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Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Instagram and Influencer Marketing

  • Saint Peter`s University

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The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have disrupted all aspects of life globally, most notably our relationship with the internet and social media platforms. People are online more than ever before, working and attending school from home and socializing with friends and family via video conferencing. Marketers and brands have been forced to adapt to a new normal and, as a result, have shifted their brand communication and marketing mix to digital approaches. Hence, this study aims to examine the shift of influencer marketing on Instagram during this period and the possible future implications. By employing an online survey for exploratory research, individuals answered questions addressing their perceptions about the impact of the pandemic, brands and influencers’ relationship, and the overall changes made in marketing strategy.
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International Journal of Marketing Studies; Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
ISSN 1918-719X E-ISSN 1918-7203
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Instagram and Influencer
Evelina Francisco1, Nadira Fardos1, Aakash Bhatt1 & Gulhan Bizel1
1 Frank J. Guarini School of Business, Saint Peter’s University, Jersey City, New Jersey, US
Correspondence: Gulhan Bizel, Frank J. Guarini School of Business, Saint Peter’s University, 2641 John. F.
Kennedy Blvd, Jersey City, New Jersey, US.
Received: February 10, 2021 Accepted: April 8, 2021 Online Published: May 13, 2021
doi:10.5539/ijms.v13n2p20 URL:
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have disrupted all aspects of life globally, most
notably our relationship with the internet and social media platforms. People are online more than ever before,
working and attending school from home and socializing with friends and family via video conferencing.
Marketers and brands have been forced to adapt to a new normal and, as a result, have shifted their brand
communication and marketing mix to digital approaches. Hence, this study aims to examine the shift of
influencer marketing on Instagram during this period and the possible future implications. By employing an
online survey for exploratory research, individuals answered questions addressing their perceptions about the
impact of the pandemic, brands and influencers’ relationship, and the overall changes made in marketing
Keywords: instagram, branding, brands, instagram influencers, influencer marketing, COVID-19 pandemic
1. Introduction
The unprecedented integration of social media into people’s lives has provided brands with ample opportunity to
connect with consumers. As a result, social media has revolutionized brand communications and has caused a
significant shift from a contact to a conversational model (Dias et al., 2020). Among many new approaches,
influencer marketing has emerged as a successful approach to connect with potential customers on social media
(Campbell & Farrell, 2020). Similarly, marketers are using social media, particularly their partnerships with
social media influencers, to engage with consumers and draw interest in their goods and services (Campbell &
Farrell, 2020). Social media influencers are defined as prominent users on the various platforms who
accumulated a large and dedicated following by crafting authentic online personas (Tafesse & Wood, 2020).
According to (Ki et al., 2020), influencer marketing has become an integral part of digital marketing strategies
under the premise that this marketing method is useful in yielding higher profits. This belief can be attributed to
the overwhelming positive perception of influencers by their followers, which renders the messaging highly
effective in soliciting a desired response (Tafesse & Wood, 2020).
1.1 Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Marketing
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting harsh economic consequences of the measures taken to mitigate the
spread, such as lockdowns, social distancing restrictions, indoor and outdoor capacity limitations, drastically
changed lives across the globe (Enberg, 2020). The restrictions and limitations to free movement caused by the
pandemic have forced the economy from a total standstill to a slow recovery (Enberg, 2020). Facing
unprecedented challenges and a “new normal”, the marketing industry has adopted methods to overcome
communication and engagement gaps with their target audiences (Enberg, 2020). With most of the world’s
population at home, social media platforms have become a means for keeping in touch with friends and family
and interacting with brands (Dias et al., 2020). During this period, brands have chosen social media to remain
relevant and continue to build brand awareness while helping consumers cope by offering positive messaging to
overcome the difficulties of this moment (Dias et al., 2020). Furthermore, Instagram has emerged as a prominent
and constant presence in the daily lives of young people, so it is no surprise that brands, perceiving this tendency,
increasingly seek to communicate through the platform (Dias et al., 2020).
