Instagram Beauty Influencers Communication Strategies and the COVID-19 Pandemic
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This research explores the communication strategies of Instagram beauty influencers during the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States of America. Four Instagram beauty influencers posts were analysed from February 2020 to April 2020 which includes one month before the pandemic and one month into the pandemic. A thematic analysis was performed on influencers social media posts to identify key shifts in their communication strategies. Pre Covid-19, a beauty influencer’s main communication strategies were focused on being confident, aspiring, relatable, authentic, and use persuasion communication to help sell products that they are endorsing for various brands. The analysis found that during Covid-19, these communication strategies changed as beauty influencers were unable to curate and produce the same content as before. Due to the unprecedented times that Covid-19 left them and with a majority of the United States being put on a ‘Stay at Home Order’, influencers were forced to change their communication strategies. Beauty influencers felt they had a responsibility to set an example for their followers when it came to dealing and living with a new normal because of Covid-19. From this they began to include health messaging into their communications, urging their followers to stay at home, practice social distancing and to wear masks when in public. A new normal in terms of content began to be created with these influencers testing out different content types such as education, cooking, lifestyle, and family posts. Additionally, given the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, beauty influencers also produced care-related content. For instance, participants in this study attended therapy sessions with their therapists live on Instagram and posted these, whilst also promoting self-care. Furthermore, the participants in this study also began to open up to their followers unlike ever before, being open and honest about their personal struggles and exemplifying issues that confronted women during the pandemic. Additionally, the research found that beauty influencers persuasion communication shifted from selling beauty products to persuading their followers to be sensible during the pandemic. Content production became flexible precisely because they wanted to be relatable to their followers during this time. As such influencer’s persona shifted to become more health and pandemic conscious to ensure relevancy and currency. Before the Covid-19 Stay at Home Order was placed, aspirationalism was glamourous, luxurious and sought after. It was an attribute that was found most attractive to followers and would be the carrier between success and failure as an influencer. However, during quarantine aspirational content was seen as distasteful and not pandemic conscious. Because this attribute was no longer deemed as desirable the aesthetics, colours and themes of the four influencers changed severally during the Covid-19 pandemic. In short, the research found that the influencers developed novel and intriguing ways to negotiate the pandemic by transforming their communication strategies and content without losing their brand image and aesthetics.