Influencer Marketing in the Pandemic Era

Our new Whitepaper brings the Influencer Marketing industry into focus through a post-pandemic lens, for a refined picture of how it has changed and a clear look at where it is headed.

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Though Influencer Marketing is continually changing, its evolution was steered into uncharted and uncertain territory with the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, as we learn to live alongside the ebb and flow of the pandemic, new attitudes and perceptions have emerged from both outside the industry and from within. TAKUMI’s Whitepaper surveyed 3,300 consumers, marketers and influencers across the UK and US, to pinpoint their priorities and expectations of influencer marketing as it continues to prosper.

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Post-Pandemic

Traditional advertising channels were significantly impacted due to COVID-19 restrictions, further diminishing their effectiveness for influencing purchases. As a result, marketers and brands have taken a more targeted approach towards their marketing activities, with even bigger budgets being allocated to the use of influencers. 

 

Influencer marketing was the only channel not to decrease in effectiveness when it comes to conversion since the start of the pandemic.

Influencer Marketing in the Pandemic Era.
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The industry hasn’t merely survived- it’s thrived, and conversion rates for creator-led content have continued to rise.

Rates have particularly increased among the older generations; since 2019, they have grown by 7% among 45-54 year olds and 11% among those over 55, busting the longstanding presumption that influencer marketing is only successful for reaching younger audiences.  

A heightened demand for multi-channel campaigns has enabled brands to achieve greater reach, with over two thirds of marketers (69%) now using more social media channels per influencer marketing campaign compared with pre-pandemic. Creators have acknowledged the increase too, with nearly ¾ (72%) agreeing that brands are looking to work with them on more multi-channel campaigns than before the pandemic.

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The Value of Authenticity

It’s clear that consumers have an invigorated appetite for authenticity, and they are turning to influencers to find it. Our findings show that three in ten consumers across the UK and US trust influencers more than a high profile figure or celebrity, to promote brands that are relevant to them. Among 16-24 year old consumers, this number soars to 50%. 

These responses reflect a significant difference between influencers and high profile figures, and the communities they cultivate through their platforms. Micro or macro influencers, as opposed to celebrities or mega influencers, have highly engaged followers and a streamlined niche, meaning they have greater knowledge of the content and products that their audiences want to see. Moreover, they are able to reach these audiences more effectively and directly than brands themselves, with over a quarter (28%) of UK and US consumers trusting a social media influencer’s recommendation on products and services more than normal brand advertising.

But that’s not the only edge that influencer content has over brand’s own advertising: the findings show it also resonates with consumers on a deeper level across all demographics, with nearly half (47%) of consumers aged between 25 and 44 believing it to be more relatable and relevant.

Drawing on their partnership experiences over the last year, creators have also been made aware of the value that consumers are placing on authentic advertising. A huge 92.8% of the creators we surveyed agreed that partnerships which involved less overt imagery and more authentic content, had seen the most success.

Responsibilities and Social Issues

High expectations are often placed on content creators, with 88% of them feeling as though they have a duty to be a positive societal role model, while six out of ten feel pressured to remain authentic to their followers. While this pressure has urged many respondents to take a break from social media in order to avoid burnout, it’s clearly succeeding in encouraging responsible online behaviour: 41% of 16-24 year old consumers believe influencers are a positive influence on society.

This could be explained, in part, by the growing expectation for influencers to use their platforms as a means of raising awareness and sparking social change, on which nearly two-fifths of consumers agree. Interestingly, 60% of marketers feel creators are better at communicating about political and social issues than brands, despite 59% admitting they would be anxious about working with influencers who are vocal about such issues. 

Such anxiety may be, in part, due to the mounting concerns around the spread of misinformation on social media, which UK and US marketers believe is the responsibility of influencers- more so than social platforms – to stop. 

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Moving Forward

Not only did influencer marketing prosper throughout the pandemic, reaching audiences when traditional advertising couldn’t, but it did so in a meaningful way. Half of 25-34 year olds said they felt more of a personal and emotional connection with creator content than with branded content- sentiments which many brands struggled to achieve but consumers so strongly desired. 

Notably, brand-creator partnerships are struggling to demonstrate adequate representation when it comes to content, with just 28% of consumers across the UK and US believing that brands’ influencer marketing content adequately reflects diversity in society. In contrast, almost two thirds of marketers (62%) feel that content adequately represents diversity. Fortunately, alongside the demand for authentic content, marketers are recognising the ongoing need for greater diversity too: 67% said they are making more effort to use influencers from diverse backgrounds in their campaigns than they did before the pandemic.

These efforts may be contributing to more selective recruitment processes, with ¾ (72.37%) of marketers agreeing that they are more selective with the influencers they use in campaigns, compared with pre-pandemic. In fact, selecting the right influencers for campaigns remains the most important aspect when working with influencers, according to more than half of the marketers surveyed, while 48% feel that building strong, long-term relationships with influencers is their top priorityup 6% from last year. Less weight is being placed on delivering returns and driving sales, as only 39% of marketers said that demonstrating ROI was the most important aspect of their influencer partnerships, down from 43% in 2020. 

As the chart below shows, financial return also holds less importance for influencers, while shared values is of high priority when it comes to brand partnerships.

The strong foundations sought by both influencers and brands with regard to partnerships signifies a maturing industry that places less emphasis on vanity metrics, in the pursuit of more authentic, impactful content which resonates with consumers on a deep and lasting level. 

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Influencer marketing is evolving at an exponential rate. As brands and content creators continue to adapt to meet shifting consumer appetites and ever-changing eCommerce tools on social platforms, the industry continues to thrive.

To read the full report, you can download it here.

If you would like to guest contribute to our blog, simply drop the team an email and we’ll get back to you hello@takumi.com.