Instagram is a social media platform that allows users to share snapshots of moments with other followers. In International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
research from Campbell and Farrell (2020), several brands and influencers were found to have built strong
relationships with their followers on Instagram. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how people
live and communicate (Dias et al., 2020). Many brands have had to change their marketing strategies to adapt to
brand communication through various social media platforms (Enberg, 2020). Brands have used social media
platforms such as Instagram to keep in touch with followers, spread information, make donations, and produce
sanitization products and masks (Dias et al., 2020). Instagram is a platform that has a high level of engagement
between a brand and influencer to its followers (Maares et al., 2020). The platform serves as a way for brands to
build strong and long-term relationships with their customers, spread positive word of mouth, and increase brand
awareness (Casaló et al., 2020). Instagram is also a great tool for the users that follow brands because it inspires
them and it gives the user the ability to engage with other users (Dias et al., 2020).
1.2 Literature Review
New technologies, in combination with new ways of interaction, are changing consumer consumption. We see an
overall shift in marketing trends and the perceived value of digital strategies across all industries (Arora et al.,
2019). Over the last five years, social media has profoundly shifted the market. Consumers have grown
accustomed to a global market that provides immediate satisfaction while nurturing a closer relationship with
brands (Arora et al., 2019). It is now a common practice for brands to use Instagram to share content that
enhances brand awareness and promotes and propagates community (Casaló et al., 2020). With visual and
aesthetic components, Instagram has emerged as a useful tool for brands in fashion, design, travel, hospitality,
retail, and more (Dias et al. 2020). According to a study from Ha et al., (2019) results showed that two
dimensions of mental imagery have a positive effect on the quality and elaboration towards a brand’s social
network service. The platform offers an advantage applying a visual strategy that provides the capacity for
greater user involvement while reaching a much larger and responsive audience at a lower cost (Phua et al.,
2017). It is a very effective channel to build a strong and lasting relationship with your audience, reach
prospective audiences, and create positive electronic word of mouth (eWOM) advertising (Dhanesh & Duthler,
2019). The presence of brands and visual storytelling on this platform is also important to create a sense of
community and belonging (Dhanesh & Duthler, 2019). In online brand communities users share views and
fulfill their social and identification needs (Phua et al., 2017). Users get the opportunity to participate and engage
in ways that were not previously possible (Dia, et al., 2020).
1.2.1 Instagram and Influencer Marketing
Instagram and influencers are key to building brand awareness and staying relevant to millions of users around
the world (Casaló et al., 2020). Instagram influencers forge a personal relationship and bond with their followers
by crafting a genuine online persona by sharing personal content (Tafesse & Wood, 2020). Instagram marketing
can be highly effective for users who have a positive perception of the influencers that they follow (Tafesse &
Wood, 2020). This would create the desired impact that the brand wants because the brand is leveraging the trust
and connection between the influencer and follower (Tafesse & Wood, 2020). Instagram allows users to post
photos or videos, add captions, use hashtags, like and comment on photos or videos, and create and highlight
stories on the users’ feed (Casaló et al., 2020). According to Phua et al., (2017), Instagram users scored highest
for showing affection and demonstrating sociability. In this study, Instagram users also scored the highest brand
community engagement and commitment. When users feel like they belong and commit to a brand community
they have a higher intention to purchase from the brand (Phua et al., 2017).
As a social media platform, Instagram has evolved from a single social purpose to a powerful marketing tool
(Djafarova & Bowes, 2020). The platform is now a key marketing component in most digital strategies (Ki et al.,
2020). With more than 1 billion monthly active users across all ages and genders, an estimated 4.2 billion posts,
and 400 million stories per day, Instagram has achieved an incredible global reach (Djafarova & Bowes, 2020).
Marketing strategies on Instagram consists of three pillars: content, community management, and viral
marketing (Dias et al., 2020). Because of the platform’s nature, users are typically more attracted and engaged
with more entertaining or exciting content (Casaló et al., 2020). Over time, incorporating new features such as
stories, live videos, reels, and more has led to improved user experience, further expanding its reach (Ki et al.,
2020). The platform has also given brands the ability to tag images of products to sell directly to followers
(Djafarova & Bowes, 2020). Adding this new service not only has allowed simplification at checkout but has
also become a potent stimulator in impulse purchases (Djafarova & Bowes, 2020).
Pre-pandemic, brands used influencers to create brand awareness on Instagram (Campbell & Farrell, 2020).
Influencers play a pivotal role in the social media landscape and influence marketing (Dias et al., 2020).
