It's a weird time to be an influencer. People are spending a lot of time online, which means a lot of eyeballs. People are looking for content to consume, whether to entertain, educate, or distract themselves. So, where do influencers come in? What "should" they be posting? If they post content as usual, people might call them ignorant. If they post about the reality & severity of the pandemic, people might say, "But we need positivity right now!". Post sponsored content? "Don't even think about it!" people might say.
As a micro-influencer, I've had to ask myself some hard questions with regards to what I'm posting, and why I'm posting it. I've been a quote unquote micro-influencer on Instagram for over 5 years now, but I've recently started to grow my following on TikTok (almost at 5k, woohoo!). Funny enough, I actually think that the "niche" I've settled on for TikTok which is mainly about self care, mental health & wellness is in direct response to the pandemic. I've realized that these are the topics that I'm passionate about, and that it's content that I can create that actually provides value.
Part of my 9-5 job is also drafting and publishing content on behalf of some of our clients, so I've had to think a lot about this topic. Here are my tips for influencing during a pandemic (or simply, some things to consider when posting on social media during a pandemic whether or not you are an "influencer").
Take your audience's lead
It can be easy to think that you know what your audience wants. "My followers respond really well to photoshoot behind the scenes content." This may be true in "normal" times, but these aren't normal times. People's lives have been turned upside down, and their wants and needs are likely to have changed.
The best way to take your audience's lead is to simply observe and listen. What types of content are people engaging with? Are you getting lots of DMs when you post about your beauty routine on IG stories? Roll with that. Is your aspirational travel content getting less engagement? Maybe, hold off posting travel content right now as travel is not in the cards right now and may even be triggering to some people.
One thing that has shifted for me, is that I've started talking about mental health in my Instagram captions. My followers have responded really well to this. I've gotten an influx of DMs thanking me for starting this conversation, and I've had new people follow me and let me know that a specific post had led them to follow me. For me, I've skirted around the topic of mental health for a while. Now, I'm cracking it open because, if not now, when the entire planet is struggling with mental health, then when?
Maybe now is a time to finally start talking about that thing that you've been wanting to talk about, but it "wasn't the right time". Maybe you've wanted to make the shift from "influencing" to teaching people how to "influence". Now's your time! People are looking for work, and new career paths to pursue. You know a thing or two, help them out! And monetize it later.
Be conscious about your partnerships
I don't think that influencers need to stop posting sponsored content. I think there's a huge misconception out there that influencers are "selling out" by partnership with brands. This is simply revenue stream for influencers, but it can make up a big portion of their business. Just as traditional advertising isn't going to stop during this pandemic, neither is influencer marketing.
However, it's important to take an extra lens to what partnerships you decide to take on at this time. I actually had a partnership in the works with Airmiles which was a dream partnership for me because I love collecting and using Airmiles which allows me to travel more often. Obviously this campaign was postponed, but had it continued, I would have bowed out (for now).
Have some grace and empathy for your favourite influencers that may be locked into a contract that isn't the best fit for the current climate (maybe it's a travel partnership). They've likely had to change up their campaign, but it might not be cancelled all together, so they are doing their best.
Be authentic and don't let judgment hold you back
I think there's some fear around posting on social media right now, especially for people with substantial followings. People are worried they are doing something wrong, or are going to be "caught" acting inappropriately during this pandemic. There has been a few scandals to hit the influencer world, namely, Arielle Charnas of Something Navy. If you didn't hear about this yet, you can read all of the tea here. The backlash was warranted in my opinion. In short,
Arielle did not take social distancing or any government/healthcare officials advice seriously and she shared that with her audience of 1.3M. It's opened up some interesting conversations. Read a really insightful article about it here. I don't support cancel culture so I'm not writing off Arielle completely, but she'll have a long road to gaining her audience's trust back.
My advice for sharing your life during this crazy time is to do your best, be authentic and don't be afraid to engage in important conversations. Don't be scared to show pieces of your life online for fear of one of your followers asking you why you're doing XYZ. Follow gov/health care regulations, do your best to do your part and not contribute to the spread of this infection, but don't stop living your life. We need entertainment right now. We need connection. We need authenticity. We need influencers with real influence talking about important stuff.