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Influencer marketing in times of war

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Influencer Marketing
3/25/2022

The war has changed everything. What will influencer marketing be like in a new reality? 

It has been a month since Russia started its war with Ukraine. The Hypetrain team expresses solidarity with the Ukrainian nation, with those who had to leave their homes, with those who fight for their Motherland, and with those who have stayed in the country no matter what. We are looking forward to peace in Europe. 

siarhei_marchyk / Instagram
Source: siarhei_marchyk / Instagram

Russia’s war against Ukraine is the first war where those in occupied cities have used social networks to spread evidence of warfare. The Reuters agency has called this phenomenon a “TikTok war.”

Large-scale war in Europe in the 21st century has changed all of us, in every field. And influencer marketing is no exception. 

Let’s have a look at the changes to the market experienced after Russia invaded Ukraine, how Ukrainian and world influencers have responded to it, and what we can expect in the future.

The changes

From the very beginning of the war, bloggers have joined traditional media in becoming the main sources of information about the events happening in Ukraine.

The war has made influencers change their usual/traditional content to focus on news from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and other Ukrainian cities. 

The White House even briefed TikTok stars about the war in Ukraine.

The power of social media has been used for non-commercial purposes before. For example, it has recently been used to stimulate the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. But now, we are faced with something completely new. In a critical situation, many influencers have begun to talk about the war, explain what is happening, and show videos taken at the locations of key events.

Travel blogger from Ukraine alina__volik posted videos of her last hours in the country as she told the story about getting on the evacuation train after three tries.

@alina__volik If you want to see how I will live abroad, watch my Instagram stories ❤️ #nowarinukraine #ukranianrefugees ♬ original sound - ratherbe.anyoneelse

From the day the war began, she started to show the world a new Ukrainian reality. In less than a month, her TokTok audience has grown from 36K to 76K.

After the war broke out, model, Playboy star, and premium cosmetics brand ambassador Dasha Astafieva posted an appeal on Instagram, urging Russian women to not send their men to war. She regularly posts motivational videos in her Stories. In addition, Dasha started a special fundraiser for the armed forces of Ukraine.

It seems that even some Russian-speaking bloggers have begun to challenge the agenda due to the massive and unbelievable humanitarian crisis this has turned out to be. 

In less than a month, more than 3 million people have left their homes.

Even those who have no connection to either Ukraine or Russia can not help but react to the war in Europe. Khaby Lame, who seemed never to comment on anything political, also released a video reacting to the war and calling for peace. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elon Musk, and all 

Arnold Schwarzenegger started a Telegram channel and recorded a video message to the Russian people. 

“I love the Russian people. That’s why I have to tell you the truth. Please watch and share,” he said in the statement.

This phrase by Schwarzenegger probably explains why influencers (and the whole world) have not remained indifferent.

“When I see babies being pulled out of ruins, I think that I'm watching a documentary about the horrors of the Second World War, not the news of today,” Schwarzenegger explained.

Tesla and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, also did not stand aside. The businessman posted the following message on his Twitter page: “I challenge Vladimir Putin to a duel. Ukraine is at stake,” Musk said. "Do you agree to this fight?" he added, tagging the Kremlin page. The businessman wrote the name of the Russian president and the second part of the appeal in Russian. 

Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Sean Penn, and many others have also voiced support for Ukraine. 

The war in Europe has left no one indifferent in the world. Probably for the first time, we have witnessed a wave of solidarity not only from civil society and opinion leaders but also from business. Hundreds of brands have announced that they are leaving the Russian market. Businesses chose to do so on their own, without their countries’ governmental coercion. This is a new phenomenon that shows how important reputation is in the modern world; now companies are responsible not only to owners and shareholders but also to society in general. This will make a huge difference for influencer marketing in the future. The social responsibilities of both brands and creators will increase. This means that the work will be more difficult, but the love coming from the audience will be stronger. 

What has changed?

TikTok has officially suspended its operations in Russia. Facebook and Instagram are blocked by the Russian authorities. At the time of this article’s publication, YouTube is still available for users in Russia. But, for the Russian-speaking YouTubers themselves, hard times are coming. After the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine, YouTube changed the rules for monetizing content, practically depriving Russian-speaking bloggers of the opportunity to make money on their products. 

The Russian audience is no longer taken into account when monetizing such content –millions of views from Russian users will not bring anything to the content creators themselves. It is still possible to receive donations through Patreon, but it is not known how long that will continue to work. At the same time, YouTube allows users to publish videos and make broadcasts in Russian. This is important, given the flow of disinformation that comes from the Russian state media. However, this is still a very powerful blow to Russian-speaking creators and businesses that were focused on Russian clients. In fact, this means the elimination of the entire industry of influencer marketing in Russia and blogging in general. 

Rescue of Stepan the cat

Despite all the horror we are experiencing, there is good news. A cat named Stepan (@loveyoustepan), an Instagram star from Kharkiv, successfully managed to leave Ukraine with his owner. After the start of the war, there were no posts on Stepan's profile for two weeks, and many were worried about his fate. Now Stepan is in France and, together with his owner, is waiting for that cherished day when he can return home. After moving to France, Stepan's owner talked about the hardships she faced in fleeing Ukraine.

“We spent two nights in the basement. We were without electricity for a week. We went to the next entrance to the basement to charge the phone. Then we managed to leave. Kharkiv volunteers helped and took us to the railway station. We boarded the Kharkiv-Lviv train (in 20 hours, we got to Lviv). Then we moved to the border with Poland. At the border, we stood in a walking queue, there were a lot of people (4-5 thousand). We passed the border after 9 hours.

Once in Poland, we received an offer of help from the World Association of Influencers from Monaco, who helped us get to France so that we could wait for the very day when we could return home.”

Stepan the cat has more than a million followers on Instagram; they ordered advertising from him, made TV shows with him, and even some stars (for example, Britney Spears) have dedicated their Stories to him.

We hope that everyone who was forced to leave Ukraine because of the war will be able to return to their homes as soon as possible.

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