Influencer marketing involves leveraging the trust and connection that influencers have built with their followers International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
to extend brands’ reach and impact on social media. Influencer marketing is a type of hidden advertising similar
to native advertising in that paid content is made to look organic. While this has immense benefits for sponsoring
brands, it is a double-edged sword due to the possibility of deceiving followers, who might mistake paid content
for genuine, unpaid posts (Dhanesh & Duthler, 2019). While consumers generally appreciate the less interruptive
nature of this type of advertising, there’s a possibility of negative reactions if followers are made aware of its
covert intent (Dhanesh & Duthler, 2019).
According to Argyris et al. (2020), Influencers are just ordinary individuals, not celebrities, who have compiled
many followers on social media sites by posting visually attractive content that showcases their lifestyle and
merchandise preferences. Influencers typically post-self-centric selfies, appealing group photos, glamorous
portraits taken by others, product/brand photos (style, beauty, travel, interior, and food.), and often post photos
wearing the products, which persuades viewers at large (Jin et al., 2020). This type of marketing relies on the
positive perception of influencers by followers, which renders their messaging highly effective, creating the
desired brand impact (Tafesse & Wood, 2021). In research from Tafesse and Wood (2021), 42% of the marketers
reported using influencer marketing as their always-on strategy instead of a one-off, tactical campaign. The
market size of influencer marketing worldwide reached 148 million in 2019, an 8% increase from 2018, and this
number is expected to exceed $373 million by 2027 (Tafesse & Wood, 2021). Brands that want to maximize the
significant benefits influencer marketing can offer most identify suitable partners with a hoard number of
followers and have acquired potential to influence them (Campbell & Farrell, 2020).
1.2.2 Influencer Marketing During COVID-19 Pandemic
With consumers cooped up at home, marketers have been forced to adapt and expand online marketing strategies
(Enberg, 2020). The study conducted by Dias et al. (2020) revealed that most brands were confronted with
challenges to market and rethink strategies to remain relevant for their consumers while contributing to coping
with the pandemic. The pandemic has also disrupted the influencer marketing industry, with most influencers
having to address the challenge of creating organic and authentic content while still promoting brands (Enberg,
2020). As noted in Enberg (2020), budgets have been significantly reduced, resulting in brands having less
money to spend on digital marketing. The lack of available funds has also impacted the willingness of
influencers to partner with brands for free (Enberg, 2020). As the pandemic continues, influencers and brands
have started to shift their communication away from products and services and more toward values (Enberg,
2020). Brand turned to trusted advocates, giving them creative control to add value to people’s new realities
(Enberg, 2020). These trends are not new; they have simply accelerated pre-pandemic changes such as more
organic and authentic content and the rise of “everyday influencer” (Enberg, 2020).
1.3 Importance of Research
The recent literature on this topic focuses on the use and efficacy of influencers and influencer marketing for
brands. Brands have had to expand their way of connecting with current customers and potential customers
(Dhanesh & Duthler, 2019). They have started to focus more on communication and demonstrating what their
values are (Dhanesh & Duthler, 2019). This form of marketing helps the brand and influencer remain relevant
and popular with its customers and followers (Ha et al., 2019). Within this research, stakeholders such as the
users, brands, marketing agencies, and influencers will understand this form of marketing’s positive and negative
aspects (Dias et al., 2020). Influencers act as opinion leaders because followers tend to trust them more than
brands by comparison (Ki et al., 2020). Influencers are perceived to share more intimacy with their followers,
which makes them feel more valued (Casaló et al., 2020). Customers now have new ways of keeping updated on
these brands and are provided with exclusive deals to purchase (Dhanesh & Duthler, 2019).
The use of Instagram and influencer marketing is not a new form of marketing, but it has become more prevalent
during the recent year of the COVID-19 pandemic (Dias et al. 2020). This advertising type has become a way for
brands to build brand awareness and continue to actively promote their products and services with influencers
aligned with their targeted audience and value (Casaló et al., 2020). This research helps gain a better
understanding of this form of marketing’s effectiveness by providing a deeper understanding of the pandemic’s
impact. Thus, this study sets to:
1) Investigated the impact of influencer marketing on Instagram users during the pandemic.
2) Identified the key challenges faced by influencers and future marketing trends that may have resulted from
changes in lifestyles due to the pandemic.
3) Examined the role of influencer and brand content-driven attributes and their effects on their followers.
This study’s findings will help understand the role of the influencer and brand content and how effective it is to International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
convert followers into loyal customers and purchase these products or services that are being promoted, and the
importance of brand communications during times of uncertainty or crises.
