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New audiences, lower revenue: Social media influencers on surviving the pandemic and lockdown

Despite greater social media usage during the pandemic, influencers we spoke to said it has been an uphill battle. 

Written by Avantika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: July 13, 2020 11:36:46 am
covid-19. social media influncers, coronavirus, tiktok, tiktok ban, digital marketing, social media markets From changing content to increased engagements, social media influencers share the challenges they faced during the lockdowns.

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown to slow its spread may have increased the amount of time people spend on social media, but it hasn’t necessarily benefitted ‘influencers’ on these platforms, who rely on mass followings and sponsors to get by. Some say they’ve taken a major hit, while others have seen unexpected growth, but not necessarily along expected lines.  

“Not just me but every content creator is affected by this pandemic. These days there is not much brand collaboration on Instagram, but our Facebook page is doing great through video as the viewership and ad revenue has doubled,” says Karan Dua, who reviews food and blogs about it on the ‘Dilsefoodie’ handle.

Dua would earlier go out to record videos on street food or travel for stories on food, which stopped with the lockdown.

“Even my two sponsored trips to Dubai for world street food festivals and a Malaysia Tour by Malaysia Tourism got cancelled,” he said. So instead of videos shot outdoors, Dua now posts recipes of homemade dishes on his page.

Lockdown effect on revenue

Soumya Sharma, who is the co-founder and head of digital marketing firm ‘WeBee Social’, says influencers on social media have been hit by the lockdowns, and the worst hit are those who post on travel. 

“On the contrary, wellness and fitness influencers have been able to increase their followers as they are using this opportunity to now talk about health and how people should take care of themselves during the current situation,” she said.

The lockdown also forced both high-end to low scale brands to shift their advertising focus to explore the options platforms offer. While influencers globally are estimated to have earned $1 billion in revenue last year, their earnings have been hit as the pandemic and economic slowdown forced advertisers to tighten purse strings.

Sharma said that while there was a drop in revenue for the past few months, the market is gaining momentum. However, influencers are still to see the benefits. 

Shivya Nath, a travel blogger who quit a corporate job in 2011 to pursue her dream of travelling the world, admitted that despite having multiple sources of income the situation is grim.

Nath, who has nearly half a million followers on Instagram thanks to her posts on offbeat and sustainable travel, said she always knew the volatility that came with her career choice. 

“In my early days as a freelancer, I learnt that in order to manage the volatility of my income sources, I must have multiple sources. Like most other people, all my income sources have suffered during the pandemic,” she said.

For some, new audiences 

Nishi Srivastava, who runs the arts and crafts page ‘The craftsutra’, said she has seen a jump in new followers, but a drastic drop in income. 

“The kind of work we were doing was giving us more money. All the corporates are not spending because they are cutting costs, and arts and crafts are the lowest priority for them,” said Srivastava. 

“After the lockdown, we were pretty clueless as we did not know what to do because everything that we were doing required us to go out. Everything came to a sudden halt,” she said.

The former patent researcher said she’s now focussed on e-commerce and online classes. 

“While people are not inclined to buying clothes these days, there is a demand for DIY(do it yourself) kits and customised hand-made products, which is exactly what we are focussing on,” she said. 

Fitness trainer Neha Bangia Gulati said she has seen a substantial rise in her followers and income.

 

“I would say my income has gone up around 20-30 per cent,” said Gulati, who earns anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 for a single collaboration. 

Gulati, a mother of two, runs ‘That Fit Mum’ Instagram handle that encourages people to use body weight-based exercises and is ideal for closed spaces like homes.

“During the lockdown, I have gained a lot of followers and clients to such an extent that I have started saying no,” she said.

Changing the content

Nath, who runs travel blogging handle @shivya, said she was forced to consider the kind of content she shared given there was a global lockdown and hardly any scope for travel. 

“Without travel, there is no travel writing, right?” said Nath. 

But after a poll on her Instagram handle revealed that 84 per cent of her followers voted that she should continue sharing travel-related posts, Nath made a decision. So she now shares a mix of content that includes past travel stories and inspiration for people during the lockdown.

Srivastava, who runs the arts and crafts page, said she’s expanded her clientele across cities and nations thanks to moving operations online.

“The good thing that happened was that we were no more restricted to geography. From small towns such as Rajkot, Tripura, Johannesburg, Denmark, people are coming to us from all around the world,” she said.

Better times ahead?

Dev Batra, co-founder at creative digital agency Lyxel and Flamingo Digital, says influencers on Instagram will see a boom in revenue as the cost of investment for advertisers is low. 

“Investing Rs 5 crore on social media influencers or digital space to promote their brand will suffice. Moreover, digital starts giving responses very quickly compared to other mainline media,” he said.

However, WeBee Social’s Sharma said the ban on TikTok and Instagram’s latest short video format Reels may bring new challenges.

“In this pandemic, the influencers are facing competition from TV celebrities, who are now more active on these platforms. We got several enquiries from celebrities who were open to brand collaborations and more,” said Sharma.

It’s a long wait for some like food blogger Dua, who is hopeful of a return to normalcy, which in his case is the ability to step out to shoot food videos.

“Currently my focus is on home recipes rather than street food, but yes, I will resume all my outdoor shoots when things will get better in Delhi, with all precautions and safety,” he said.

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