While China is taking its first cautious steps outside of their lockdown, many across Europe are finishing their second week in isolation, and it’s safe to say that the media landscape as we know it has been turned on its head. With 2.6 billion of the world’s population in enforced self-isolation, according to Bloomberg, and social distancing the new going out, digital communication and socialising has reached heights never seen before. If you haven’t Housepartied or Zoomed at least three times this week (often with people you probably haven’t spoken to in years), you’re clearly not quarantining correctly.
As the world and his wife are forced to stay home, social media sites such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok are getting a hammering, with the sites clambering over each other to help celebrities make money. Likewise, Instagram has even created a new feature, Co-Watching, which enables friends to do a spot of Instagram stalking together in real time via a video function on the app. Therefore, as a result of all this heightened social engagement, you’d be forgiven for thinking that while many across the globe struggle with the threat of unemployment or financial ruin, influencers that make their living entertaining and selling to people online have just seen their audience – and potentially their income – explode overnight.
Yet while that may be the case for some, with the everyday citizen (the Dad TikTok craze is up there with the Tiger King in essential watching), plus celebrities, having nothing but time on their hands, ‘experienced’ influencers are up against an even more saturated market than before as the newest wave of content creators emerge.
If consumers thought their feeds were full pre COVID-19 pandemic, think again. Since the world was turned on its head, celebrities from Pink to Coldplay to Selena Gomez have held virtual concerts in their front rooms (the likes of Dua Lipa and John Legend are said to have signed up to virtual event Homefest), Leon restaurants has been doing live cook alongs, and famous fitness stars are holding online classes seemingly every minute of the day – British fitness instructor Joe Wicks, for example, has seen subscribers to his YouTube channel double to more than four million hits since he began his daily online P.E. sessions. And that’s not to mention the endless hair and make-up tutorials. If influencers struggled to get heard above the noise before the coronavirus outbreak, many will almost certainly get drowned out now influencing has been adopted by famous faces across the globe.
The increased competition isn’t the only hurdle to overcome. While potential audience reach has grown exponentially, many now face the challenge of reassessing what content they create. Because, newsflash, street style videos are out, fashion shoots on location are dead (for the time being), professional photographers are no longer available for business, and fluffy press launch content is so last month. As influencers remain confined within four walls, their longevity in the field, and their lucrative marketing contracts, rely heavily on their ability to adapt and conquer – in short, an urgent change in content strategy is required.
Indeed, as the need for home entertainment, mind stimulus and boredom busting options looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, finding a purpose and readapting their angle to cater to the new normal is vital. Street stars will have to look to updated ways to engage their fashion-loving, spendaholic fans who are no longer going out or, er, needing fashion content. Offering a loungewear edit or two may placate for a while, but there are only so many pyjama sets one isolated fashionista can purchase. Some, such as blogger Katie Sands, are remaining positive. Speaking to The Verge about the future of blogging, she said, “I think that it’s going to become stronger than ever. People, including myself, I’m looking to the creators I follow for different inspiration — for home recipes, for workouts, for work from home outfits, for beauty advice.”
The silver lining is that there are, of course, options. In the absence of going out, society is reworking its simple pleasures and activities. Indeed, such is the magnitude of the shift in our behaviour post lockdown, and our skyrocketing thirst for online content, many new hobbies and interests will be fostered. British social media sensation Mrs Hinch conquered the niche online cleaning market long ago, which will inevitably see an upsurge of followers as months of monotony replace the first weeks of domestic bliss, while self-care and wellness will undoubtedly see a boom in interactions as people seek ways to calm and quiet their anxious minds. And if influencers can successfully spot and transfer their skills to these emerging trends they may just see a way through this, with new competencies, content avenues, followers, and marketing contracts to boot.