Influencers under Covid-19 by Fusion5’s Johnny Khazzoum

By Johnny Khazzoum, Managing Partner, Fusion5

As the entire planet comes to grips with this unprecedented crisis, it is official that our lives have been transformed forever. Covid-19 has become a household name and the inspiration behind much of the content we see on a daily basis. If you thought the media landscape was disrupted by digital transformation a few years ago, well then brace yourself for a rollercoaster ride ahead. Around the globe, news of magazines and newspapers suspending their services echoes as other mediums such as OOH and radio grapple for dear life. And yet, influencer marketing – the one medium we all disregarded and thought of as a passing fad – seems to have reinvented itself and extended its roots far deeper into the hearts and lives of consumers than ever before. Yep, influencers’ resilience for survival has paid off, literally.

Through thick and thin, influencers have secured, even bolted down, their seat at the marketing medium table, surpassing other mediums and proving to be one of the only gateways to consumers amid lockdown. Be it teens, women, consumers of all ages or the mommy segment, the majority of consumers trust influencers more than they do brands and celebrities, often turning to them for advice on all aspects of life and down to the smallest of purchases; even though that may not be the wisest of decisions when it comes to more serious issues.

But we must give them credit. These crafty content creators have leveraged this lockdown in more ways than one and dug into a whole new level of authenticity. One can go as far as saying that they are helping the world get through this horrendous chapter of their lives, sane. What was once red-carpet fashion, makeup tips and tutorials have turned into DIY haircuts and face-mask videos; culinary trips around the world have turned into best recipes to make at home using pantry items; gym fitness provocateur has turned into ‘how to transform your home into a gym’; and how to land a man turned into how to keep him a mid-lockdown.

Influencers of all genres have defaulted to their organic roles as average Joes and Janes. Parents pulling their hair out while trying to homeschool their kids, and juggling that with the endless Zoomcalls (some of which one influencer recommended taking in the bathroom for ultimate privacy and quiet time) have become part of our daily lives, and influencers are a main player in the ‘convo’. Covid-19 has truly pushed everyone to re-evaluate their values and aspirations and driven the discussion towards the spirit of community, hope and altruism. Even celebrities are joining in and helping to capitalise on this humbling global moment by helping to raise funds, praising health workers on the front line and affirming the need-to-follow safety precautions, amongst other trending topics.

As brands sit by the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to jump into the conversation without coming across as opportunistic and out to exploit their consumers on the back of a crisis, influencers may very well be your access point. How so? Well, in light of the new level of authenticity, influencers can help you translate your brand message using their own voice and tone. Consider it a filtering system through which only the content that resonates with the values they have become known for will actually make it.

Despite the doom and gloom of the current state of affairs, social media usage has practically doubled in light of the ample time consumers have on hand to make sense of the world around them.
With the average screen time at some six hours every day, the mission for brands at present is to get in on the conversation and preserve their communication chord with their consumers. Why reinvent the wheel when influencers are experiencing 80 per cent higher engagement with their followers? Consumers are not interested in what you have to sell, for now. They want to know your deepest, darkest secrets. Well maybe not that deep, but potentially how ethical a brand you truly are and if your values resonate with their heroes: influencers. Certainly, budget spend is down, but let’s put this into context; we are talking about a discount – up to 30 per cent on average. Because, in truth, the influencer medium is as prevalent as ever. Agility and resilience played in their favour as they reinvented themselves to sustain their relevance and connection with their followers. Brands can learn a thing or two about how to reinvent themselves in turn, whilst of course staying true to their original brand values. Until then, let influencers who have access to your consumers do the decoding for you.

A word of caution: don’t let the number of followers fool you. Until we have reliable tools to gauge the legitimacy of engagement claims and influencers the world over, follow protocol on the recently imposed transparency guidelines and search for those who stand to be true ambassadors for your brand, be they micro or mega. Would a double-digit growth in engagement levels encourage you to make the leap? If so, until the world resumes its modus operandi, let’s talk hacks, board games, yoga, meditation and reflection.

It will make all the difference in your brand equity, when the time comes.