We know many of you are personally impacted by COVID-19, and hope you, your teams, and your families are healthy and well. We appreciate that you’ve chosen to spend your time and attention with us as we all continue to navigate and monitor these circumstances. As we all prepare to take on the challenges surrounding the physical, emotional and mental health impacts of COVID-19, we feel it is our responsibility at Mavrck to put the needs of the collective above all else and #CreateForGood. We hope you will join us in this mission, and we look forward to continuing the conversation together.
March 19, 2020: The impact of COVID-19 on the influencer marketing industry; Social media platforms respond to COVID-19; fitness influencers host at-home workouts; collab houses still business-as-usual; esports gain momentum
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Influencer Marketing Industry
Consumer, marketer and influencer behavior is shifting as a result of COVID-19. Today, we hosted a webinar discussing how these new challenges have also resulted in new opportunities for marketers to engage creators and consumers thoughtfully and authentically. ICYMI – you can check out the webinar here.
Give me the TLDR.
We surveyed over 254 creators and influencers from our Creator Advisory Board and discovered that only 25% of influencers have decreased their presence on social media in response to COVID-19, leaving 75% who have kept their presence the same or increased it.
In addition, 47% of influencers recommend that brands focus their current influencer marketing strategy around COVID-19, yet 88% of influencers have not witnessed any brands utilizing influencers to help share information or aid relief for COVID-19.
What are influencers saying?
“People are anxious and are looking for sources of comfort. As influencers, we have the ability to provide that to large groups of people. And not only that, I feel it is our social responsibility to do so. Our communities rely on us for everything from entertainment to advice to overall well-being.”
— Jeremy Scott Foster of @TravelFreak
This is a period of unprecedented circumstances, but not one we’re entirely unprepared to manage. Brands have an opportunity to adopt influencer strategies during social distancing by shifting to #CreateForGood themed campaign concepts, utilizing influencers to inform, inspire, donate, teach, craft and uplift. Additionally, brands have the opportunity to activate influencers beyond just creating content and can utilize influencers to gather ratings, reviews or research.
For more ideas for more brands to align with creators during COVID-19, see our top 10 thought-starters and campaign concepts here.
Social Media Platforms React to COVID-19
A group of the biggest tech companies in the U.S. say they have banded together in a commitment to fight coronavirus-related fraud and misinformation. The group includes Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube. All seven companies sent out a joint statement Monday night announcing the effort.
What did they say?
“We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world. We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
Sooo, how is each platform responding?
- Facebook and Instagram: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has issued multiple statements on how his platform plans on stopping the spread of misinformation (think: partnering directly with credible sources, removing false claims and blocking misinformed ads). As well, he has announced an $100 million program for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, as well as an extra $1,000 bonus for employees.
- Google: Google, like many other search engines, is committed to helping people find useful information. As well, it is working with the U.S. government to develop a website dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention and local resources nationwide.
- YouTube: On YouTube, the homepage is being used to direct users to videos from the CDC or other locally relevant public health agencies. Also notable — last week, YouTube announced a change in policy regarding video monetization around COVID-19. Previously, YouTube’s ad guidelines prevented monetization of videos that included a mention of coronavirus as part of its “sensitive events” policy. Now, YouTube is changing this policy to allow some creators who have “accurately self-certified” to monetize videos on the topic.
- Twitter: A Twitter spokesperson shared the company’s update to its strategy for monitoring tweets during the outbreak, stating plans to “review the Twitter rules in the context of COVID-19 and considering the ways in which they may need to evolve to account for new account behavior.”
- Reddit: Earlier this month, Reddit posted a blog post about its response strategy, which includes AMAs with public health experts. The company also wrote that it may “apply a quarantine to communities that contain hoax or misinformation content,” removing them from search results.
Other platforms have stepped up to the plate too.
- Snapchat: Snapchat has prohibited partners from sharing misinformation, relying on its closed platform to prevent false news hoaxes that other platforms, like Facebook, have fallen victim to. Snapchat is also highlighting health information shared by its verified Discover partners, like The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and CNN
- TikTok: Just yesterday, TikTok announced a new content partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and hosted a live-stream from WHO where users were able to ask questions of experts.
As COVID-19 continues to impact society at large, technology platforms have unique opportunities to be at the front lines fighting misinformation and amplifying credible sources and factual information.
At Home Workouts, FTW
During a time when the majority of gyms are closed indefinitely and millions of people are facing their new realities of at-home life, fitness brands and influencers have come together to provide live-streaming and on-demand workouts.
Give me some examples.
- Lululemon x Gabby Bernstein: Although Lululemon has temporarily closed all of its retail locations, that’s not stopping the brand from staying top-of-mind during this time. Lululemon has continued to live its community-driven mission by tapping one of its Global Ambassadors, Gabby Bernstein, to host a meditation on the brand’s IG Live. Leading up to the event, both the brand and Gabby drove awareness by posting about the upcoming session, encouraging followers to tune in and follow the brand for more ways Lululemon plans to bring workout offerings online.
