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3 Takeaways From the First 30 Days of COVID-19: Influencer Marketing Grows

By Jon Bailey

It’s not news that marketing as we know it is has changed dramatically during this hellacious coronavirus crisis. Marketing departments are decimated, budgets have slowed, and marketers are in a quandary about what to do – and when. At our own agency, we’ve adapted to working from home as we represent our clients and guide their marketing programs. It’s definitely not business as usual, but it’s not all loss.

Some of the bigger gains have been experienced within the influencer marketing sector. Brands are benefitting from the direct line influencers can draw for them to their audiences while they sit in their homes.

Changing Consumption Habits: Social media usage is through the roof, and time spent online in general has skyrocketed. People sheltering at home are bored, scared, curious, worried, motivated and more. With limited access to other resources, our time online has become our primary connection to the outside world we miss so much. Social media has in large part become our main resource for interaction with our friends and associates.

According to a recent New York Times article, Facebook usage is up more than 27% during this crisis, and YouTube is up more than 15%. TikTok is up 27%, according to another report, and Instagram views are up 22%. In one month. In a study released by Facebook, total messages sent through their family of messengering apps is up over 50%, and this is relatively new territory for influencers and brands to explore.

These are some pretty impressive numbers for marketers trying to reach a highly engaged audience. With so much time spent on social platforms, the environment has been ripe for influencers to do what they do best – introduce conversations about brands into their social interactions.

Desperately Seeking Content: People are voraciously seeking content at unparalleled levels. It seems as though social content has polarized into two main categories – information and entertainment. And by information, I refer to the constant stream of news about coronavirus and everything that relates to it. With entertainment, I mean the antithesis of anything having to do with coronavirus, instead taking our minds off the crisis by diverting our attention to other things.

In these circumstances, influencers have found success inserting themselves and their content into the conversation stream. This is a slippery slope that has called out more than a few influencers – and brands – that have shown themselves to be tone deaf in their approaches. But the successes far outweigh the failures, and we will be seeing way more from influencers as soon as brand confidence starts to take hold.

To Say, or Not to Say: Knowing how to properly position a brand to the public is an art. Savvy marketers have found the right tone and wording to accomplish much success during this crisis. This takes proper skill and guidance to hit the right notes without pandering, or seeming insensitive, or being downright irrelevant. We’ve been helping our clients achieve the right balance.

As you may know, I am what is considered a micro-influencer myself. A few years ago, I launched my blog as a hobby, and its grown into a legitimate platform for connecting brands with my audiences in ways that interest them. I’m approached by brands on a regular basis to help tell their stories, and through this experience I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in brand marketing messages.

This unique perspective allows me to see both sides of the equation, as a marketer and an influencer. And recently, I’ve seen these requests from brands shift.

Brands focused on events, travel destinations and outdoor activities have become quieter. Conversely, brands that provide goods and services in areas useful to our current homebound lives have increased their activities enormously. In the past few weeks, my fellow bloggers and I have been invited to participate in so many brand partnerships focused on reaching people in this universal new homebound reality.

And there’s room for more. As our audiences’ hunger grows for more information and entertainment, social media will fill the gap. That content needs to come from somewhere, and this is where the collaboration between brands and influencers becomes paramount.

Subject Areas of Greatest Growth

Here are some of the areas that are receiving the greatest engagement and growth through influencer programs right now:

Household Products – Obviously on everyone’s mind: cleaning products, air filters, face masks, etc.

  • Both Dial and Johnson & Johnson have increased spending on influencer marketing.

Fitness & Health – Home exercise routines: equipment, workout classes, energy, supplements, vitamins

Brand Purpose – Focusing on the good: non-profits helping those in need, movements that help the greater good, companies doing the right thing for our environment, etc.

  • 62ABOVE is managing campaigns for three different non-profit organizations, all of which are likely to begin influencer marketing campaigns shortly.

Food and Ingredients – Cooking from home: baking, meal delivery services, home meal kits, food and beverage products, direct purchase meats and produce, etc.

  • UberEats and InstaCart are both good examples of brands using influencers even more during this crisis.
  • Perdue Farms has used influencers like 2DadsWithBaggage to spread the word about their home delivery services, and the resulting demand is so heavy they are 3-4 weeks behind schedule.

Home Improvement – While everyone is homebound: gardening, painting, repair, tools and gadgets

Education – Parents and kids need mental stimulation: home schooling options, master classes, distance learning, skills improvement

  • I’m currently in the middle of influencer campaigns on my blog for AAA and Adobe, both focused on educating teens.

Home Entertainment – Anything to take our mind off things: Games, movies, streaming services, puzzles, family activities, etc.

Alcohol – Wine and liquor home delivery, wine clubs, beer and light beverages, etc