What brands can learn from influencers to remain relevant post-COVID-19

Thought Leadership

Our latest report “WTFuture: Creating contentpaints a picture of a changing landscape for content creation, influencer marketing and branded partnerships, and identifies key learnings for brands beyond the Coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve kept our ear to the ground with regards to the impact of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour in Australia. We sensed there was a lot to learn from creators because they deeply understand their audience and their needs, and have been very quick to adapt their offering. So over the last few weeks, we’ve worked with a diverse mix of Australian influencers to compile WTFuture: Creating content, a report focused on understanding the impact of the pandemic on influencer communities, how their behaviours have shifted, and how brands should operate and communicate in future.

The report features local influencers spanning entertainment, fashion, beauty, hospitality, retail and creative arts: Gemma O’Brien, visual artist; Guy Turland, chef and founder of Bondi Harvest; Flex Mami, media personality and creative entrepreneur; and Ricky Chainz, one of Australia’s top TikTok creators with an audience of 4.6 million followers.

During the Coronavirus crisis, influencers have consolidated their role as a trusted source of inspiration, entertainment and endorsement for their audience. As a result, Australians are engaging with their channels far more than brands’ social channels; over the past two months, average engagement with the top 300 influencers in Australia on Instagram has been 43 times higher than the top 300 Australian brands’ on Instagram.

At a time when 37% of Australians are using social media more frequently, and spending more time than ever on platforms, influencers have adapted their approach to what their audience wants. Yet many creators are reporting that their income from brand partnerships is in decline.

How creators have adapted
As lockdown has progressed, creators have found new ways to bring value to and connect with their audience. From giving guidance on how to navigate the chaos, to being a champion of the public good, through to encouraging virtual social interaction, creators in Australia are offering brands new and effective ways to engage with their audience.

The audience needs have changed
As consumer behaviour has changed due to lockdown, creators have diversified to reflect their audience’s new realities. Whether it be transforming physical experiences to e-commerce platforms, offering masterclasses, or providing people with a sense of escape, creators offer brands diverse ways to authentically navigate these changes.

Future implications for brands
As restrictions are lifted, creators will play a pivotal role in establishing a shared sense of the new norms – from easing the psychological barriers of assimilating back into normal life, to supporting Australian businesses, and motivating purchase decisions in a suffering economy. 

Creators have become ambassadors to brand’s values, trusted sources for recommendations, and they will provide inspiration people need as they navigate life after lockdown

To succeed, brands will need to keep engaging their audience on an emotional level; affirming their values and showing how they are contributing to society; fostering and supporting the local community they are part of; and ultimately, delivering value through their products and content to maintain an advantage over competitors.

“We’re all painfully aware of how the forecast for ad spend in 2020 is in steep decline, but social has been one of the least affected channels” says our managing director, Suzie Shaw. “In fact, Australians are turning to social media more than ever to maintain a sense of connection and be entertained, and social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and TikTok are at an all-time high.

But while some brands and marketers are taking a pause to recalibrate and plan for the ‘new normal’, influencers and creators are out there adapting in real-time, responding to a spike in user engagement and new audience behaviours to keep them engaged and grow their own reach. The Coronavirus pandemic has changed content creation, online communities and influencer marketing itself, and brands need to adapt or risk losing relevance.

If you’d like to hear more about it, and chat about what this could mean for your brand, just drop us a note.