- Macro-Influencer Melissa Wood-Tepperberg: Melissa Wood-Tepperberg’s on-demand streaming workouts already have a cult-like following and now, her following is expanding even more with subscription sales up 10 percent for the first two weeks in March. Wood-Tepperberg, and many other fitness influencers who own their own fitness studios or brands, have started leveraging Instagram Live to open up workouts to the public, resulting in not only new followers, but paying customers, as well.
- Micro-Influencer and Equinox Pilates & Fitness Instructor Ali Baldassare: At the micro-influencer level, boston-based Equinox pilates & fitness instructor Ali Baldassare of @mslali1 has begun offering up daily live Instagram classes to replace her in-person fitness classes she teaches. No equipment is necessary for her workouts, allowing everyone at home the opportunity to participate. Like many other micro-influencers who have now started offering live workout classes on IG, Ali asks her followers to contribute what they are comfortable with ($1, $2, $5, etc.) for each class through Venmo.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak and necessary social distancing, at-home fitness services were picking up momentum — and now for many, it’s the main way they are getting exercise. As a result, this has driven demand for new content and many fitness influencers have begun capitalizing on that need, as seen above.
As fitness influencers continue to crank out new workouts — both live-streamed and on-demand —we could begin to see a shift away from Instagram Live towards YouTube, as YouTube is more easily accessible and synced with smart TVs. As well, YouTube allows for live videos up to 12 hours, where Instagram Live only supports videos for up to one hour.
Where influencers are already on the front lines of this shift, brands have the opportunity to tap into individuals to host community workouts on brand-owned channels. Create a schedule for the week and activate influencers to host different workouts each day — either on Instagram Live or YouTube Live.
A couple tips:
- Not sure what times are best for your audience? Leverage Instagram Polls to provide your followers with a few different options for class times and plan to have influencers post classes during the most popular times.
- For the 24 hours leading up to each class, have the influencer hosting the workout post Instagram Stories encouraging their audience to follow your brand and tune into the live-stream on the brand-owned account.
Collab Houses in a Time of Social Distancing
Remind me, what are collab houses?
Collab houses, also known as content houses, are an established tradition in the influencer world. Over the past five years, influencers have formed a network of hubs across LA. With a purpose of aiding in influencers’ productivity around content creation, collab houses are usually beautiful mansions with lots of natural light, open space and minimal furniture — ideal for content creation. Oftentimes, these houses are located within gated communities and away from neighbors to keep fans away from interrupting the content creation process. In a way, collab houses serve as modern day artist collectives, equal parts WeWork and Airbnb for creators.
So what’s happening now?
More deals and partnerships. Not only are these houses not shutting down, but influencers in these houses claim they are actually seeing more brand deals come in at an accelerated rate — of course, dependent on the industry.
Health-Ade Kombucha, for instance, is dropping off product and branded refrigerators at two of the collab houses in return for content creation. In addition, influencers are also using this time to double down on the content they create (sponsored or not), as well as exploring new platforms that maybe they otherwise wouldn’t have.
What’s the industry saying?
“These houses are largely populated by gifted virtual gatherers. They have been piloting engaging with people, their fans, in quarantine from the get-go… If we can rely on influencers for one thing, it’s to get creative with how they use digital platforms to connect and communicate.” – Sarah Unger, SVP of cultural insights at cultural marketing agency Civic
During these times where consumers are confined to their homes, screen time and content consumption will be at an all-time high. As everyone seeks to navigate these incredibly difficult times, influencers and creators are uniquely positioned to provide comfort to the masses in ways that brands, agencies and other institutions can’t. Brands have an opportunity to partner with influencers to connect with an audience that is increasingly searching for content to be entertained, uplifted, informed and inspired.
Esports to Fill the Sports Gap
With just about every major sporting league and event canceled due to COVID-19, esports have the opportunity to fill the gap.
Even pre-COVID-19, esports have been #trending. Total esports viewership is expected to grow at a 9% CAGR between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023, putting the industry on pace to nearly double over a six-year period.
This pre-existing growth, coupled with the fact that there are currently no live sports on TV (and people are stuck inside), positions esports to grow even more. China, for instance, has already seen a dramatic increase in the video game industry during the outbreak. Games like League of Legends and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds have been twice as popular during the last few months as they were during the same period in 2019.
What’s the industry saying?
“ESPN and Turner have already broadcasted several esports events. Given the circumstances, with March Madness being cancelled and ESPN being a 24-hour sports network, then it makes sense for gaming and esports content to be picked up instead.” – Rod ‘Slasher’ Breslau, esports journalist
While Twitch and YouTube are the primary platforms dominating the gaming space, several of the leading social media platforms have also looked to join the space within the last year. Now, more than ever, brands have an opportunity to partner with esports streamers to really understand what resonates with their audiences and how they can become involved in a stream in a creative, non-intrusive way.
Streamers on Twitch, for instance, rarely see creative brand integrations and most brands who do “partner” with streamers just have a logo on-screen during a stream (think: a brand sponsoring a Nascar driver).