2020 was meant to be a good year for global advertising, with a projected increase of 7.1%. Now, it’s estimated to decrease 8.1%, equating to almost $50 billion. Influencer marketing, like almost every industry, has been hit hard. According to a recent survey by Austin-based influencer marketing company Markerly, 72% of influencers lost income during the pandemic. Many have experimented with other revenue streams to make ends meet, but as this year continues to pile on one nasty surprise after another, influencers are pivoting their messaging and using their platforms for social good.
The Markerly survey, which polled 115 influencers from the company’s network, found that 52% of influencers posted #BlackLivesMatter; 56% have worked with or would work with causes and nonprofits that they believe in at either a discounted rate or for free; and 58% posted educational, supportive content and resources surrounding coronavirus.
The reasons for shifting to philanthropic posts vary. If influencers want to be influential in 2020, they can’t always get away with staying out of the conversation. We’re living in a revolutionary time, one in which Gen Z and Millennials don’t want to engage with brands or influencers that don’t stand for something. For many influencers, the choice to not use their platforms for social good could be career suicide, even as many Los Angeles influencers flout social distancing regulations with wild parties.
Additionally, as brands pull advertising, many influencers are now considering paid partnerships with advocacy groups, government entities and philanthropic organizations to be both another source of revenue and a chance to bolster their personal brands.
“We found that due to the pandemic, many influencers viewed some of their brand partnerships in a new light and as a result, shifted their strategies,” reads the report. “These changes came both at the request of the brands, but also at the request of influencers who understand how the pandemic may be impacting followers.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services realized the benefit of using influencers to spread a message of staying home at the start of quarantine, sponsoring posts with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III, former Ultimate Disc League player and YouTube personality Brodie Smith and Olympic gymnast Nastia Luikin.
“It’s no surprise to see that influencers shifted strategies to align with brands post-COVID, particularly as many influencer-heavy industries experienced a halt in advertising at the height of the pandemic,” said Sarah Ware, co-founder of Markerly. “However, these results indicate that, while seeking out new income streams and partnerships, promoting causes and issues important to them, their followers and society at large was also top-of-mind for many influencers. We expect this trend toward social good to continue in the influencer space moving forward.”