Influencers in the Time of Coronavirus: 5 Keys to Success

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At the onset of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year, several voices sounded the alarm on social media influencer culture. They called it pre-pandemic, out-of-date, urged for a change and, in some cases, predicted its quick demise. At the same time, social media has evolved faster than ever before: consumption, as well as engagement, have increased, coinciding with the unprecedented growth of TikTok.

Were the whistleblowers right? And what caused certain KOLs not only to survive, but thrive in the time of crisis? To answer these questions, we studied the performance of 100+ fashion, lifestyle, and beauty influencers, from micro to superstars, prior to and throughout the lockdown period.

As it turns out, influencer culture has had its winners and losers during the pandemic, which proved to be a critical moment when some grew their follower base and increased engagement on their platforms, while others lost followers and saw less engagement than before the crisis.

Influencer chart

What were the keys to success of the influencers whose popularity increased, in terms of content strategy and the formats they used?

Besides an extraordinary talent and ability to pivot, quickly adapting social media presence to the changing situation, top influencers distinguished themselves by five key qualities:

EXCEPTIONAL CONTENT CREATION SKILL

During the lockdown, with limited access to tools and amenities, leading influencers proved to be not merely a face to a brand, but independent, inventive content creators. From recipes to workouts, skincare routines to film recommendation lists, certain influencers have strived to either provide ‘added value’ to their communities by sharing personal recipes, workouts, and film recommendations, or take their followers on dreamy escapes with artistic, mood board-like content, inspiring and helping users virtually escape their not often pleasant reality.

OPENNESS TOWARD NEW CONTENT FORMATS

In the confinement era, new platforms such as TikTok have continued to capture users’ attention. Successful influencers have joined the trending platform and/or continued to share similar, often humoristic videos on other channels, such as Instagram, aiding in the creation of a cross-platform fanbase.

RELATABILITY

Authenticity and relatability trumped aspirational and aesthetic content. Presenting themselves as a ‘person like me’, displaying the same preoccupations and desires, not being afraid to share family moments and personal anecdotes, leading influencers have become relatable and thus, likable, as opposed to traditional celebrity culture, which has received backlash due to appearing completely out of touch with the reality most people are living in right now.

INSPIRING POSITIVITY

Users are looking for distraction and positive emotion from influencer channels, something to help them push through the various hardship presented by Covid-19. Influencers who look on the bright side, share helpful information and good news, and provide their communities with a sense of normalcy, have excelled at striking a balance of awareness and positivity

ACTIVISM

In the time of crisis and unrest, influencers have an opportunity and a calling to use their platforms for good. By expressing their social engagement, sharing supportive messages, educating themselves and their fanbase, promoting charity, and supporting local business, influencers have had a new, meaningful role to play in the state of the world.

With lockdowns and restrictions around the world continuing to fluctuate, the influencer landscape continues to evolve and we are curious to watch and analyze its ever-changing dynamics. Stay tuned!

Vera Gavrilova is a Senior Account Executive.

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