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Influencer marketing in the time of Coronavirus

How influencers' communication (and sponsorship) changes during a global pandemic

Influencer marketing in the time of Coronavirus How influencers' communication (and sponsorship) changes during a global pandemic

There are no more doubts about the dramatic impact that Coronavirus is having and will have in the coming months on the world economy, also and above all on the fashion industry, which is beginning to deal with the first declines and the first drops in sales. To understand in what direction this sector is moving today, in particular, what measures it is taking to stem - at least in part - a total collapse, it is worth focusing on social media, first of all, Instagram, and on the use, they are making of it influencers, now leading figures in this industry. How are personalities who have made travelling and posting photos from ever new and exotic scenarios the key points of their success reinventing themselves, and above all how they continue to earn? 

From a purely aesthetic point of view, a transformation is immediately noticed, a change, in some ways epochal, in the feeds and in the type of images posted. The impossibility of leaving home, making professional photoshoots, attending events or simply taking a photo outside your house, is changing not only the way in which influencers present themselves and relate to their audience but is destined to change the influencer marketing on a structural level. 

Quarantined in their apartments around the world, influencers are reinventing themselves cooks, personal trainers, make-up artists, teachers, mental coachesChiara Ferragni, while continuing to publicize the partnership with Oreo and her namesake brand, shows her cook skills, as well as Aimee Song, who in addition to having created a schedule of workouts and yoga courses to follow through direct Instagram and a sort book club, never misses an opportunity to remember the importance of mental health, especially in this situation. If Emili Sindlev alternates posts featuring looks worth of the Fashion Week - many of them sponsored - to Stories where she trains at home, Monikh Dale has transformed her feed into the perfect example of how we would like to look when we work from home (an inspirational mood board, let's say the truth), while Leonie Hanne has transformed her home, in particular her walk-in closet, into her favourite place to make long-lasting vlogs and videos with a fashion theme. More honest in the narration of their days, as far as possible, Marie Von Behrens and Brittany Bathgate, who skillfully demonstrates how to transform an outfit from home into a perfect sponsored post. In matters of daily reality, Leandra Medine has few rivals, who, closed in her New York apartment with two young daughters, always seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. For all, however, everyday life is balanced with the great return of the hashtag #tb, a nostalgic throwback to when you could go out, when you were more beautiful, tanned, thin, on vacation, at Fashion Week, in short when you had fun really. 

Beyond aesthetic considerations, it is to be understood what impact this global pandemic will have on an economy - that of influencer marketing - that is worth $8 billion. Influencers make money through paid assignments like sponsored posts, participation in brand events, products promotion, social campaigns created together with brands. It is clear that a large part of these activities had to stop due to the spread of the virus all over the world, so much so that highly anticipated events - and very profitable for influencers - such as Coachella and the Cannes Film Festival have been cancelled altogether. 55% of UK marketing agencies and 57% in North America have postponed the launch of new products and services because the pandemic does not exactly resonate with luxury shopping. 

In a recent study, Izea, a company that connects marketers and influencers, found the impact that the coronavirus pandemic could have on the influencer-marketing industry. The report reveals that, despite the increase in the use of social media, the prices paid per post on all social media could drop drastically in the short term and continue to fall, depending on the duration of the epidemic and its overall impact. During the last recession (the one that started in 2008 in a landscape, especially social, very different from today) the average cost of a sponsored post decreased by 62.7% between 2008 and 2010, according to Izea data. 

Many brands, not only in the fashion industry, have stopped the affiliate program from one day to the next, not providing any kind of notice to interested parties, in a broader attempt to cut costs. In this sense, an exception is Bloomingdale's, an American department store chain owned by Macy's, which not only has not interrupted its program but which has seen sales derived from affiliate links increase by 43% in the last two weeks of March. 

So if there is certainly an ethical question, that is, if it is right to continue posting sponsored content despite this dramatic situation - some influencers have even polled their audience to understand it - it is also true that more than ever we are so online today. Instagram and Facebook views have increased significantly in recent weeks: on Instagram, for example, the average user has posted about 6.1 stories per day, with a 15% increase week by week and a 21% increase in views. Numbers that cannot be overlooked by influencers, who have seen their traffic grow considerably. In general, therefore, it is not advisable to stop selling, but simply to change the product that is promoted: better to avoid swimsuits, designer suitcases, or even just tailored suits for the office, well be loungewear, sports apparel to continue training at home, creams and make-up to focus on your beauty routine. But not only. 

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Never before have influencers had the opportunity to diversify their platforms, to reinvent themselves, to launch themselves on different channels, an opening that appeals not only to the public, increasingly looking for meaningful and real content, but also for brands, as they no longer need one-dimensional influencers, but rather seek figures capable of becoming stylists, photographers, producers and more generally all-round content creators. This is an evolution that has already begun in recent months, which will undoubtedly be amplified by this situation. 

The aforementioned Aimee Song, 5.5 million followers on IG, founder of the Song of Style blog and of the clothing brand of the same name, started posting (on YouTube) cooking videos, sharing her recipes and more generally offering to her audience a more authentic vision of her life. An operation similar to that carried out by Caroline Daur, an influencer with 2.3 million followers, who being unable to post endlessly old photos of the Fashion Week, began to publish the videos of her workouts, obtaining a number of likes and views far superior to that of her classic posts. More generally, the quarantine is decreeing the victory of the video format (both on IGTV and on YouTube), preferred by the public compared to flat and less engaging photographs. 

At a time like this, when the social distance is mandatory and for this reason, it is impossible to create original and professionally designed content, for example on a set, digital influencers, such as Lil Miquela, could scale and finally take over, with all the limits of the case, or models created with CGI technology, such as those that have become popular on The Sims. But maybe we're not quite ready for this yet.