Some speculate the impact of COVID-19 to be the plateau, and eventual decline, of the influencer phenomenon that has reached its arguable peak. While they would be correct in their observation that “influencing” audiences is trickier now, there is an opportunity for change or growth.
Yes, brightly colored walls, obscurely hip coffee shops, and exotic locations are harder to access for content. Yes, it is even a trickier negotiation to find the balance between “influencing” and not being perceived as tone deaf or insensitive. The challenges notwithstanding, influencers can find creative ways to collaborate and remain relevant even during a pandemic none of which require recycling old content or mirror selfies.
In fact, influencers should use this opportunity to rethink their business and content strategies, particularly within the framework of authenticity. The perennial backlash for influencers’ perceived inauthenticity and presentation of a life that is cherry-picked or enhanced, only further incentivizes the need to update their approach to content creation and connection to audiences.
There is arguably a newfound creative freedom for influencers, too. Without the rigid structures of sponsorship deals, influencers have free rein to experiment and break the mold of their typical content.
Being at home does not mean an end to content creation, only a change in it.
For influencers, it is a chance to showcase a more balanced and organic depiction of life: the good and the bad. This could be their business and personal struggles, day-to-day life during a quarantine, and ways they have managed to stay inspired, creative, and engaged. By sharing a true depiction of their everyday lives, and stepping away from a filtered version of it, influencers can unlock a deeper and more authentic connection with audiences through common pandemic experiences.
The reverse of this, capturing the stories and thoughts of your audiences, is equally important: What are they doing? How are they coping? Some, like STORYNINETEEN, have reversed the role by soliciting and documenting the stories, hopes and dreams of their audiences, paired with photos captured via FaceTime, Zoom, and more.
My colleague Hayley recently emphasized the need to connect, something that forms the cornerstone of influencer relations. Influencers are at a unique advantage of serving as a conduit to audiences by having a community of followers that bonds via common interests. As brands seek to align themselves with the good, and engage in community building, influencers can serve a role.
The key is to rely more on how followers are doing and coping with COVID-19 and focus less on pushing a certain image or message out; it should be less about your brand and more about your community of followers.
In a way, influencers are growing up and this is a test of their maturity. For brands and influencers this means showing the value they create for their audiences when they especially need them.