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Coronavirus is changing the influencer world

The way we use social media is changing, and influencers with it. Images: Getty

In a world where physical closeness to others is practically outlawed, social media has taken on its biggest responsibility ever, and it’s changing the face of Instagram and the role of influencers. 

Over the course of the last week, Instagram has seen the number of live stream views double, while the Stay Home sticker has been used more than 100 million times globally as users have shared their lives in self isolation and quarantine. The top hashtags have been #stayhome and #supportsmallbusiness. 

It’s something strategic partner manager at Instagram Zaac D’Almeida has observed. 

While challenges and meme accounts are Instagram mainstays, there’s a large number of people heading to the platform to get their news and to help those affected by the crisis. 

“Communities are coming together to help those who are affected, so there's a lot of accounts that have started to help the hospitality industry,” he said, naming accounts like Perth Will be Okay and Saving Plates. 

“The Instagram community of Australia really wants to help and do their part for people that are doing it tough in the current climate.” 

And it’s not just users who are changing their usage and intake: influencers and celebrities on the platform have all had to perform a rapid pivot to content reflecting this new world. 

According to research from influencer firm IZEA, 66 per cent of social media users believe they will increase their usage of social media as they are self-isolated, while 43 per cent of Instagram users peg their usage to increase - half of those significantly. It’s a massive opportunity for creators to connect with audiences in new ways. 

D’Almeida works with a large number of musicians, athletes and entertainment figures across Instagram. 

“Like the rest of the industries really hit hard by Covid-19, their creative mainstays and sources of income have kind of finished or closed overnight so what we're really seeing with those partners is they're exploring new ways to really reach and connect with audiences,” he said. 

“A lot of athletes, their leagues have ended overnight, so a lot of them are doing things like home workouts and we're seeing a lot of celebrity chefs that I work with providing cooking advice and tutorials and how-to content which is really interesting.”

For art accounts and illustration influencers, the coronavirus crisis has prompted artists to offer live-streamed art classes, bringing them closer to audiences than ever. 

For musicians and beauty influencers, Instagram is now a major means of simply staying in contact with followers and letting them into their world. 

Instagram recently held the Isol-Aid Instagram Live Music Festival which saw musicians beamed into followers’ phones throughout the day, while individual artists continue to present live-streamed shows across the platform. 

It’s such a large trend, it has other artists in the industry querying whether the proliferation of free content actually reduces the perceived value of artists’ work. 

“I have NO issues with artists using their platforms for whatever and understand in these unprecedented times people are publicly processing/being bored/lonely/generous/supportive ~ AWESOME. My question is this: HOW do we as a creative community move through these times, access our audiences, do all of this, while best preserving the value of our work/product and continue to make a living?” Australian musician Kira Puru questioned on Twitter. 

The rise of the real world influencers

It will also see the birth of a range of new content creators, or at least introduce existing creators to massively increased audiences. 

In the UK, Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach aka The Nation’s PE Teacher has 3.3 million Instagram followers and his morning exercise routines are being beamed into around 800,000 lounge rooms every morning as families try to stay in shape.

He’s just one of many influencers who are suddenly part of millions’ lives. 

Across other platforms, the same thing is happening. 

On TikTok, personal finance experts like Humphrey Yang are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers. 

Yang recently went viral for his video where he used rice to explain Jeff Bezos’ eye-watering wealth compared to the average income. Other videos on the stock market, the real price of toilet paper and working from home jobs have also amassed thousands and even millions of views. 

Also on TikTok, 21-year-old Daniel Ou Yang achieved fame for his videos showing life inside the Wuhan epicentre earlier this year. His videos generate around 50,000 views each. 

“I felt it was important for me to let everyone back in Australia know what’s been happening here, as many [on social media] are using the virus as an excuse for discrimination against Asians,” he told the South China Morning Post.

And as Forbes noted, the World Health Organisation itself has become a major influencer, launching the Safe Hands Challenge across multiple platforms. 

“With people having more time on their hands and exploring their creative aspects and avenues, we will definitely see a rise in emerging creators that will come up that are being inspired by their time at home and finding things to do,” D’Almeida said. 

“People have time on their hands, they are at home, they are generally being more creative and seeing ways they can express themselves so I definitely think that will happen.”

The influencing industry is estimated to be worth up to US$10 billion. And like every other person stuck at home, it’s not going anywhere. 

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