The shift in content created by influencers under lockdown can have long-term effects in opening the market

Content creation under lockdown has opened a niche for influencers to earn money from giving followers insight into their daily lives.

At the beginning of lockdown, the influencing industry took a financial hit, with brands cutting marketing budgets to stay open. This meant that influencers received fewer PR packages, collaborative offers and sponsorships, which they relied on when creating posts to earn an income.

One may have thought movement and economic restrictions equated to influencers ‘fumbling the bag’ due to a lack of content opportunities, ultimately leaving them with no income stream. However, the consequences of home confinement meant more time spent on the phone, resulting in an increase in social media use.

Statista reports that at the beginning of lockdown in April 2020 “there were 4,31-million Instagram users in South Africa, up from 3,89-million in October 2019”.

This 10,8% increase came as a blessing in disguise for influencers, as it directed audiences to engage in their content, which opened up avenues to monetise their content.

Azemahle Duybeni (23), a fourth-year law student at the University of Western Cape, took advantage of this by posting consistently. Duybeni said, “My engagement and following definitely went up because I was posting every other day, and it worked. I gained eight thousand followers since the beginning of lockdown.”

This kind of growth is beneficial to influencers such as Duybeni as she was able to increase her rate card, which is used to negotiate campaigns with brands.

As a nano-influencer, with a following below 10 000, Duybeni mainly depended on product-for-content exchanges. However, with her increased following, she is now classified as a micro-influencer, which means she can earn anywhere above R5 000 per post.

Lerato Sengadi, general manager at Humanz, a data-driven marketing platform that connects brands with influencers, says brands are turning towards influencers as a means of communicating with their consumers during the lockdown, as restrictions have affected mainstream marketing strategies.

A similar viewpoint shared in a MartechSeries article said, “Particularly in those early days when interruptions to service availability of products and changes to their health and safety precautions all needed to be shared… Not only did social media allow brands to keep their customers up to date on a developing situation, it met them where they were.”

Sengadi added, “Lockdown did not reduce the campaigns on our app [Humanz], it gave us a chance to pivot and created an opportunity to be at the forefront of marketing, as influencing is what kept marketing alive.”

The ‘pivot’ to which Sengadi refers came in the form of the adaptation to creating content centered on the home experience. Influencing served as an educational tool by keeping the public informed, updated and entertained.

TK Matakanye (23), a third-year BA design student at Vega, with 17 400 followers, used his influence as an alcohol brand ambassador to promote safe alcohol consumption during the pandemic.

In an Instagram caption he said, “My home bar is coming along beautifully, the yummy @TanquerayZA drop fits in perfectly with luxe décor. Looking forward to creating some T&T (Tonic and Tanqueray gin) recipes at home.”

Matakanye said the aim of this paid campaign was to encourage drinking responsibly at home, by promoting homemade recipes as opposed to drinking outdoors.

Similarly, Lwandile Makhaza (22), a third-year BA visual communication and graphic design student at Vega, used level-four lockdown to show her 25 400 followers how she creates content from home, by producing “how to style lounge wear” videos and DIY magazine editorial visuals.

Her creative efforts to remain relevant under lockdown proved beneficial as she said, “It was during this time that I received some of my best campaigns.” Such campaigns include working with Tommy Hilfiger and securing a long-term partnership with Mr Price.

A survey conducted by market-research company AskAfrika, on June 17, indicated that lockdown has seen an increase in daily social media usage among South Africans.

In the survey, AskAfrika said, “87% of people continue to use social media platforms at least once a day during the lockdown period. The majority of this usage was attributed to the ages of 18-24.”

The limitation on movement was a turning point in helping the influencing industry return to its foundation: creating trust with followers by presenting authentic opinions and usage of products. This content is effective in connecting influencers with audiences, as it fosters a form of bonding by giving them a glimpse into influencers’ real lives and showing followers that everyone is experiencing the same isolation struggles.

Makhaza and Matakanye, who remain a content and relationship duo, also produced ‘day in my life’ vlogs during the lockdown. Matakanye said, “People switched to using videos as a tool to connect with their audience.”

Lockdown campaigns such as the “Vaseline:100 uses”, gave an opportunity for everyday people, with a low following to break into the market as a nano-influencer. Photo: Zinhle Belle

An article on Talking Influence, a trends analysis platform, said there had been ”a new appreciation of long-form video content, with a 20,5% surge in subscribers on YouTube across multiple channels”.

Applications such as Youtube are effective, as influencers with more than 1 000 subscribers can still earn money from monetising their accounts, instead of relying only on brand sponsorships. Forbes estimates that YouTubers can earn “$3 to $5 per 1 000 video views”.

Other forms of lockdown-centered content that emerged on Humanz included “Vaseline: 100 uses”, whereby influencers were expected to showcase various ways they used the skincare product, outside its traditional use. According to the app, a person with a following of 1 500 on Instagram could bid up to R3 200 for this campaign.

Makhaza said, “As an influencer, the digital content creation industry offers lots of money, way more than pocket money. If it’s going well, one can earn up to R20 000 a month with 20 000 followers and up, making it a very durable income for a student.”

Sengadi said that lockdown has leveled the playing field for current and future content creators, due to the demand for user-generated content.

“It is easier for the everyday person to become a content creator during these times, as everyone is at home. All students would need is a cellphone and a creative way to show their skills,” said Sengadi.



Featured Image: the everyday influencer, has adapted to being at home during the lockdown, which requires them to create content, take pictures and edit their own work. Photo: Zinhle Belle.

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