The State of Influencer Marketing amidst Coronavirus

Influencer Marketing has continued to grow over the last decade or so and many industry professionals expected 2020 to be no different. 

However, coronavirus has shaken up the marketing industry and most brands messaging beyond belief. Probably more than any other event in most people’s lifetimes!

For brands, this means that their customers’ trips are now cancelled, events have had to be postponed and shops shut by the virus.

There is still a big unknown around when lockdown will end and when brands can continue marketing normally again. And while there definitely are more important things to worry about, marketers still have the nerve-wracking job of trying to sell their brand to people who likely can’t benefit from their product at all at the moment.  

Changes in brand marketing have had a ripple effect on the influencer marketing industry. Marketing budgets have been frozen, trips have been cancelled and many campaigns paused. 

We spoke to five influencers to find out what effects the influencer marketing industry has seen so far and what can be done to overcome its current struggles. 

Press trips cancelled

Chloe Gunning (@Wanderlust Chloe)– “The week the travel bans were brought into place, I had two upcoming travel campaigns (both international) postponed and serious discussions began about the remainder of my campaigns for the next few months. As far as I’m aware, all brands are keen to postpone and not cancel, which is a relief! 

There’s a lot of uncertainty though, it’s hard to know when there will be an appetite for travel content and whether suppliers on the ground will be facing economic problems. The pandemic has made me feel for all the small businesses in tourism – the tour companies, the independent hotels, small restaurants, the staff. Will they be able to survive several months without business?”

A decline in affiliate marketing

Jodie (@alajode)“The biggest setback for me has been the number of affiliate programs closing. As a travel blogger, affiliate marketing makes up the largest chunk of my income. Now, with lots of brands pausing and closing their programs due to a lack of bookings, my income has dropped considerably. One of my other income streams, an advanced affiliate marketing course for bloggers, has also been wiped out because of this. Ironically, I created it as a way to diversify my income – I never expected affiliate marketing to essentially just stop! It’s only been growing in recent years.”

A decline in website traffic

Taylor Fuller (taylor_fuller)– “Because I’m a travel blogger, I feel like I’m a part of the influencer marketing world that has suffered the most. I’ve spoken to many of my blogger friends and they are seeing the same trends: declining web traffic and therefore declining affiliate income. Some people have stopped posting altogether!”

A decline in monetisation

Amelia Goodhead (@xameliax)– “The majority of my jobs have been cancelled or postponed until further notice. It’s understandable that brands will need to tighten their belts to support their employees and business during this difficult time, and one of the ways they can do that is to use money from marketing budgets. They also won’t know the spending habits of consumers right now which is difficult to manage. They could have a captive audience itching to spend money on products to use at home, or people could be completely cutting back on luxuries due to financial insecurity right now, we just don’t know.

Creators are at home ready, available and willing to work, and our audiences are online more than ever ready to digest content but the work just isn’t there. It’s understandable but very worrying.”

The self-employed stress

Jo Middleton (@slummysinglemummy)– [Being self-employed] “it’s definitely a big worry – both long term and in terms of immediate cash flow – especially as there is still so much uncertainty around the government’s plans to support freelancers. I feel especially vulnerable because influencer marketing is such a new industry and may not be recognised as being hit in the same way as things like the arts and hospitality. 

We also don’t have a precedent in terms of how the industry reacts to events like this. It feels impossible to know what might happen in the medium and long term. Will businesses simply cut influencer marketing as a non-essential when finances get tight? Or will they see a need to keep themselves visible? It’s really hard to predict.

Amelia Goodhead (@xameliax)– “Like the majority of self-employed business owners and freelancers in the UK right now, it’s an incredibly worrying time.  The plans were announced last week that a lot of self-employed people will now get help. As an LTD company however I still don’t think I qualify.”

A rise in video content

Chloe Gunning (@Wanderlust Chloe) – ”There’s been a huge rise in video content. Cabin fever seems to be making a lot of people more creative than ever! Fun, viral challenges, daily dance breaks and online pub quizzes have popped up out of nowhere. We’re definitely not short of entertainment. I’ve noticed my Instagram followers being more engaged too as they are stuck at home all day.”

A rise in more relatable content

Taylor Fuller (taylor_fuller)– “On a more positive note, I have seen many of my influencer friends and bloggers posting content that is more relatable since most people in the world are in the same position. There is still some inspirational travel content being posted but people are getting more creative with it. They’re using their platforms as a way to inspire travel after all of this is over. Or they are bringing travel into their homes by doing cooking tutorials, city guides, and more.”

We still need escapism…

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-HA_bOjAYF/

Chloe Gunning (@Wanderlust Chloe)– “I felt a little uncomfortable sharing content promoting destinations right now, so I decided to ask my followers what they wanted to see. Surprisingly, most said they still wanted to see pretty photos of places around the world, so that they could enjoy a little escapism in these dark times.” 

How can the industry recover from this? 

Jodie (@alajode)– “I’m optimistic that, if we all do our part, things could start to recover by late summer. It makes me sad that so many people are shaming travel bloggers right now and I hope that it doesn’t make people reluctant to travel.”

Future travel planning is key

Chloe Gunning (@Wanderlust Chloe)– “On a positive note, I’ve seen more people start to tweet about the trips they’re going to plan and my newsletter sign-ups have started to pick up again, which is a good sign. I think the travel industry is either going to boom or crash after all this. I just hope it’s the former! If this goes on for too long, I worry it could be the latter.“

What can brands do? 

Chloe Gunning (@Wanderlust Chloe) –  I think it’s important for agencies to work on a game plan for after this passes. Destinations that rely on tourism will need to show they’re open for business again, and one of the best ways to do that is with a targeted influencer campaign. They could spend the next few weeks deciding the best influencers to work with. They could also call on influencers who have visited the destination before to repurpose old content and get some positive imagery out there. 

We have a captive audience at home

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-PglPWJKN6/

Amelia Goodhead (@xameliax)– If you have marketing budgets that you’re able to spend, then now is the time. We have captive audiences sat at home. People have more time than ever before to digest exciting content and we’re eager and ready to create!

But it’s a supportive industry out there

Amelia Goodhead (@xameliax)– I’ve seen a lot of other creators coming together to share each other’s work which is wonderful. I’ve been trying to link to as many other relevant articles as I can. A lot of us have seen a big decrease in traffic (depending on our niche’s) so it’s important we support others in our field of work and share as much virtual love as possible. 

You can find out more about Kaizen’s influencer marketing service here

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