2. Methodology
To answer the research questions and collect primary data, an online survey was created and distributed to the
general public. The survey was administered on social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook & LinkedIn),
survey exchange sites (SurveySwap & PollPool), and sent to individuals 18 years and older that use Instagram
frequently via email. The survey was available on each platform from December 21, 2020 until January 22, 2021.
Google Forms was used to create the survey, which contains 34 questions, organized by themes, to facilitate
understanding and response time.
2.1 Survey Design and Sample
Although there are dozens of social media platforms, Instagram was chosen for this study because the Ki et al.
(2020) research, which reported that it is the primary platform for brand collaborations. A qualifier question
about whether respondents use Instagram was created to ensure that the data captured were relevant to the
research. If respondents answered no, they were thanked and did not participate in the survey. If they answered
yes, they were allowed to continue to answer the rest of the survey questions. The survey yielded a total of 225
participants. Out of those 35 (16%), respondents did not use Instagram, making the final sample size of 190
respondents. The respondents’ sample consisted of Instagram users in the United States and abroad, intending to
gather a reasonable representative sample that reflects the adult population in terms of age and gender.
Participants were informed that the survey was completely anonymous and to be treated with confidentiality.
Respondents of the survey are self-reported Instagram users ranging in age from 18 to 55 years old. However,
the largest group of participants was predominantly 18 to 24-year-olds, both female (62%) and male (36%), with
a large majority having bachelor’s degrees and residing in the U.S. The vast majority of participants indicated
that they use Instagram at a frequency of several times per day. Table 1 summarizes demographic information of
the individuals that participated in the study.
Table 1. Sample characteristics
Demographics Categories n %
Gender Male 67 35.8
Female 115 61.5
Prefer not to say 5 2.7
Age 1824 92 49.5
2534 38 21
3544 18 9.7
4554 22 11.8
55+ 6 3.2
Prefer not to say 8 4.8
Ethnicity American Indian or Alaskan Native 2 1.1
Asian 94 51.4
Black or African American 5 2.7
Hispanic or Latino 28 15.3
White 36 19.7
Prefer not to say 10 5.5
Other 8 4.4
Education High School or Below 17 9.7
Bachelors Degree 95 51.4
Master of PhD 63 34.1
Prefer not to say 9 4.9
Household Income Less than $20,000 23 12.6
$20,000 to $50,000 31 16.9
$50,000 to $100,000 36 19.7
$100,000 to $150,000 14 7.8
$150,000 or more 14 7.8
Prefer not to say 65 35.5 International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
2.2 Measures
Participants answered the survey (Appendix A), which included multiple-item measurement scales adapted from
previous literature conducted by Dias et al. (2020) to ensure the measures’ content validity. The online survey
contained four sections: (1) Instagram Use, (2) Instagram Influencers, (3) Branding and Instagram during
COVID-19, and (4) Demographic variables (age, gender, education, household income, and location).
Individuals were asked questions measuring Instagram usage, frequency, brand behavior, and
brand-influencer-follower relationship. Question formats include multiple-choice, Likert scale, and open-ended.
The scales used five-point Likert-type response formats, in which respondents rated the content posted by
influencers and brands from 1 (“not interested”) to 5 (“extremely interested”). Additionally, respondents ranked
their satisfaction with the behavior of influencers from 1 (“not satisfied”) to 5 (“extremely satisfied”). The
survey responses collected were analyzed using Microsoft Excel to understand the data better and highlight
significant insights.
3. Findings
This study found that younger individuals, those in the 18 to 24-year-old age group, are more likely to follow
influencers on Instagram regardless of the circumstance. Overall, we did not find that the pandemic affected the
level of interaction with influencers amongst this group. As compared to the literature, we confirmed that
Instagram users prefer authentic content from influencers and brands alike during crisis times and responded
more positively to brands that changed their production in order to create products useful during the crisis. The
results of the online survey are presented below.
3.1 Instagram Usage
Respondents were asked how often they used Instagram, as well as whether or not they follow influencers on the
platform. Respondents reported using Instagram several times a day (65%), twice a day (8%), once a day (13%),
and a few times a week (13%) respectively. This population uses Instagram mainly to keep in touch and follow
the lives of friends and family (72%), create, share or view stories (66%), and create, share or view posts (62%).
