How covid-19 has affected the influencer landscape

How covid-19 has affected the influencer landscape

Covid-19 had a dramatic effect on marketing in 2020, to put it mildly. The emergence of the virus suddenly upended marketing teams: events were cancelled, budgets were cut, and funds were redirected. The pandemic has caused consumer behaviours to change, and so too have marketers had to adapt.

One area that was impacted was the influencer landscape. Now, influence goes beyond simply counting the number of YouTube subscribers or Instagram followers someone has. Our annual Tyto Tech 500 Power List identifies and ranks the most influential individuals across the UK in business, media and government, based on their brand, public speaking appearances and mentions in earned media as well as their social media presence. Using these measures, we can track the most influential business leaders, journalists, politicians, professors and more.

The biggest shift in the influencer landscape

Now in our fourth year of examining and identifying influence, we have witnessed greater shifts among influencers than we’ve ever seen before. 

A major shift to the 2020 ranking is the increased influence of academics and government representatives. There are now 26 academics in the UK top 500 influencers, compared to just eight the year before. Meanwhile, 19 politicians made it into the list, up from 11 in 2019; and out of the top 10 UK influencers, four are politicians, with British health minister Matt Hancock in first place.

Covid-19 has driven this change. In the face of a health and economic crisis, the vast majority of audiences and media turned and listened to authoritative sources of knowledge to better understand the virus and how to deal with it. This trend soundly counters Michael Gove’s claim in 2016 that “the people in this country have had enough of experts”.

Fewer women appear in the rankings

But there have been other, more troubling trends. Female representation has diminished: the proportion of women in the UK rankings has fallen from 34% in 2019 to 28% in the latest report. 

This is another result of Covid-19, which has exacerbated gender inequality. Study after study has shown that women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. For instance, because of school closures, it was found that women were more likely to be burdened with childcare and thus less able to work. 

It is unlikely that the influencer landscape has been unaffected by this trend.

Clearly, more needs to be done this year to achieve greater gender diversity, especially in the tech sector, and marketers should consider how the pandemic has impacted women when designing campaigns and choosing spokespeople.

These insights demonstrate just how much the influencer space can change from year to year. It is crucial for marketers to understand this landscape, because B2B influencers can not only help promote a brand, but also shape the public’s thoughts around current events. They help to define how narratives are presented, as well as influence the products and services we buy. Public relations simply wouldn’t exist without influencers. 

Choosing the right spokespeople — those who wield true influence — is challenging but can make all the difference to a campaign. Given that the effects of the pandemic are likely to stay with us for some time to come, adapting to this challenge will be essential in 2021.