- The number of Instagram influencers using the #Ad tag to denote the post was sponsored fell 30% in April from a year earlier, and was the lowest since August, per a study by social media marketing firm Socialbakers. While the pandemic likely contributed to the decline, usage of the #Ad tag had plunged 38% in January from a year earlier, indicating a downward trend that started before the pandemic.
- Brands started decreasing their influencer partnerships in November 2019, and the decline continued into the new year for a 37% drop between April 2019 and April 2020. Similarly, influencer marketing efficiency, which Socialbakers defines as the ratio of average interactions on an influencer's post about a brand versus a brand's owned post, fell 41% year-over-year, per the report.
- Social influencers mentioned Walmart more than any other U.S. brand during the first three months of 2020. The retail behemoth received more than 800 mentions from about 550 influencers on Instagram in Q1, the study found.
The coronavirus pandemic started to have a significant effect on influencer marketing, with the number of brands that worked with influencers falling to a 16-month low in April. This could indicate that brand movement away from influencers was exacerbated by the pandemic's chilling effect on influencer content. Last year, Instagram creators saw their engagement rates hover near all-time lows as the app became overcrowded with sponsored posts, but the number of posts with the #ad hashtag bounced back and surged to more than 3 million by the end of 2019.
As lockdowns went into effect earlier this year, influencer posts about public events and travel plunged. From mid-March to mid-May, influencer mentions fell the most for parties (-36%), sunglasses (-27%), music festivals (-24%), performing arts (-24%), vacations (-23%), wine (-19%), live events (-19%), hotels (-18%), seafood (-18%) and nightclubs (-18%), Socialbakers found. Some of these categories may make a comeback as lockdowns slowly lift and the summer travel season gets under way.
Among social media topics, insurance saw the biggest gains in influencer mentions in Q1 as the COVID-19 pandemic boosted interest in health and financial security. The 14% gain in mentions of the category from mid-March to mid-May outpaced gains for mobile phones (4.5%), recipes (4.5%), TVs (3.3%) and politics (1.5%).
The marketing efficiency of influencer campaigns also declined in April, another sign of how the pandemic hampered influencer efforts on Instagram. While the efficiency rate fell 41% in April from a year earlier, some industries outperformed the averages. Influencer posts about healthcare were 4.2 times more efficient than brand posts, followed by finance (3.9 times), telecommunications (3.8 times) and accommodations (2.7 times). Industries that underperformed included airlines (0.2 times), sporting goods (0.4 times) and automotive (0.6 times), an indication of how the pandemic negatively affected influencer marketing.
Walmart's frequent mentions by influencers show how the retailer has ramped up its influencer marketing activity in recent years and placed a greater reliance on creator partnerships to boost brand buzz. While Walmart was the most-mentioned U.S. brand, it was pushed out of its No. 1 spot globally by Ideal of Sweden, the maker of mobile phone accessories that received more than 1,800 mentions from about 1,300 influencers in Q1. Other brands appearing in Socialbakers' ranking included video streaming pioneer Netflix U.S., Swedish watch designer Daniel Wellington, women's clothing retailer Na-Kd.com and health-food maker Quest Nutrition.