As illustrated in Figure 1, when asked the question how users use Instagram, the majority of the respondents
chose that they like to “follow the lives of my friends and relatives”. Respondents also noted that they mostly
create and share both posts and stories for their followers to view and view those of the individuals that they
follow. The number of influencers followed by respondents varied widely.
Figure 1. Instagram usage amongst the respondents International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
3.2 Influencer Marketing on Instagram
As seen in Figure 2, when asked why individuals follow Instagram influencers, respondents noted type of
content as a driver. Other important factors in choosing which influencers to follow are the lifestyle, personality,
and values that the influencer has. This shows that interaction with followers and building a relationship is
important to users. Regarding how individuals interact with influencers on Instagram, the majority of the
respondents usually interact with likes. Some will also enjoy reacting to stories and commenting on the
Influencer’s page.
Figure 2. Reported reasons for following influencers
When asked how they interact with influencers, respondents indicated that “likes” was the primary form of
interactions shown in Figure 3, followed by “reactions to stories” as a close second. 38% of respondents reported
that they have started following new digital influencers during the Covid-19 Pandemic. When asked why one
individual responded that it was a “mood changer.” Other individuals stated that following influencers helped
them be “productive” and “motivated” during this time. Many expressed that following influencers helped them
stay informed and learn useful tips on dealing with the pandemic. When asked what their opinion was about the
relationship between brands and digital influencers many individuals had mixed opinions. Some respondents do
not find the relationship to be authentic. Some respondents indicated that they do not “trust influencers opinions
and reviews” because they are being “paid” to promote good feedback. Other respondents suggested that
influencers should do more “research” regarding the brands and products that they are sponsoring. Many people
want to see advertisements that are from positive brands that have strong values. Other respondents do find this
to be a positive relationship. Respondents indicated that this is a way of getting an “experienced opinion” about a
product and they find that many influencers are “transparent” when reviewing and promoting the products. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
Figure 3. Respondents’ interaction with influencers
The research question about the driving motivations for respondents to interact with influencers on Instagram
found that a majority identifies “like the influencers post” as a primary motivation, as is shown in Figure 4. The
influencers’ perceived complementary attitudes and behaviors are closely motivated. Respondents also indicated
that they follow influencers to find more information about the topics and brands of interest. These findings
support insights gathered from a previous study conducted by Dias et al. (2020).
Figure 4. Respondent motivation to interact with influencers
In an effort to identify perceived advantages received from following influencers, respondents were asked to
select from a list of options, as seen in Figure 5. In general, respondents in this group indicated that they view
learning about new products/brands, keeping up with trends, and promotional codes as significant advantages
received by consumers due to following influencers. This small insight is relevant. It indicates that consumers
seem to be aware of influencer advertising and consider these influencers a source of information, and value the
potential monetary savings. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
Figure 5. Reported advantages received from following an influencer
To determine the level of interest and satisfaction with the content posted by influencers on Instagram,
respondents were asked to rank the following four content categories: stories about private lives, tutorials,
tips/suggestions about products or services, inspiring photos and texts, based on a five-point Likert scale ranging
from “not interested” to “extremely interested.” As shown in Figure 6, this study found that more than 66% of
respondents indicated having varying degrees of interest in content posted by influencers who shared stories
about their private lives but were very interested in inspiring photos/quotes. This group also signaled a high level
of interest for content about tips and suggestions of products/services available in the market. These segments
consisted of the least number of respondents who were not interested in the mentioned contents. Additionally,
although Instagram live seems to be an excellent way for the influencers to communicate with their community,
most of the respondents did not seem interested in “live” events on the platform.
Figure 6. Graphical result of interest in content posted by influencers
Similarly, to determine the level of satisfaction with the behavior of influencers on the platform, respondents
were asked to rank the following actions: creates artificial content/uses many filters, stops posting content that I
like, always discloses when advertising brands/products, support a brand that does not represent their lifestyle, International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
based on a five-point Likert scale ranging from “not satisfied” to “extremely satisfied.” As shown in Figure 7,
the most significant finding is that respondents indicated not being satisfied with influencers that create artificial
content or that use too many filters. Additionally, respondents were not satisfied with influencers that stop
posting content they like and that support brands that are not representative of their lifestyles/values. The results
suggest that users are more likely to follow influencers that create genuine content which is consistent with
previous literature.
