Picture it: the enviable wardrobe full of luxury brands shared by a fashion influencer, the to die for beach shots of a travel blogger jetting daily to differing locations, and the dreamy homes displayed by an interiors content creator – so far, so Instagrammable.
We are moving further into a world powered by authenticity rather than aspiration.
But in a locked-down world, the shine is fading on those over-polished, picture-perfect aspirations and now, faced with social isolation in elasticated trousers, audiences are in search of realistic escapism. We are moving further into a world powered by authenticity rather than aspiration, and influencers who can truly keep it real are seeing their online influence levels soar.
For many brands, a knee jerk reaction from the pandemic lockdown has resulted in a pausing of marketing activity and potentially cutting spend on digital content. But while taking a backseat will no doubt protect brands from criticism, it may also stifle an opportunity to demonstrate genuine brand purpose at a time when consumers are most receptive.
How do brands and influencers navigate social media in a way that will chime with consumers, not alienate them?
We’re seeing how digital content across social platforms is evolving to meet the demands of a population in isolation, but it doesn’t always land, and a small pool of celebrities, influencers and brands have faced scrutiny for the online content they are sharing. So, how do brands and influencers navigate social media in a way that will chime with consumers, not alienate them?
With the lack of free movement and no access to the usual variety of backdrops, props, and locations, ideas for creating content for frequent posting are starting to wear thin. Influencers reliant on these types of content opportunities are facing a steep learning curve when it comes to remaining relevant and engaging to their followers.
Now is not the time to clumsily push a product on your feed and expect it to sell.
But now is not the time to clumsily push a product on your feed and expect it to sell, especially when sensitivities are heightened and consumers are less receptive to being sold to. Brands and the influencers they work with must tell a story that resonates and appeals to what the consumer is experiencing to avoid being perceived as tone deaf. For instance, Ellen DeGeneres posting a video about ‘being in prison’ from her $27 million Montecito mansion is not going to fly when audiences are facing job losses and financial hardship.
Above: Ellen DeGeneres faced backlash after complaining of 'being in prison' from her California mansion.
From a content perspective, the best receptions on social are currently coming from informative content that endeavours to help others manage the change in lifestyle that isolation enforced. Solutions-based content such as exercise videos, advice on managing mental health and activities to entertain children at home are seeing increased levels of engagement from a captive and receptive audience.
The best receptions on social are currently coming from informative content that endeavours to help others.
Fitness coach Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) has responded to self-isolation by creating more video content to enable people to exercise safely at home as well as developing PE classes to ensure children that are not at school can still exercise sufficiently. And it’s paying off – Wicks is now a Guinness World Record holder after one of his online fitness classes was watched by nearly a million people. And since the UK entered enforced lockdown on March 24, Wicks’ YouTube subscribers more than doubled from 893 thousand to currently 2.23 million.
Above: YouTube lockdown sensation Joe Wicks.
Creating at home fitness videos is nothing new but allowing an audience to live stream your workouts which respond to a growing need, such as children being in isolation, enables the content to resonate effectively with those it is aimed at. Wicks is also donating all of his profits from the PE sessions to the NHS, which is a powerful and positive credit to his personal brand as well as being a great example of purpose-led activity in a time of need that brands can really learn from.
Those who are constantly innovating and finding new ways to tell a story are the ones that will stand the test of time.
Now is the time for influencers to tap into their talent as consumers are looking for content with purpose in the form of helpful ways to improve their own living situation. Content that chimes with human emotions and shows empathy to the wider population is also going to gain more traction than overtly sales-led content intent on raising the profile of a brand.
Now is the time for influencers to tap into their talent as consumers are looking for content with purpose.
We are already seeing how brands are being fast tracked towards working with purpose and using influencers to amplify this message, but with such testing times and consumer desire to do good in the current situation, this is set to continue to escalate. We have also seen a definite move towards more influencers engaging with charities as a means of helping in the current climate.
Above: Dermot O'Leary using Instagram to promote the Katherine Hamnett x Choose Love Ts for the NHS.
Right now, influencers and brands need to have a purpose and stick to it. Realising that one size does not fit all when it comes to supporting a cause will allow brands and influencers to be more targeted and appeal authentically to their audience. True influence is earned from knowledge or expertise that engages the content creator with their audience and is not defined by the volumes of followers an influencer has.
True influence is earned from knowledge or expertise that engages the content creator with their audience.
In the seven weeks since lockdown, social media has shifted dramatically and it’s imperative that brands and influencers continue to respond appropriately to the outside world. The creativity and originality of content brings a whole new dimension to the art of content creation and I hope to see storytelling continue to be present in all meaningful partnerships post the pandemic.
Those who are constantly innovating and finding new ways to tell a story are the ones that will stand the test of time and see the greatest engagement and strongest brand perception moving forward.