How COVID-19 Has Changed Influencer Marketing—and What It Means for You

The pandemic has made brand authenticity paramount, increasing influencer demand and placing a higher emphasis on credibility. Here’s how to navigate this landscape.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the call for brands to do away with pretense and be authentic has gotten louder. As a result, the appeal of influencers—people who can champion a brand’s messaging without seeming artificial (and who can bring a social media following along with them)—has become much more clear.

“The influencer space has benefited in a big way from 2020’s mass pivot to virtual,” says Jennifer Vento, vice president at Geben Communication, an agency that works with influencers. “With the isolation of lockdowns, people looked to social media for meaningful connections and increased their time online, expanding the potential reach and impact of influencer content.”

At the same time, the pandemic has changed the viewfinder on influencers: How monetized do influencers expect the relationship to be? Have your influencers said anything about COVID-19 that might run counter to your association’s message? Consider these changes as you prepare to work with influencers.

More Competition

Influencers are in high-demand, so when partnering with them, Vento says to expect more negotiation and for more influencers to have agency representation. You probably won’t get anywhere by offering influencers the reward of “exposure” instead of a standard rate for their services.

“Be fair in the rates offered,” Vento says. “Make sure there is real value to the influencer commensurate with their typical fee.”

Vetting Influencers

With misinformation swirling around the pandemic, it’s critical that organizations make sure the influencers they work with aren’t making statements about COVID-19 that go against their own messaging.

“COVID brought new concerns about brand safety,” Vento says. “For our nonprofit clients who must maintain a nonpartisan stance as required by law, the volatile political climate added the challenge of finding influencers who had not expressed political opinions.”

Keeping Up to Date With the Pandemic

Information about COVID-19 changes quickly—even the CDC’s health and safety guidelines. Associations and influencers must stay on top of the latest developments and of public sentiment on social media, then be willing to tweak their content to fit the moment.

“When was the right moment for brands to communicate in a sea of bad news without sounding tone-deaf, and how could they show up in a way that was supportive? The answers to these questions often differed from week to week, especially last year,” Vento says.

Shifting Content Strategies

The pandemic has changed so many aspects of daily life, and some influencers changed their focus as a result; suddenly, a tutorial on giving yourself a haircut was can’t-miss content. Consider what audiences are looking for right now, and seek out influencers who speak to those wants. And remember that influencers you worked with in the past might not fill the same niche they did a year ago.

“Those covering travel had to quickly rethink their editorial strategies,” Vento says. “Fashion and beauty influencers had to adapt to a world of athleisure attire, Zoom outfits, home haircuts, and radical authenticity. DIY, craft, cooking, and parenting influencer feeds were well-suited to lockdown.”

TikTok’s Growth

TikTok saw a huge boost in popularity in 2020, capitalizing on audiences craving content that was less-restrained. As a result, the social media app became a popular platform for influencers to share content and build their brands.

“At a time when everything felt gloomy, TikTok had a different vibe—and that played a big part in its success,” said Pierre-Loïc Assayag, CEO of influencer marketing platform Traackr, in an interview with eMarketer.

TikTok may be a natural place for you to showcase your organization’s personality and authenticity. In your hunt for the right influencers, add TikTok to your list of platforms to explore.

This is the first in a three-part series about influencers. Check out our second article, on micro influencers, and look our third piece, on ensuring your influencers stick with you.


(oatawa/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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