Screen time is up 40 percent thanks to COVID-19 and we’re spending more time than ever watching Instagram Stories, scrolling Twitter and checking out the latest TikTok challenges. This increase in screen time means more eyes than ever are on influencers.
As someone who pretty much always has an influencer campaign in the works, I’d like to be the first to say that influencers don’t get enough credit. They share their seemingly glamourous lives on Instagram through filtered photos and presets and their followers watch them post sponsored content in envy that they’re able to make a living without having a “real” job.
I can tell you that the influencers I work with spend hours crafting that perfect post, taking their own photographs, and engaging with their followers to build up a loyal, engaged audience. And those same influencers who make a living off a blog or Instagram handle are seeing a dramatic shift in business thanks to the coronavirus and the current social climate. Brands are now being more cautious, and rightfully so, to ensure they’re not putting the influencer or their company in a negative light by pushing out sponsored content when the timing isn’t right.
But don’t take my word for the industry shift. I connected with two leading influencer talent agencies, for people and pets, to hear how the current climate has affected them and their content creators.
First up is Erin Cutler, Founder of boutique influencer management agency, Neon Rose.
Are you seeing brand partnerships decline or be put on hold due to COVID-19?
Right when the stay at home orders were announced in March, we saw an immediate decline in partnerships – mostly postponements, as brands needed to figure out what was appropriate during these times, how to navigate the new normal, as well as deal with budget cuts. After about a month, many brands revisited their partnerships with pivoted creative that was relatable to the current circumstances. As Neon Rose represents influencers and brands in the health & wellness space, we saw a demand for content from our clients. Consumers are looking for what they can take to stay healthy, remain active, and keep calm. We are grateful that our clients have been able to provide useful content during these unprecedented times.
What are the positive and negative impacts of this pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement on the influencer world – either for your creators or the community as a whole?
While it’s difficult to say anything positive about a pandemic, as an industry, we have experienced an increase in overall social media engagement and definitely a rise in creative content. Influencers are using the time at home to tap into their creativity and give their following more real and raw content. This can be seen with the rise in TikTok accounts, as the content generally is entertaining and a break from “real life.” Moreover, a positive impact we have seen is influencers consistently using their platforms and influence to raise money, supplies and general awareness of the world crisis. Of course, the negatives the influencer community has experienced is a decline in the steady work creators were used to receiving and the concern if the industry will ever go back to “normal.” But what is normal anyway?
In regard to the Black Lives Matter movement, the only true effects have been positive. The industry can handle a few weeks off of sponsored content if the outcome is a drastic eye-opening movement that will hopefully lead to real societal change. In terms of partnerships, BLM has led us to have candid conversations with brands and influencers about how they are supporting the movement and what their plans are moving forward. Neon Rose Agency is proud to be a part of an industry that has pulled together during these challenging times and found a sense of community and true support.
And what about the pet content creators of the world? I checked in with Loni Edwards, founder of The Dog Agency for the scoop how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement is affecting animal influencers.
How has the current environment affected your influencer partnerships?
Some brands are putting things on hold due to concerns about the way content may be interpreted, giving space to conversations on social media, production issues, or just general budget cuts. However, we are still seeing lots of partnerships come through. There are still brands operating their influencer marketing as usual and, for some, the stay at home order presents a unique opportunity. We have projects that were even accelerated in order to put the product out as soon as possible.
What are the impacts – positive and negative – of this pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement on the influencer world?
While this is a uniquely intense time, we have seen remarkable changes for the better. First, COVID-19 has many people spending more bonding time with their pets and are able to get more content and better content. Pet influencers always play a huge role in creating joy for their followers, but they are more important than ever right now. People are spending so much time on their phones, and seeing animals brightens their day. Influencers are seeing changes in engagement and connecting with their followers more than ever.
Watching our influencers use their platform to speak up on BLM matters has been amazing. People are coming together like never before. Influencers are seeing changes in engagement and connecting with their followers more than ever. Event-based opportunities are clearly paused or canceled but everyone is adapting in amazing ways, and we love working with brands to come up with creative solutions.
Thank you to both Neon Rose and The Dog Agency for contributing to this story. Whether it’s providing some much-needed light entertainment in the face of a pandemic or using their voices to support more serious issues, it’s clear that content creators and influencers are here to stay. It’s also incumbent on us, as communications professionals, to take a deep dive into our own influencer practices and ensure the influencer recommendations we’re putting forth to our clients are diverse and inclusive. I vow to do my part and hope you will join me.