Ask an influencer: How are creators navigating COVID-19?

Fri May 08 2020
Jenn Kim
Ask An Influencer
COVID-19

The current pandemic has flipped the world upside down and everyone’s lives have been affected by it in some way or another. This includes brands and creators, who have been impacted by marketing budget cuts and postponed partnerships.

While times are tough, there is hope with social media — the tool that has allowed all of us to escape from the heaviness and stay in touch with each other. Now more than ever, brands and influencers need to leverage social media to better connect and build deeper relationships with their audiences. How you help and empathize with your community during these difficult times will matter in the long run.

To get the perspective of creators on the matter, we spoke to Kevin Langue, a YouTuber and lifestyle content creator with a passion for video making that spans over ten years.

Over a decade ago, Kevin started recording silly skits for extra credit in high school, which spiraled into making videos on Vine, participating in film festivals, and creating content on YouTube as the years went on. He loved every part of videography so much, he even dabbled in acting and worked at Netflix as a writer’s assistant on a few popular TV shows and movies — one of which allowed him to closely interact with the renowned actor, Will Smith!

While the job was interesting, he wanted to be in full control of the content he was producing. So, he made the tough decision to leave his corporate job to start pursuing his goals and have more time to make videos.

By December of 2018, Kevin had gained about 80,000 followers on Instagram and 16,000 subscribers on YouTube. That’s when he had a big break with his very first paid partnership. Two years following, he was able to turn his channels into a lucrative business and pursue social media full time.

In this blog, we’re sharing Kevin’s thoughts on how creators are dealing with uncertainty and navigating partnerships during COVID-19. Here’s what he said.

Be flexible with messaging

The pandemic has posed a unique challenge for brands and influencers. Cancel culture is at an all-time high right now, and people are extremely sensitive to how brands and influencers are positioning themselves during this crisis. Saying the wrong thing could really hurt your reputation, so you need to shift your messaging.

If you are a brand working with a creator, provide campaign guidelines that outline key talking points. Since influencers are your brand representatives, they want to talk about your brand in a way that’s accurate but doesn’t come off as insensitive or tone deaf.

That being said, give creators enough creative freedom to talk about the partnership in a way that is authentic. Creators know their audience best and they want to continue creating content that their followers love.

In addition, creators are constantly fighting a battle against social media algorithms. Social media platforms are notorious for blocking or promoting content depending on the context, and it’s no different in this current situation. For example, some YouTubers have said that mentioning coronavirus in a video has gotten their content demonetized, while other videos that mention the pandemic have been popping up on the Trending page. They’re constantly trying to figure out how they can discuss these hard-hitting issues in a way that won’t affect their engagement numbers, and in a way that won’t offend their audience.

Like everybody else, creators just want to say the right thing. So, give them some guidance but let them talk to their audience in a way that they know will resonate.

Continue engaging with creators

Consumers have a lot of ways to get health and safety tips and COVID-19 news. Brands and influencers don’t necessarily have to be that source of information all the time. Kevin explains that the best thing to do in situations like this is to continue “business as usual,” but make small adjustments. For many creators, brand sponsorships are a big chunk of income and they will be extremely grateful for the amazing brands that are continuing partnerships during these uncertain times.

Particularly one brand, a dating app, has been wonderful to work with for Kevin. Rather than cancelling their partnership, the brand quickly put together new communication guidelines to fit the nationwide shelter-in-place order. So, instead of talking about meeting in person, creators encouraged their audiences to go on digital first dates.

Additionally, many creators are lowering their rates because they know that many businesses are hurting at this time. In Kevin’s case, he has reached out to brands that he’s worked with in the past with a more affordable rate. It’s a win-win, because it’s more cost-effective for brands, and Kevin gets to continue a partnership with a brand that he loves.

It’s always better to have long-term relationships rather than some one-off deal. Remember, it’s less about money, and more about relationships.

Deal with uncertainty by running towards it

The great Will Smith once told Kevin, “God places the best things in life on the other side of fear.” In other words, instead of running away from scary situations, we all need to face it. The only way to figure out how to navigate uncertainty is to jump in and get through it.

For Kevin, this means facing reality in a straight-forward manner. He directly asked his followers what kind of content they want to see from him. He knows that his audience comes to his platform for entertainment, rather than for the latest news or coronavirus updates. So, Kevin has continued creating positive content that allows people to relax, laugh, and escape. He shifted his content to fit around the new norm of staying at home — for instance, his recent video featured him celebrating a milestone for his best friend with a drive-by party. This type of content resonates because people all around the world can relate to it.

Now more than ever, brands and influencers need to leverage social media to connect with their audiences. Continue building relationships, shift your messaging, and find solutions by facing uncertainty directly.