Last week Finland categorised social media influencers as 'key workers', enlisting them in the government’s efforts to provide better access to information for those who are difficult to reach through traditional channels.
Although the categorisation as ‘key workers’ alongside doctors, bus drivers and grocery store workers may seem rather strange at first glance, it’s a clever tactic already being employed by brands to reach, engage with and - most importantly in this time of crisis - educate a younger demographic.
Globally, more people than ever are now using social media and digital platforms. Reports suggest that screen time has increased by 76% since the outbreak began, proving it is a golden opportunity to reach a captive audience and in particular reach Gen Z and millennials. As of January 2020, over two thirds of total Instagram audiences were aged 34 years and younger, with 30% aged 18-24.
As of March 2020, TikTok’s biggest age group in the US is 18-24 year olds, which account for 42%. This 18-24 age bracket in particular are a digitally-native generation who have grown up with a wealth of social platforms and a fragmentation of media so are less likely to engage with mainstream media or traditional media outlets such as TV, press and radio. To reach this demographic, you need to look at where they are consuming and interacting with content, and who the individuals are that they listen to and trust.
The rise of social influencers was built partly on the success of peer to peer recommendations and a growing distrust by Gen Z of brands and corporations. The implicit social currency and human touch of peer recommendations alongside the idea of an accessible, relatable, ordinary individual giving their opinion and insight into their life was what made influencers so appealing to the Gen Z and millennial demographic in the first place.
Influencers became the likeable middlemen between brands and consumers, so it seems logical that these trusted voices of the people would now be used as the conduits to spread messaging around staying home and washing your hands in this crisis.
Not only do these social influencers have a soap box platform to thousands, if not millions, of followers but they have the eyes and ears of an engaged audience who will actually listen and take action. Finland’s actions suggest that influencers are just as useful as mainstream media in a crisis when it needs to inform the population quickly, clearly and accurately.
It’s hard to disagree when FMCG giant P&G also drafted a social media star – in this case TikTok personality Charli D'Amelio - to create a dance and anchor a viral video to promote social distancing to sceptical younger audiences. At the point of writing #distancedance has 9.2 billion views on TikTok.
In this unusual moment in time where self-isolating is critically necessary, it is key to leverage an influencer’s power to affect change in consumer behaviour. Where previously an endorsement from a social media star might drive sales, it now has the opportunity to promote taking action for the greater good – encouraging the younger generation to #stayhome and reassuring them that we are all #alonetogether. Similarly, where an influencer can provide a sense of purpose or entertainment (or both) the engagement rates will spike.
Fitness influencer Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) has seen phenomenal success with his daily live workouts #PEwithJoe which encourage kids (and their parents) to stay active during isolation. Today’s workout has already had 725,000 views in 10 hours.
When influencers can have such enormous reach and are capable of driving such high engagement it’s easy to see why Finland has included them as part of their communications strategy, particularly as by officially engaging talent you are also controlling the dissemination of facts and ensuring ‘fake news’ does not prevail amongst a highly impressionable youth demographic. It may be thinking outside the box, but it shows they have an understanding that positive influence really can make a difference.
Emma Shuldham is managing director at talent and influencer agency ITB Worldwide.