We've seen how countries' different policy reactions to COVID-19 impacted their salon activity, with the United Kingdom experiencing a notable activity drop during mandated closures, whereas activity in South Korea remained virtually unchanged as salons remained open.
Now, we see evidence that the impact of countries' divergent COVID-19 approaches extends online into social media spending via paid partnerships.
South Korea: Social Sponsorship Boom
In South Korea throughout 2019, approximately 4.5% of posts from beauty-lovers were sponsored. This has now risen to more than 5.5% through 2020, with an approximate gain of 0.5 percentage points May 2020 over May 2019.
Caption Excerpt, Approximate Translation: "These days I'm looking for a cream that doesn't come off while wearing a mask. I found Just Fit Once Rosy Tone Up Cream... #ad"
UK: Social Sponsorship Regression
Prior to the first reported cases of COVID-19 in the UK, social sponsorship was on a steady climb, with sponsored posts from beauty-lovers throughout 2019 at an average of 2.6%, up from approximately 1.6% of posts throughout 2018. Now, social spending is nearly back down to 2018 levels, with an average of 2.0% of posts sponsored throughout 2020, with an approximate loss of 0.6 percentage points year over year as of May 2020.
Caption Excerpt: "SMASHING IT | 🌱🥑 Following up from yesterday’s stories about the difficulty of not getting paid in this job, I still wanted to spread positivity 🙌🏻 (but thank you all for all of the messages of support!!)"
USA: Social Sponsorship Recession
It's hard to attribute the fall in social sponsorships in the USA to COVID-19 alone, as throughout 2019, rates of sponsorship were periodically lower than they had been 2018. But 2020 has seen a consistent and precipitous drop in sponsorship rates, from an average of 1.1% of posts from beauty-lovers sponsored throughout 2019, down to an average of 0.7% in 2020 and falling, with an approximate loss of 0.4 percentage points year over year as of May 2020.
Caption Excerpt: "The worry isn’t so much the virus. While that is a scary thing in itself, being freelance during all this adds to the fear. When will I work again, when will I make income."
The Horizon for Social Media Spending
As with any economic indicator, social sponsorship activity alone is not enough to make widespread conclusions about the future of influencer marketing. Particularly in beauty, where demand is up in some categories and down in others, long-term prospects may be just as dependent on influencer agility and adaptability as sponsor budgets.
In the short term, however, the sponsor spending that generated a livelihood for many in the UK and USA in 2019 will leave a void in 2020.