As India enters its fifth week of a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, social media use has rocketed, according to a new study, and with many marketing campaigns and product launches on hold, brands are looking to influencers to stay in touch with consumers.

The Broadcast Audience Research Council India and Nielsen India say their study indicates a 44% rise in social media usage during the week March 28 to April 3, compared to a pre-lockdown week in January and February. India’s lockdown is set to continue until at least May 3.

Banking, financial services and insurance companies (BFSI), along with health and hygiene brands, sports brands, electronics and OTT streaming apps are all reaching out to influencers in order to stay relevant to consumers, the Financial Express reported.

In particular, influencers are being used to reinforce messages relating to the virus outbreak. For example, Dettol launched a handwashing challenge on TikTok, which attracted support from both actor Kartik Aaryan, and cricketing star Mohammed Shami.

“Since brands cannot expect sales now, they are focused on creating curiosity among consumers about their products, and building brand recall,” said Ashutosh Harbola, CEO of influencer marketing company Buzzoka.

A number of BFSI and e-wallet categories have also revived associations with influencers to tell consumers how their services are relevant during the lockdown, Ramakrishnan R, co-founder and director of celebrity management firm Baseline Ventures, told the Financial Express.

But brands in non-essential sectors, such as fashion and beauty, will struggle to find relevance, experts warn. Influencers, too, are cautious about the brands they are seen to promote.

“Promoting a product that has little or no bearing on the consumer during the lockdown could backfire on both the influencer and the brand,” Harbola said.

Meanwhile, the India Influence Report, published by influencer marketing platform Zefmo Media Private Limited, says influencer earnings topped $1 billion in the country last year.

Over 1,500 influencers were surveyed and 95% said 2020 would see earnings take a dip due to COVID-19; but 72% remained confident in the revival of influencer marketing once the lockdown is lifted, reported BestMediaInfo.

The survey suggests a number of post-crisis content trends are likely to emerge, the top 10 being: health and well-being; food and nutrition; comedy and satire; DIY; music and dance; training and education; fashion and make-up; career and personal finance; motivation; and mental health.

Sourced from Financial Express, Best Media Info; additional content by WARC staff