Constant change has been a defining characteristic of the social influence industry. Creators and influencer marketing practitioners have been navigating new social spaces (and the resulting shifts in online culture) for more than a decade. From blogs to Pinterest, Instagram to TikTok—each new content format, regulation, measurement tool, and demand for once-unavailable data has sharpened the practice to attune to audience and marketer needs. Today, the new normal is "social distance," and our industry has adapted with creativity, savvy strategy, and activism.

As we find ourselves in the middle of a heartbreaking global pandemic, millions of people are looking to virtual social spaces for hope, connection, information, and sanity. We know our industry has an important role to play in this changing world, and we're doing our best to navigate it carefully alongside our community of creators and brand clients.

In the coming weeks, we'll continue to share our observations and ideas around how our industry can continue to grow and change for the better.

Live in 3, 2, 1 🎬

Influencers and brands are "going live" to help their communities feel socially connected while remaining physically isolated. Last month, Facebook announced that Live views doubled in a week, which comes as no surprise as influencers reported a 42% increase in the amount of IG Live content published.

The music industry has pivoted to live concerts, keeping fans engaged and summer entertainment calendars full. Even PRIDE is turning into a multi-city virtual event, courtesy of the LGBTQ community and their dedication to the cultural celebration. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube are the go-to platforms for streaming. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Crowdcast are also providing venues for live events, and brands are finding ways to join these conversations (read: awesome West Elm Zoom backgrounds).

The missing link? Metrics. Live performance data isn't readily available via API access, so measurement is largely conducted via screenshots and self-reporting. Watch out for enhancements to live measurement and monetization in the coming months as more brands experiment.

In our new home-bound normal, virtual events are providing entertainment, education, and opportunities for joy and connection. Brands should look for moments to meet their customers in these environments in meaningful, supportive ways.

Read on:
Digiday / Facebook / DBA / Vox / The Verge / AdWeek

02: On location: at home.

With photo and video shoots canceled, brands are moving quickly to figure out how to keep fresh content in the queue. Zara gave their models the greenlight to self-shoot from home, Visa pivoted their Olympic programming to at-home athlete content, and we’re seeing an influx of clients seeking content-only activations.

In 2019, 45% of influencers were contracted to produce image assets only—without having to post on their platforms. These work-for-hire contracts will increase in the months ahead, giving new opportunities to creators in quarantine. Production of high-quality content is an essential element of influencer ROI, so savvy brands should analyze cost per asset, measure the performance of new creative, and assess whether this strategy has cost-benefits that can be realized far beyond the current moment.

Marketers have a real need for creative content to keep up with their product release and marketing schedules. To no surprise, content creators are stepping up to fill the gap as traditional production plans are put on hold.

Read On:
Refinery29 / AdAge / Collectively / Business Insider

03: Don’t let a few represent the whole.

The elite “1%” of influencer culture is often criticized for being tone-deaf and receives regular, negative media attention. Even brands get it wrong sometimes. But that's not the full story. Controversy generates clicks and views, but the real story during COVID-19 is not "bad-actor influencers," but how creators wield their influence for social good. There's been a wave of creativity, positivity, and public health support from the majority of social media influencers.

With consumer screen time up and creators reporting new highs in engagement and conversions, people stuck at home are looking for connection and entertainment—influencers are meeting the demand. Creators aren't just delivering joy and laughter with viral TikTok trends—they can be credible sources for information. Even government officials have supported the power of influencers in helping spread the right public health advice (domestically and internationally), and the WHO released an open brief to creators everywhere.

Social media influencers are powerful players in today’s media landscape who bring real value to our global society. Don’t let the handful who make public mistakes represent the whole industry.

Read on:
Paper Mag / BuzzFeed / Collectively / Cosmopolitan / WHO

Additional Reads

  • Will IGTV's comeback last? (Glossy)
  • With affiliate commissions at risk and economics shifting, creators will seek more sponsored content deals. (The Verge, Economic Times)
  • CGI: Computer Generated Influencer. The WHO partnered with one to reach GenZ. (AdWeek)
  • Yes, you can still advertise during a pandemic—but tread lightly. (AdWeek)
  • Aspirational celebrity endorsements may be tone-deaf right now. (AdWeek)
  • The past gives us inspiration for creativity today. (AdWeek, Cannes Lions)
  • Webinar: Collectively, CreatorIQ, Digital Brand Architects, and Ad Council on Influencer Marketing during COVID-19. (CreatorIQ)