Last year, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and with people forced to stay homebound, social media platforms across the spectrum saw a massive increase in users worldwide. Globally, 2020 recorded 490 million new users, with 78 million Indians adding to that number. This trend continued well into 2021, with sources saying that the number of active users on social media had shot up to 4.33 billion active users in April 2021.
Under any other circumstance, these numbers would have made brands sing and intensify their audience outreach efforts via Influencer Marketing. In fact, in 2021, 47% of marketers and brands were looking to increase their social media budgets to capitalize on the upsurge in numbers. However, the second wave that brought with it restrictions and sporadic lockdowns threw up various new challenges for the brands, throwing a monkey wrench into their plans.
A Subtle Change in Audience Behaviour
To begin with, the audience had very little use (or appetite) for pictures of places they couldn’t visit, clothes they couldn’t wear, or food they couldn’t enjoy any time soon. Lockdown fatigue was creeping in rapidly and news from different corners of the country was less than uplifting. In such grim times, had brands continued with pre-COVID style content, they would have come across as tone-deaf and ended up alienating their audience.
There was also a significant shift in consumer behaviour. Having lived with the pandemic for over a year, people started showing more interest in physical & mental well-being, conscious consumerism, and responsible lifestyle habits. Today, they are actively seeking out information on specific topics, like meditation, cooking, workout, health, wellness, and stay at home activities. Instead of generic ads or promotional material, they are looking for meaningful content.
A Quick Move to Adapt
Brands had to tread carefully but adapt quickly to remain relevant to their stay-at-home audience while being sensitive to what people were going through. They not only had to create appealing content but also inspire the audience through their campaigns.
Leading the way and yet again showing how it is done right, Nike quickly launched Play Inside – Play for the world, an in-depth multifold campaign that stressed the importance of social distancing to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. The brand inspired its audience to work out at home by bringing a number of high performing athletes on board for fitness challenges. At the same time, it supported the frontline healthcare workers through its Community Impact Fund. Their Play New campaign, launched in May 2021, featured established athletes who encouraged people to set aside their competitive nature and find joy in discovering new ways to play. Nike sure knows how to strike the right chords!
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The Trends that Emerged
As the world learned to live with the pandemic for the second year in a row, some brands evolved their campaigns with greater awareness and a better understanding of the changes in consumer behaviour. This has led to the emergence of new Influencer Marketing trends. Of the many we observed, these are the ones that are likely to rule the markets through this year and possibly the next one as well.
Marketing is most effective when it’s relatable. People are still struggling to adjust to being at home all the time and they’re unlikely to respond well to storytelling that is at odds with their lifestyle. Instead, if brands thought of campaigns that had unfiltered or unscripted content and provided advice and solutions suited to the current times, it would help them connect with their audience at a more compassionate level.
A good example is actor-turned-influencer Sameera Reddy who has been sharing unfiltered glimpses of her life-at-home, conveying messages of body positivity and challenges of parenting, while addressing sensitive issues like children’s mental health. Actress Eva Longoria, brand ambassador of L’Oréal filmed and posted herself colouring her own hair. Self-care grooming brand Gillette Venus collaborated with influencer Prajakta Koli to endorse grooming at home amid the lockdown. Her video on YouTube has over 2M views.
Brands should certainly create approachable content and aim to forge better connections with their audience. Be relatable, be humane, be compassionate, and let your campaign reflect your desire to build genuine relationships. Click To Tweet
Approachable content, the kind we described above, led to better social media engagement. Instagram influencers saw a 67.7% boost in likes and more than a 50% increase in comments. Brands should certainly take heed of this trend and aim to forge better connections with their audience. Be relatable, be humane, be compassionate, and let your campaign reflect your desire to build genuine relationships.
Socially Conscious Influencing
Social media Influencers have a fan base that genuinely connects with them and listens when they put forward a recommendation or promote a concept. They have the ability to drive visible impact, and that’s why brands and organisations have been interested in collaborating with them.
