By Lindsay Nead, CEO of Parker Management
With more people turning to the internet than ever before to shop, seek entertainment, stay informed and socialize, influencers and brands are finding themselves under a slightly different spotlight. While COVID-19 has undeniably altered spending habits (how much, on what, and from where), it has also created a renewed thirst for information and consumable content — both of which influencers and consumer brands are uniquely positioned to provide.
At Parker Management, I work with top influencers and brands in the travel, lifestyle, home and wellness sectors, providing counsel on the ins and outs of social media, building a brand, brand partnerships and more. As we all settle into a new normal, it’s become clear that consumers are more engaged with online content and consuming significantly more media during this time of social distancing. With this in mind, influencers and brands have a new opportunity to re-evaluate their audience’s wants and needs, and to authentically deliver it.
During the first weeks of COVID-19 in the US, we saw a spike across the board in Instagram Live use. From at-home fitness to quarantine cooking, from late night television pivoting to at-home broadcasts to local news stations taking their interviews online, Instagram users everywhere were suddenly overwhelmed with enough Instagram Live content to fill their entire day — and that’s before even delving into their feed or friends’ stories.
My network tried this approach, too. It made sense: if people are stuck indoors and seeking human connection, participating in real-time activities with hundreds of other viewers seemed like a natural solution. Ultimately, though, we found that Instagram Live wasn’t the most impactful due to the sheer and overnight increase in usage. Not only was content getting buried (many users reported scrolling past live broadcasts altogether, just to get to their “normal” feed of stories), but my network also knows the value of repurposing content at a later date, for which Instagram Live doesn’t allow.
So, you might be thinking, what has been working in terms of maximizing social channels lately? One shining example that has proved consistently true across my network is talent takeovers. While Instagram Live might be overwhelming to consumers, we’ve found that they’re much more engaged with the content that’s delivered to them through familiar avenues. They’re taking the time to view full stories, and in their thirst for interaction, more likely to participate in polls or comment on posts. This makes our current situation a prime time to deliver messaging via a takeover; people are listening.
We’re also seeing a strong desire from consumers to see what they view as normal content. We’re being inundated from every angle with Coronavirus this, and quarantine that. Through recent polls, my network’s audiences have been loud and clear: around 85% prefer to see content typical to the influencers they follow. This doesn’t necessarily mean acting like COVID-19 doesn’t exist, but rather influencers leaning into their niche for empathetic, timely and familiar content.
For example: home influencers are thriving with the opportunity to share their expertise while people are experiencing unprecedented amounts of time in their houses and apartments. Likewise, fitness influencers are able to easily address a consumer desire to stay mentally and physically healthy, even when they’re unable to take part in normal routines.
Of course, for certain groups simply staying close to their normal routines isn’t an option. I work with several travel influencers, who are unequivocally being hit the hardest during this time. Not only can they not produce their typical content, but repurposing past content is also not an option — no one is thinking seriously about their next vacation right now; too much is unknown.
For these influencers, we’ve recommended they shift their online presence to cater to the lifestyle space. This is less of a branding shift, and more letting their audiences in on various parts of their lives that otherwise haven’t been publicized on their channels. For example, one of my influencers lives in a treehouse in Hawaii, and most of her typical content is travel-related, or underwater. Instead, lately she’s been sharing recipes to her stories, telling people how she meditates, letting her audience see the ins and outs of her day-to-day. She had no idea the desire to get to know her on that level was even there, but her followers have been loving getting to see other aspects of her life and personality. And as a result? She’s opened the door to so many new opportunities, and has several new lifestyle brand partnerships currently in the works.
With all this said, there’s so much going on in the world right now that it would be short-sighted and a bit tone deaf to not directly address the struggles so many of us are facing during this unmatched time in history. Everyone right now is feeling the push to help in some way, or to lift up the helpers. For this reason, my influencers have also seen massive success with anything that has a give-back piece. Whether it’s brand partnerships with a charitable tie, or collaborations with other influencers to maximize reach and raise money for timely causes, social audiences are more likely than ever to support, participate in and re-share efforts to make a difference.
My final words of social media wisdom are for influencers, as well as brands. Many consumer brands are struggling financially and logistically right now, especially those with summer product launches. How are they going to shoot a new summer line when we’re not even allowed out of our houses? And, for that matter, can they even afford to drop $20k on the photoshoot when so many people are scaling back their spending habits at the moment?
Enter influencers. Brands have the opportunity to engage influencers as content creators, models and photographers, for a fraction of the cost of a full-scale production. Not only does this give the brand more autonomy over stylistic direction versus, say, a partnership meant to debut on the influencer’s own channels, but it also immediately offers the brand third-party validation via the influencer’s audience.
As we all continue to adjust and figure out how to best serve clients, consumers and each other, I’d encourage brands and influencers to continue to seek unique and creative opportunities to partner and help each other out. We’re seeing people come together in extraordinary ways, and if we continue to lean on one another, I know we’ll all come out of this a little stronger.
About Lindsay Nead
Lindsay is the founder and CEO of Parker Management, a leading talent agency specializing in the travel, home, lifestyle and wellness space. In just three years, Lindsay has built a talent roster boasting more than 20 million followers spanning digital creators, influencers, models, lifestyle and wellness experts. Her client base features top brands like Disney, Amazon, Samsung, Columbia Sportswear, New Balance and more. Under her leadership, Parker Management has tripled in size, boasting 120% year-over-year revenue growth. Parker Management has effectively adapted the traditional agency infrastructure to better suit today’s top influencer talent, bridging the gap between brands, influencers and social media platforms. Outside of the office, Lindsay is a mom to her five-year-old son and spends her time enjoying the greater Portland area and staying active. Lindsay and her husband were recently featured on HGTV’s popular “House Hunters” program, where the couple shopped for a new home in Portland to raise their family.