Figure 7. Graphical result of satisfaction of influencer behavior on Instagram
Lastly, many respondents also reported changes in how influencers communicate during the pandemic, as
indicated in Figure 8. The most notable responses to the research questions regarding changes were “they have
come up with new and innovative ways to interact with their audience.” Some respondents noted that the
“content changed to awareness and safety measures rather than usual topic” and “beside their regular contents,
they helped share true and relevant information about the pandemic and about how to prevent the spreading of
the virus.” Others noted changes where the influencers they follow are now recognized as more authentic, open,
and “real.” Many acknowledge their privilege and be in fortunate positions. The perceived changes seem to have
a positive impact on these respondents, increasing the influencer’s credibility. This observation is essential for
the brands they represent, especially if consumers believe that those influencers share the same principles as the
brand. As noted in Dias et al. (2020), brands need to identify and partner with influencers perceived to have
authenticity, personality, and the capacity for engagement to build a large following and thus increase brand
awareness. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
Figure 8. Graphical representation of influencer communication changes as noted by respondents
3.3 Brand Communication and Relation with Influencers
As for the relationship of Instagram users with their favorite brands, approximately 58% of respondents
indicated that they followed brand accounts and continued to do so during this period. With a constant presence
on Instagram, most respondents noted changes in communication by the brands they follow. Respondents
indicated that brands are “more engaged with their followers,” “all-digital, no personal,” “more aggressive,” and
“focused on COVID precautions such as social distancing & wearing masks.” Due to the unprecedented
circumstances of this pandemic, content preference differs slightly between the age groups as seen in Figure 9.
Younger respondents reported a preference for brand content to “cheer up.” Simultaneously, older groups lean
slightly more towards more content about how brands adapted their products and services to be more useful
during the pandemic. The younger group also demonstrated more interest in brand content supporting front-line
professionals such as health professionals, police, and more. This could be due to younger respondents being
more likely to follow the brands on Instagram and thus having a higher exposure level. Overall, this group has
positively received the changes, which reaffirms the shifts in brands’ strategies to communicate and engage with
their consumers since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, this may also indicate a possible change in
perspective by brands to address social responsibility roles in their communications and pursue a more strategic
marketing approach on Instagram. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
Figure 9. Brand content preferences as noted by respondents during this time
4. Discussion
Influencer marketing has emerged as a practical approach for brands to communicate and engage with their
consumers. As the literature suggests, the relationship between influencers and brands can be mutually beneficial.
This research found that younger Instagram users, those in the 18 to 24-year-old age group, are more likely to
follow influencer accounts. This population is very aware of the relationship between those influencers and the
brands they promote. Additionally, these respondents hold high regard and seek influencers that are transparent
about the advertising of products and brands. There seems to be a correlation between perceived sharing of
interests, characteristics, and behaviors with influencers and the emulation of those behaviors by their followers.
We can speculate that the more similar a person feels with the influencer, the more trust they will have, and the
more credible the influencer is perceived to be.
Consequently, perhaps, the more trust a person has for an influencer, the more willing they will be to purchase a
recommended product or brand. The more an influencer shows how genuine they are, it would allow them to
reach more people and persuade them to buy the products they are promoting. The research shows that more
brands used influencers to market their products during the time of this pandemic. Many brands have had to also
change their way of promotion by advocating the use of masks and social distancing. This period has allowed for
more interaction between the brands and the customers on social media platforms. Brands have had to connect
with influencers who are real and loyal to their followers to promote products and information that is factual. It
is also crucial that influencers research the brands that they are asked to promote. It is vital to the users that when
deciding which brands to work with influencers, examine the brand’s values and mission. Testing products and
deciding if they like the products is not enough; much of the population value honest companies and honest
promotions. This is an important factor for both brands and influencers in influencer marketing, especially
during difficult times, such as a pandemic that affects everyone.
4.1 Limitations and Future Research
This study has several limitations that point to multiple approaches for future research. Although there is a wide
range of research on Instagram and influencer marketing, few studies on this specific topic made it more
challenging to find information for this study to be more comparable. The first limitation is the actual sample
size for this study, which is relatively small. Thus, it is not representative of the population and hinders the
reliability of results. Given the lack of a representative sample, the findings may not generalize to other contexts.
Future research may want to extend the work to specific age groups and market locations. Second, research was
difficult to conduct due to limited data collection time constraints and participant responses’ viability. Lastly, as
trends continue to emerge, other platforms such as TikTok may be more appropriate to explore brand
communications and the relationship with influencers during times of uncertainty or crisis.
