Can COVID Get You Cancelled?
While particularly true in the world of marketing, it is also just great practice in life to always follow the old adage "know your audience." While most influencers are hyper aware of this, some very prominent members of the TikTok community seem to be struggling to adapt to our current climate.
Travel influencers in particular are having issues with negative feedback as they create content that appears out of touch with the reality of living through a pandemic. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines how travel influencers can continue to keep working without facing backlash.
Influencer Marketing In The New Normal
Social influencers have been a staple in marketing efforts for many brands for well over ten years now. It's commonly understood that they're a pivotal way to create content, raise brand awareness and of course increase sales. As such, for many influencers, creating branded content became a full time job. Needless to say when the pandemic first shut down most businesses in March, many influencer marketing efforts came to an abrupt halt. This is particularly true for travel influencers, as travel is virtually unthinkable to many people as we continue to shelter in place.
However, as we are now over five months into life during the pandemic, work is slowly picking back up for travel influencers. This is aided by the fact that some people are beginning to travel again (albeit with new precautions) and some are trying to make plans for the future, with the hopes that we will have COVID-19 under control by next year. As work begins to pick back up for travel influencers, many have faced backlash with content that does not resonate with the times we are living in now.
This is perhaps the most difficult year influencers have faced on many levels - social movements like Black Lives Matter are top of mind for many people and influencers who remain silent on the issue are criticized for their silence if they don't address it. But even less divisive issues can cause a backlash that will cost influencers some of their followers. Issues like what content should look like during the pandemic. Lifestyle influencers have made a successful career out of creating content with a rich aesthetic that often feels like something out of a luxury magazine spread. A quick scroll through the feed of many influencers will show that very little has changed at all in their content. It's understandable that these influencers wouldn't want their entire branding to shift drastically in an attempt to adapt to the difficulties of these trying times. While this imagery is very alluring, adjustments must be made to stay relevant in this very distinct time.
Many influencers are facing backlash and criticism of being tone deaf for creating content that many feel is irresponsible during a pandemic. As influencers have a platform, many feel it's unethical to create a narrative in your content that doesn't acknowledge the reality that most people are living in today. That reality doesn't include bonfires with friends or extravagant vacations. Rather it consists of spending almost your time at home, trying to stay safe and properly social distance from even your closest loved ones.
Losing Clout Over COVID
A most recent example of such backlash includes TikTok's Travel Club. One of the most popular recent trends in the world of social influencers includes The Hype house. The Hype house is a collective of several famous TikTok and Instagram influencers opting to live in a house together, where they can collaborate and create fun content for their followers together. Essentially it's a form of cross-promotion that results in the Gen Z version of The Real World. And what are shows like The Real World known best for? The drama that ensues when you put a group of young people together, confined in one home. Consequently, there have been rifts between influencers due to drama, resulting in splintering offshoot groups, formed by influencers who choose to leave the house.
Most recently, several members of the Hype house formed another group, called the The Cubhouse. This group operates under the same principles but with the added concept of traveling together. Creating content while documenting a three part video series of their trip to Mexico, the influencers involved immediately received backlash from followers who were upset with the influencers ignoring shelter-in-place regulations and not wearing masks.
In fact, many influencers and celebrities have been taking heat for this issue as well. The R&B singer, Jason DeRulo was one of the first celebrities to really make a splash in TikTok with a series of really well edited and creative video content on the platform. Hoping to increase his popularity, he's also teamed up with Hype House, visiting the influencers at their home often to create content together. He too has been the subject of scrutiny as many users have voiced frustration that the celebrity is breaking quarantine to make TikTok videos.
In fairness to Derulo, members of the Travel Club/Hype House and all content creators, we the viewing audience only see the finished product. For all we know, these influencers could be wearing masks and making very regimented choices to shelter in place when not on camera. But as social media invites everyone to comment on what they see, users can only critique what is visible.
Covering Your Bases (And Your Faces)
For all content creators right now, it's important to remember that your platform is an opportunity to set an example and create content that better resonates with how people are feeling in this moment.
Here are a few things you may want to keep in mind while creating content during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- Include stories or an occasional post wearing a mask. Granted, the debate on wearing masks is strangely a divisive topic, but most people agree with the scientific evidence suggesting it helps spread the virus. We do understand that masks can pose logistical issues to creating content that's consistent with your normal tone, but think of it more as a fashion accessory than a burden.
- Find ways to include basic shelter in place practices in your content. It doesn't have to be a PSA message. Rather it can be content that just depicts more activities spent indoors with a close circle of people that is consistent to your feed. If your followers see a variety in the people featured in your content, most will assume you're not taking the pandemic seriously.
- Be candid about the way the pandemic has affected your life. Authenticity is always one of the most resonant qualities in social media and perhaps now more than ever. While the temptation to create content with an escapism to it is appealing, many influencers have found that as folks are stuck at home and many are out of work, people are less interested in fantasy dreamscapes which feel less attainable than ever.
The Next Steps
We've written extensively on influencers, how they market themselves and engage with the world around them in a way that benefits both them and the brands they work with. Here are some other blogs you can check out on all things influencer-related!
- College Greek Life In Social Influencer Marketing
- Marketing From An Influencer's Perspective
- 3 Examples Of Influencer Marketing Gone Wrong
- Transparency In Influencer Marketing
- NCAA College Athletes As Influencers
If you haven't worked with influencers before, it can be tricky determining what you should be paying them and realistically what your budget should be. We've made it easy for you with this influencer marketing calculator! Check it out! It's free!