post-COVID-19 catapulting creators into overdrive.

The Future Face of Influencer Marketing
While the true implications of the pandemic are far more enormous than anyone can predict, what we have seen over the past two and half months are two core learnings.

One, how the audience wants to receive communications has altered. Two, the pandemic gave birth to a stronger sense of community. Make these factors the lens through which you view influencer marketing and then carry forward any strategy in the coming time.

The change for creators
Travel creators got grounded, and fashion creators were out of Insta-worthy locations for photoshoots. So, they pivoted and started generating content that helped their community. This change - diversification of skills and content - will carry over post-COVID-19.

If you are a creator who wants to thrive in the future, broaden the type of content you generate. The two niches that are rising and will continue to do so are wellness and home life. Think cooking, fitness, mental health, cleaning, nutrition, DIY, etc.

Another shift for creators is more control over the content. Before the coronavirus, brands governed campaign guidelines. After the lockdown, the creator became the artist, producer, director, and editor, giving them an upper hand.

Furthermore, brands realised that the creator knew better how to develop and deliver a message that fetches higher engagement. This shift in the balance of power, which built a more equal partnership, will persist.

The adjustment for brands

We already know online screen times soared due to people being home-bound. Since the traditional means of entertainment (movie theatres and TV soaps) are not restarting anytime soon, the consumer will continue to spend more time online. Now couple this fact with a Google Insight – “YouTube is 3X more effective than TV in driving incremental impact” of a campaign.

For a brand, it means one definite marketing adjustment – go digital and leverage the power of its natives, i.e. creators. It’s the only option to stay on top of your consumer’s mind as we move through the next few months.

Since the pandemic has also switched purchasing habits and limited discretionary spending, brands need to modify product positioning too. You have to show the consumer how your product fits into their everyday lives.

The last refinement brands must address is reframing their message to resonate with the consumer. A campaign will get more traction when the audience sees themselves in it. For instance, a celebrity advocating a home cleaning appliance will not work. A micro- or nano-influencer, who the audience knows does actual housework, will get better results.

The about-face of content

Typically, people see just two sides of influencer marketing – the creator and the brand. But it’s the content that balances both, and that too has done an about-face due to COVID-19.

In the past few years, Facebook and Instagram veered into highly curated and contrived content. From selfies with perfect lighting to postcard-worthy vistas of far-flung destinations, there was a steady stream of polished aesthetics.

The lockdown was a game-changer. Spontaneous content, and content that gave a view into every day, messy life became more popular. In the ensuing time, this revolution in the type of content published and devoured will persist.
Both brands and creators should keep in mind that there is no more room for staged or heavily edited content. Keep it raw and authentic.

An endnote.

The novel coronavirus outbreak did make creators the biggest channels for brands to influence consumers. Expect this trend to continue. Having said that a change in influencer marketing strategies is necessary to gain scale in eyeballs.

Pick the right creator or brand, one whose synergies match with yours; craft authentic and resonating messages; and finally, don’t create content just for the sake of it. Every piece must inspire, entertain or educate, adding something meaningful to the conversation.

-- This column has been authored by Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng