In just a few months, soaring influencer campaigns have all but fizzled in light of budget freezes from brands. Among the many economic casualties of the global pandemic, influencer marketing has suffered as brands cut budgets and freeze programs and campaigns, and the primary currency of the industry, the widespread competition for likes and engagement fell flat compared to changes in brand strategies and business goals.
Technology is already adapting to adjust to the new influencer landscape. More brands are turning toward ROI metrics to justify their influencer spend—metrics beyond previously tracked likes and social engagement. Furthermore, audiences are looking for more meaningful interactions with influencers.
The result: technology adapts to democratize social media so that influencers can meaningfully interact with audiences, and brands can find real value in those interactions.
The COVID-19 crisis, political upheaval, and global uncertainty has put pressure on this aspect of marketing, specifically because likes and engagement are soft numbers that don’t necessarily move the ROI needle. Therefore, the spend can’t be justified right now.
Marketing budget cuts placed influencers in the lurch who depend upon brand revenue to continue with their platforms. It also impacts audiences who now must find other forms of entertainment. However, there is another way.
Livestreaming – now surging in popularity on many platforms – is enabling influencers to continue social interactions from the safety of their homes and using machine learning and other cutting-edge tech to connect people with people. We are witnessing the democratization of social media. The new generation of audiences expect personal connections with influencers, and influencers now have unprecedented access to connections more impactful than only likes or follows.
Now that people are online more than ever before, and spending a record $23.4 billion on apps, it is a perfect time for influencers to access revenue directly from their fans instead of only brands. Creating multiple revenue streams can help protect influencers from global uncertainty and create even more meaningful connections with fans and audiences. An audience that invests in artists, performers, creators, and influencers are far more connected and engaged than one that passively subscribes.
Influencer subscription models
The idea of rewarding creators for their work is not new. Indeed, the rise of crowdfunding has shown that independent creators can fund projects quite successfully. Subscription models have also demonstrated that people will even subscribe to a creator over time just so that they will continue to produce new content. Livestreaming now applies that concept to influencers and content creators as well.
But we are entering a new era. Mobile technology, the ever-increasing speed of mobile broadband, and the widespread use of mobile phones have created a largely untapped livestreaming universe and ecosystem. Just as the technology was blossoming, the COVID-19 crisis put the world into isolation in their homes. People were looking for personal connections online far more than ever before. Few technologies can deliver a personal connection like livestreaming. And the numbers are beginning to reflect that. The USD $220 billion dollar value of the video streaming market is expected to more than double in just a couple years.
Livestreaming to take center stage post-crisis
Livestreaming is poised to take center stage after the crisis as the industry moves toward real-time social interactions to maintain contact with the “outside world.” We already see increased popularity in the short-form video space, as well as in livestreaming and gaming through platforms. Brands will eventually take note and look for ways to engage with influencers as a part of their livestream worlds. E-commerce through livestreaming is also gaining popularity.
But after COVID-19, influencers may not be so dependent upon brands. Sure, brands will be back once they’ve maneuvered through the crisis. Still, livestreaming will finally provide influencers with direct access to their audiences and build multiple forms of revenue from both audiences and brands.
Influencers that are monetising their livestream platforms will have established an invaluable asset to brands. They will have cultivated a network of actively engaged audiences who are personally invested in the influencer, their lives, and their opinions. It is difficult to put an ROI value on that, but savvy brands will realise the significance and pay a premium to access those carefully created monetised audiences.
Creating meaningful relationships
But for influencers, there is no better way to create meaningful relationships with audiences. Livestreaming is real, authentic, and meaningful. Audiences aren’t getting the polished, insincere productions of other legacy social media platforms. They are getting the real person, in real life, in real-time. Monetising this closely-knit community will ensure audiences are highly invested and that influencers are highly committed. We will see smaller audience numbers, but much higher levels of engagement.
This new era of influencer marketing will present the opportunity for anyone to be a “celebrity” by being their authentic selves and making meaningful connections with the people with whom they entertain and connect. Brands will have an opportunity to leverage influencers in this space but fortunately for the influencers, they won’t be the only ones keeping their lights on.