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Are Influencers actually useless in times of crisis?

This article is the first of the "Influence in times of crisis" dossier.

The current crisis is affecting everyone

With a few exceptions, we're all in isolation and all affected by the economic crisis. We're also all facing an uncertain future, and no one has a clue how long this will go on for (quarantine has recently been extended).

We're all united in adversity, but everyone experiences the crisis differently; according to your personality, your financial situation and your tolerance to stress, loneliness and the unknown.

A few companies and individuals are shining through these dark times, showing signs of solidarity and incredible generosity, while some others seemed to have vanished.

And it looks like a few people acknowledged the disappearance.

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In this context of social solidarity, where everyone has a role to play in order to get through the crisis rapidly, do "influencers" also have a role to play?

In other words: Are "Influencers" actually useless in times of COVID-19?

Kevin Marquis

An unfortunate generalization

Before discussing the topic, we need to clarify a few points and avoid generalization when it comes to influencers.

There is a significant difference between an influencer, a content creator, a brand ambassador, a thought leader, an artist and any other public persona. Particularly in the type of content they produce, the way they use their social media, the relationship they have with their community and the way they make their money.

In this way, each profession has its reality and type of influence, which brings us back to the main idea: Everyone is experiencing the crisis differently.

Let's keep that in mind for the rest of the article.

Jessica Prudencio

Show empathy during this period of crisis

"Clearly, I am experiencing the situation as a human and not as an influencer. And you might have 1 million subscribers and still experience it like everyone else." - Jessica Prudencio

We sometimes tend to forget that the people we are following on social media are also, yep, human. And like everyone else at a time of crisis, some are managing their stress better than others.

It also means that some individuals need to help themselves before helping others, and in some cases, helping others means helping your audience.

In that respect, radio silence on social media doesn't automatically means being selfish or careless. Some of these influencers may be taking a break for their mental health, helping their family or investing their energy elsewhere.

The best example is Louis T., who decided to unplug for a certain time while explaining to his following why he was doing so:

"From my perspective, without any hindsight, without a particular angle, I could not figure out what I would bring to the table and would feel denatured if I would create fast-pace content. I even recognized the presence of my son at home as a burden to my web content creation. And that wasn't a nice thought, at all."

Before criticizing the people we are following on social media, let's try to come from an understanding point of view, especially at this difficult time. Because being all together in this crisis is also developing and maintaining empathy for others.

Émile Roy

The power of influence

"Having a platform is a privilege, and it comes with responsibilities. It's important to use our power of influence wisely." - Fred Bastien

Using its power of influence wisely should be the main focus of the "influencer" relationship, especially with its community, and even more so during a time of crisis. But what is its responsibility towards its community?

The answer of video maker and Youtuber Émile Roy reflects the type of content he is pushing on his platforms:

"Anyone communicating with an audience has the responsibility of sharing useful and relevant information, whatever the media."

The comedian Arnaud Soly brings a small nuance:

"In the entertainment business, we are establishing this responsibility towards our audience ourselves, based on what type of content we want to produce and the frequency of it. We did not sign a contract with our community."

In the actual context in which COVID-19 information is distributed every day at every hour, and is the only subject media are covering, we have needs other than staying informed. The need for entertainment and be reassured is also real.

Fred Bastien agrees:

"Camille and I are first sharing health and security advice within our content, but we also offer optimist content. The goal here is not to create more anxiety."

Kévin Marquis concludes:

"No one owns anyone anything. If someone does not want to take a stand during the crisis and only entertain people, it's all good! The only responsibility that "influencers" have, and that everyone also has is not to share false information."

Therefore, the individual responsibility is not a concept that only applies to influencers. We all have responsibilities as citizens during this crisis, just like all "influencers" have a responsibility towards their audience.

Arnaud Soly

Make a difference in people's lives.

The advantage that influencers have is being able to reach a broad audience rapidly. More so, their impact is immediate and massive.

"I’ve never gotten as many messages my whole life. Every day, I get a few "You made my day," "It's not easy at the moment”, "Your Instagram-lives are lifting me up." Of course, it's nothing compared to health workers, but if I can put a smile on people's faces, it is my way of contributing." - Arnaud Soly

There are numerous examples of influencers, artists, content creators and others reinventing themselves and finding ways to be useful for their community.

Here is a small list of sweet gestures if you were still skeptical:

  • Emile Roy rapidly produced an informative video on COVID-19, with the most recent pieces of information, just when the crisis debuted: " I asked my community what they wanted to learn about COVID-19 and used questions people were asking me on social media. I fueled this energy in research and to motivate myself to create a video on the crisis."

  • Jean-Michel Gagné also produced a video in collaboration with two microbiologists and infectious disease specialists in order to confirm or deny specific affirmations about Coronavirus.

  • There is also Arnaud Soly, who offers, for three weeks, live performance on Instagram, from Monday to Thursday at 10 pm: "We're all in confinement, but my strength is my creativity: my ideas are not in isolation."

  • Same thing for Math Duff (with Horacio Arruda), Bianca Longpré (with François Massicotte), Rachid Badouri (with Mehdi Bousaidan), only to name a few that perform live on their platform every week to entertain and make people smile through solitude.

  • Kévin Marquis, who has been one of the first "influencers" to share the « Propage l’info, pas le virus » message from Prime Minister Ministre Legault, remarks: " We can use our influence to set an example but also to inspire people."

  • Olivier Primeau also started regularly sharing pieces of information) provided in regular updates via the Legault government.

  • Ricardo began adapting his content by sharing easy recipes, with few ingredients, that doesn't cost much.

  • Trainer Jon Chaimberg offers live training every day to motivate people to workout at home.

  • In music, Coeur de Pirate sang Health guidelines to follow, as well as Ariane Moffat, in partnership with Telus, who reminded us that everything is going to be ok.

  • Many other musicians like Karim Ouellet, Aliocha, Geoffroy and Charlotte Cardin are offering free live performances on their platforms every week.

"Most sponsorships and business contracts are cancelled. It is then the perfect moment to create good, free content for your community, content that adds value. In short, it's the perfect moment to create content that is not focused on yourself." - Gabrielle Lacasse

Ça va bien aller

Solidarity above all

In conclusion, the differences between you and the people you follow are mostly inexistent; we all need to demonstrate solidarity during those uncertain times and bury the hatchet. Of course, in whatever capacity you can do so.

Definitely, "influencers" can reach a vast audience rapidly. When used for good, this influence-power can have an immediate impact and serve the common good.

Therefore, whatever it's used to share information, inject an optimism dose, change our minds, keep people close or ease loneliness, influence is, in my opinion, absolutely useful at a time of crisis.

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As a copywriter, Manny has always made a point of never looking down on anyone.