Forrester: Influencer campaign volume slipped 3% during pandemic

Brief:

  • The number of social influencer campaigns fell 3% during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, slightly reversing a trend of rising activations in the past few years. While activations slowed in March, they returned to near normal levels by April and May, according to a Forrester study shared with Mobile Marketer.
  • A poll of 15 marketers at large brands in April found that 13 of them expected their influencer investments to continue to grow, while the remaining expected investments to be flat. No one in the survey said they expected their influencer marketing spending to fall, Forrester found.
  • Marketers used influencer campaigns for creative work and content that was unavailable from advertising agencies when pandemic lockdowns began. That shift helped to buoy spending on influencer campaigns in April, per Forrester.

Insight:

Influencer marketing appears to have been resilient during the pandemic among brands that show little signs of cutting back their spending, even as the broader advertising market experienced a significant pullback in Q2. Major ad holding companies reported falling revenue during the period, including a 23% drop at Omnicom and 13% declines at Interpublic Group and Publicis Groupe, with the the automotive, travel, financial services and industrial categories experiencing the biggest cuts in ad spending, the Wall Street Journal reported. In contrast, influencers experienced a moderate slowdown as social media usage increased during pandemic lockdowns, Forrester’s study indicates.

Forrester, whose analysts worked with 20 influencer marketing businesses to learn how the pandemic affected them, compiled several insights about working with influencers on campaigns during the health crisis. The researcher found that overtly commercial posts by influencers may be perceived as “mercenary and inappropriate” during the pandemic. To avoid damaging the reputations of brands and influencers, posts must have an appropriate tone, the finding suggests. In kind, airlines, hotels and retail chains may be wasting their spending on influencers amid pandemic restrictions, per Forrester.

The resilience of influencer marketing came as marketers expected a slower economy to result in lower spending on all media channels. Forrester forecast a 10% to 20% decline in social media marketing this year, even as homebound consumers spend more time online, including on social channels where influencers have remained active. The influencer activity came as 46% to 51% of U.S. adults said they increased their social media usage during the pandemic, per a Harris Poll study cited by eMarketer.

A variety of brands recruited influencers for their campaigns during the first few months of the pandemic to reach consumers through digital media platforms. Among the examples in Q2, Procter & Gamble’s Bounty brand of paper towels featured popular personalities on Amazon’s livestreaming platform Twitch for a campaign that showed gamers how to clean up spills that interrupt gameplay. NYX Professional Makeup’s campaign on social video app TikTok included influencers who guided viewers through a makeup routine, while chocolate maker Russell Stover enlisted TikTok star Jason Coffee to urge people to join the “world’s biggest virtual hug” as the pandemic kept people apart.

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