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Appendix A
Supplementary data
Instagram and Influencer Marketing During COVID-19 Pandemic Online Survey
1. Do you use Instagram?
2. How frequently do you use Instagram?
A few times a week
Once a day
Twice a day
Several times a day International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
3. How do you use Instagram? Select all that apply
Create, share or view posts
Create, share or view stories
Follow the lives of my friends and relatives
Learn more about topics that I am interested in
Learn more about topics that I am interested in
Keep up with brand trends and offers
4. Do you follow Instagram Influencers?
5. Who are your 3 favorite Instagram influencers?
6. What reasons make you follow an Instagram influencer? Select all that apply
Personality and/or values
Brands he/she uses
The type of content he/she posts
Relationship with his/her followers
Ability to talk about news related to topics I am interested in
Has a large number of followers and I don’t feel left out
7. How do you interact with influencers on Instagram? Select all that apply.
Reactions to stories
Sharing of stories
Private messages
Using Hashtags
8. Which of the following has motivated you to interact with a digital influencer? Select all that apply.
Like an influencers post
Compliment an attitude/behavior
Criticize an attitude/behavior
Ask for more information about a topic I am interested in
Ask for more information about a product/service that the influencer promoted
Ask for more information about a certain brand
9. How interested are you in the type of content that digital influencers post? On a scale of not interested;
2—slightly interested; 3—moderately interested; 4—very interested; 5—extremely interested.
Stories about their private lives
Tips/suggestions about products or services
Inspiring photos and/or texts
Lives about any event or activity
10. How satisfied are you with the types of content that digital influencers post? On a scale of not interested;
2—slightly interested; 3—moderately interested; 4—very interested; 5—extremely interested, select all that
apply. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
Stories about their private lives
Tips/suggestions about products or services
Inspiring photos and/or texts
Lives about any event or activity
11. How satisfied are you with certain behaviors of digital influencers? On a scale between—not satisfied;
2—slightly satisfied; 3—moderately satisfied; 4—very satisfied; 5—extremely satisfied, select all that apply.
Creates artificial content, uses many filters
Doesn’t answer comments
Stops posting content that I like
Promotes brands that I don’t like
Always discloses when advertising brands or products
Compliments and/or interacts with followers
Supports brands that don’t fit his/her lifestyle or values
12. Have you purchased products/services because of a digital influencer?
13. Have you promoted a brand or product that you became aware of through a digital influencer on your
Instagram profile?
14. Have you felt that the digital influencers that you follow changed their communication on Instagram during
the Covid-19 pandemic?
15. Have you started following any new digital influencer during the Covid-19 pandemic?
16. If yes, who and why?
17. How has influencer communication changed?
18. Did those changes please you?
19. Do you follow your favorite brands on Instagram?
20. What topics did you prefer that brands talked about during this period? Select only top THREE.
Content to “cheer up”
How they are protecting their collaborators
How they are protecting their clients
How they have adapted their products and services to be more useful during the pandemic
Suggestions to adapt your lifestyle to lockdown/un-lockdown
Supporting their followers International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
Supporting front line professionals (Health professionals, Police, etc.)
21. What is your opinion about the relationship between brands and digital influencers?
22. What are the advantages you feel that consumers receive when following Influencers? Select all that apply.
Promo codes
Life advice
Learning about new products/brands
Keeping up with trends
23. Do you value brands that have continued to support the influencers they worked with, even if their content
is more limited due to the pandemic?
24. Have you felt that brands that you follow changed their communication on Instagram during the Covid-19
25. How has communication changed?
26. Did those changes please you?
27. What is your age?
18 to 24
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
Prefer not to say
28. What is your gender?
Prefer not to say
29. What is your ethnicity?
American Indian or Alaskan Native
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
Prefer not to say
30. What is your Education level?
High School or below
Bachelor’s Degree
Master or PhD International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 13, No. 2; 2021
Prefer not to say
31. What is your household income?
Less than $20,000
$20,000 to $50,000
$50,000 to 100,000
$100,000 to $150,000
$150,000 or More
Prefer not to say
32. Do you reside in the US?
33. In what state or U.S. territory do you reside?
34. What is your country of residence?
Copyright for this article is retained by the author, with first publication rights granted to the journal.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
license (
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