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Last year, WHO collaborated with Dude With Sign to spread awareness using this popular influencer’s signature (and quirky) messaging format. The campaign reached over 2.5M users on Instagram alone. In India, soap brands launched a series of Hand Wash Challenges on Tik Tok to forward the message. While Life Buoy Karo Na brought in A-list Bollywood stars to participate in their rap challenge, Dettol’s challenge engaged actor Kartik Aryan and cricketer Md. Shami, among others.
Truth is, people tend to trust brands that champion for a social cause. And influencers, by and large, come across as being genuinely compassionate and motivated to do good. These days, when there’s more than one way that brands can give back to society, partnering with influencers to further a social cause is a great way to build trust and recall and win hearts.
These days, when there’s more than one way that brands can give back to society, socially conscious Influencer Marketing is a great way to build the audience’s trust and recall and win hearts. Click To Tweet
Rise of Micro-Influencers
Micro-influencers are fast getting noticed thanks to their smaller, yet loyal and dedicated, followership. A study reported that in 2020, campaigns with micro-Influencers received distinctly higher engagement rates as compared to macro or celebrity influencers. The difference ranged at 2.65% on Instagram, 1.64% on YouTube, and a massive 13% on TikTok.
Brands are noticing this trend and engaging micro-influencers for campaigns. For example, launched in Aug 2020, Doritos’ #blameitoncrunch campaign engaged a number of micro-influencers to encourage the audience to interact with the brand’s content in a fun way. They had to capture a distortion in the background and blame Doritos for it. With a simple idea, the campaign organically engaged over 1000 influencers and its popularity inspired comedians, artists as well as other brands to participate. The campaign garnered an audience engagement of 1.5 million, and the posts and stories under the campaign saw cumulative impressions of over 9 million. (stats by social samosa)
With micro-influencers, even smaller brands can run an impactful Influencer marketing campaign to reach specific audiences with effective campaigns, maintain constant visibility, & build brand loyalty faster. Click To Tweet
Micro-influencers have opened up the arena of Influencer Marketing even for smaller brands. The ease of content creation, clubbed with affordability, allows brands to target specific audiences, create effective campaigns, maintain constant visibility, and build brand loyalty faster. Modern-day consumers are becoming increasingly aware and, therefore, more likely to adopt a conscious purchase behaviour. With their established connections and authentic content, micro-influencers have greater powers of persuasion. This trust factor is something that will only grow, as will brands adopting micro-influencer marketing.
If you are wondering what a micro-influencer campaign might cost you, you can get a quick estimate here.
Short video content to the mainstream
India was the top market for TikTok downloads, with over 200 million users accounting for 30% of the worldwide downloads of the app. Users spending up to 38 minutes on the platform every day until its ban in June 2020. But the taste of short entertaining videos lingered among the Indian audience, a gap that Instagram Reels was quick to tap into. The result? Indian users spent an average of 11.4% more time on Instagram. The platform’s algorithm also promoted Reels, which in turn enabled brands to organically reach a broader set of audience.
Short video content will remain a part of the mainstream because it is quick to consume, and entertaining at the same time. Brands can use this to create fun, interactive campaigns that call for audience participation. Click To Tweet
For example, a simple Reel by Burger King, capturing the joy and excitement of receiving the order from the counter, garnered over 200K views within a day. Instagram’s recent addition Reels’ Remix intends to bridge the gap that TikiTok duets left behind. If used correctly, the feature can become instrumental in creating a collection of user-generated content that brands can repurpose.
The pandemic has forced brands to reconsider their Influencer Marketing strategy. With most types of traditional content being shelved for the time being, they’ve had to come up with innovative ways to remain relevant. More than that, they’ve had to make a concerted effort to add value to the lives of their audience. Anything less than that could be perceived as insensitive, a tag that no brand would like to earn for themselves. Despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic, brands who evolved their game plan and adopted compassionate Influencer Marketing have been able to keep their audience engaged. And this trend is likely to continue well beyond 2021 as well.