Company: Texas Department of State Health Services
Agency partners: Markerly (influencers); Sherry Matthews Group (messaging development)
Duration: April - August 2020
The Texas Department of State Health Services tapped a network of local influencers to encourage residents to stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19.
The department has run influencer marketing campaigns in the past, including a recent initiative to stop vaping.
“They are interested in finding new ways to connect with a younger audience to influence better health choices,” said Sarah Ware, CEO and founder of the influencer marketing agency Markerly.
In March, as the spread of COVID-19 overwhelmed parts of the U.S., the Texas Department of State Health Services decided to use the same strategy to encourage residents to stop the spread of the virus. The agency wanted to work with influencers who represented Texas; personalities who either were born, raised or live in the state.
At first, the message was primarily “about staying at home,” Ware said. But as the months progressed, it “evolved to send out the appropriate message based on the public health guidance.”
In March, Markerly drew up a list of potential campaign partners. In those early days, it was relatively easy to find influencers who were abiding by the public health guidelines - for the most part, people were staying put.
The initial wave of the campaign encouraged people to protect themselves and others by staying home. Some of the influencer’s social media posts also addressed strategies for staying physically active and mentally healthy while confined inside.
“The messages were about supporting people in this new lifestyle change and to make sure they knew they weren’t alone—that other people are going through it too,” Ware said.
View this post on Instagram
CORONAVIRUS SURVIVAL GUIDE Hey Guys, in all seriousness COVID-19 is attacking our world and we have to do our part to flatten the curve and save lives. To do your part it starts with social distancing, STAYING AT HOME and washing your hands. Try to keep your mental health strong by staying active. If you need at home workout ideas go to @GLOWFITNESS101 Remember we are staying home to protect everyone, especially our senior and higher risk communities. Go to http://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/ for up to date information on the virus and how to help flatten the curve. #StayHome #StayHomeTexas #Ad
As parts of Texas began to reopen in late April, the campaign evolved to reflect a new reality. The focus shifted to messaging that encouraged people to make sure they were socially distancing when they went out, washing their hands and generally “reminded them that just because things are open doesn’t mean this has gone away,” Ware said.
During this stage, qualified influencers grew harder to find. Many influencers became lax, going out with groups of friends, Ware said.
“It became more difficult to find people who were abiding by the guidelines that Texas put out,” she said.
Multiple potential partners were ruled out after publicly engaging in activities or behavior that did not align with health recommendations.
They eventually did find qualified partners, including blogger Jessica Serna and Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin.
The campaign featured 20 influencers. In total, 28 posts were released across social platforms, primarily TikTok and Instagram.
Campaign videos collectively received 33.6 million views on TikTok, and 1.1 million views on Instagram. A number of individual TikTok posts generated millions of views, including Serna’s post about hiking (7.4 million views) and Liukin’s post about wearing a mask (7.1 million views).
The campaign generated 37.4 million engagements on social media.