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How Influencers Have Amplified Social Movements in 2020
September 25, 2020
It’s been quite a year — and it’s only September. The challenges our world has faced over the last nine months have brought anxiety and negativity to many aspects of our lives, but it’s always worth reflecting on the good that comes out of the bad. So today, we’re looking at how brands and influencers have been stepping up and using their platforms to amplify messages of solidarity, positivity and support.
We worked with influencer marketing platform CreatorIQ to analyze Instagram posts from brands and creators around COVID-19 and the resulting stay-at-home orders, the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and Pride month. Below, a few insights:
Influencers Harnessed COVID-19 for Social Good
As COVID-19 started to spread across the U.S., raising awareness around proper health and safety measures was paramount — and many influencers stepped in to help.
For this analysis, we focused solely on the start of the pandemic stateside — when, crucially, many influencers stepped up to help fill in the knowledge gap about the novel coronavirus. (This was the time when concepts like “social distancing” were still brand new for most of us.) According to CreatorIQ’s analytics, by the end of March there had been over 2.9 billion interactions on influencer posts surrounding the coronavirus. The top hashtags included #coronavirus (466.2K posts, 1.9 billion interactions), #covid19 (218.8K posts, 684 million interactions) and #covid (88.3K posts, 284 million interactions).
Looking specifically at the top posts, #stayhome appeared in 173K posts with 512.3 million interactions, followed by @who (132.5K posts, 634.8 million interactions), #staysafe (82.7K posts, 232.1 million interactions) and #socialdistancing (80.9K posts, 147.3 million interactions).
Two examples of high-profile posts from the beginning of the pandemic:
Creator @dudewithsign partnered with Instagram and the World Health Organization in a very on-brand way for a post that received a whopping 35.99% engagement rate — 31% higher engagement than his typical posts.
Football (soccer) star Cristiano Ronaldo received a 3.52% engagement rate on this post, above his average engagement rate of 3.12%, and drew nearly 8 million likes.
The Incredible Growth of Black Lives Matter Content
The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day brought renewed energy and focus to the Black Lives Matter movement. In the weeks that followed, BLM content on Instagram exploded, with influencers and brands making commitments to social justice and supporting the community. By early June, creators had generated over 11.8 million engagements on Instagram for #BlackLivesMatter, #BLM and #BlackoutTuesday posts combined.
Looking specifically at the brand side, there was a 4,000% growth in brand use of #BlackLivesMatter on Instagram in May compared to January, and in just the first few days of June, hashtag use by brands saw a 7,266.67% growth vs. January. Comparing May to the first few days of June, brand use of #BlackLivesMatter grew 79.67%, meaning it gained steam as protests continued. Top brands by interactions included Complex Magazine with 804,625 interactions, Liverpool F.C. (566,530), E! Entertainment Television (484,058) and FaZe Clan (392,699).
In terms of engagement, one of the top #BlackLivesMatter posts, with an engagement rate of 9.72%, came from @Blavity, and it showed a video of a large BLM protest in Paris. This was also one of the top posts by engagement that used the shorter hashtag #BLM.
On June 2, people across the world took collective action with “blackout Tuesday” (which originated with the music industry), posting black squares to Instagram and other social media sites in support of Black Lives Matter and to protest racism and police brutality. There were over 196.5K organic Instagram posts with the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday from over 188,000 unique tracked accounts (CreatorIQ only measured posts from accounts with over 10K followers). And it wasn’t just individuals — in total, 950 brands participated on Instagram, using that hashtag in a total of 993 posts.
On Aug. 26, major U.S. sports leagues took another stand for the Black community, boycotting games in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Bucks made the first move, in support of their home state, which led to a tidal wave of postponements not just in the NBA, but in the WNBA and MLB.
#Pride2020 by the Numbers
Pride month (June) has always been a way to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, and while it was in some ways overshadowed by the pandemic and BLM protests, that didn’t stop the influencer community from coming out in full force.
First, a few stats: Pride Month 2020 prompted an approximately 3x increase in LGBTQ+ content on Instagram vs. the previous month, and Pride content from creators generated over 262 million engagements in June. More than 107K Instagram posts were published with Pride hashtags this year, although that represented a slight decline from 2019, which saw 124K posts with Pride hashtags.
The most popular hashtags used by influencers with 50K+ followers, by post volume: #pride (49.9K posts, 137.6 million engagements), #pridemonth (31.3K posts, 68.7 million engagements) and #loveislove (22.8K posts, 68.1 million engagements).
Some of the most engaged-with posts came from global digital creators:
On the brand side, gaming brands dominated the conversation:
What’s to Come
As fall continues, we’re moving closer to yet another major event: the U.S. presidential election — and influencers are already starting to get in on the action.
Influencer collective Meme 2020, the organization that supported Michael Bloomberg during the primary, has launched a campaign to stop President Donald Trump from being re-elected. Its main focus is vote-by-mail registration and as The New York Times reports, it’s already running paid Instagram ads and posting to popular meme pages.
Also, it was recently announced that the cast of NBC’s The West Wing will reunite for a fall HBO Max special benefiting When We All Vote, an organization launched in 2018 by Michelle Obama and other notable personalities. Cast members have been promoting it on social media and some, such as Bradley Whitford (who portrays Josh Lyman on West Wing), are getting even more involved in the election.
We’re still a couple of months out from November 3, so it remains to be seen exactly how much the influencer ecosystem will heat up as the election nears — but judging from how this year’s been so far, it’s going to be big.