The pandemic has disrupted the influencer marketing industry. But it’s not time to completely throw out the rulebook, as most of the changes are accelerations of pre-existing trends, rather than transformative shifts in the market.

TikTok star Jada Wesley is filmed by AwesomenessTV's crew for its new reality show "Next Influencer." - Courtesy of AwesomenessTV
TikTok star Jada Wesley is filmed by AwesomenessTV’s crew for its new reality show “Next Influencer.” Courtesy of AwesomenessTV

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing involves a celebrity or other public figure endorsing a product or service.

Partnering with social media influencers is already familiar to many brands, but the market is undergoing constant change: Brands must continually evolve their strategies accordingly. The market is rapidly expanding as influencer types have proliferated, with influencers filling every conceivable niche and sub-niche interest. Each of these types offer distinct benefits and trade-offs for brands. In addition to celebrities with massive followings like Kim Kardashian West and Kylie Jenner, brands are increasingly tapping other key influencer types, including micro- and nanoinfluencers, kidfluencers, gaming influencers, and virtual (computer-generated) influencers. 

Now, the pandemic has sped up changes that were already underway, such as the trend toward “unfiltered” or less-scripted content, the rise of TikTok and the popularity of “everyday influencers.” Industries like finance that hadn’t invested heavily in the tactic earlier are also learning to navigate the space. And as e-commerce and social media converge, influencers will become increasingly vital intermediaries, helping to connect brands with consumers on social media in highly resonant, authentic ways that can deliver immediate returns.

Now, the pandemic has sped up changes that were already underway, such as the trend toward “unfiltered” or less-scripted content, the rise of TikTok and the popularity of “everyday influencers.”

Influencer Marketing Spend

As people spend more time on social media, they’re also likely to spend at least some of that time interacting with influencers. According to a May 2020 GlobalWebIndex survey, 96% of US and UK consumers who followed influencers were engaging with them more or to the same extent as before the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite the rise in social media usage, the coronavirus pandemic-related economic downturn has impacted marketing budgets across the board. In a May 2020 survey, Linqia asked US marketers how COVID-19 had changed their planned influencer marketing budgets for Q2—and 41% said their budget had decreased.

Influencer Marketing Research, Stats & Facts

  • As of May 2020, US and UK consumers who followed influencers were most interested in influencer content that entertained or helped them with their daily lives amid the pandemic.
  • There are two primary ways of categorizing influencers: reach and niche. 
    • Reach. As a general rule, targeted reach, cost-effectiveness, engagement, authenticity, and accessibility all go up as follower count goes down. 
    • Niche. Brands can leverage relevant niche influencers to more intentionally target audiences. 
  • Before pursuing a partnership, brands and influencers alike should ensure brand fit, meaning that an influencer is aligned with the brand and product. 
  • Brands should develop a streamlined but robust network of high-quality influencers to diversify their bets.
  • Brands are likely to increasingly prioritize longer-term partnerships with fewer, more authentic influencers.