The COVID-19 Effect
The effects of COVID-19 and the subsequent global lockdown restrictions have had a substantial impact on everyone in some form. For many businesses, this has resulted in marketing budgets being cut and campaigns put on pause.
The impact of reduced marketing budgets has a knock on effect for everyone involved – including Influencers who rely on brands working with them on sponsored posts to allow them to monetise their Social Media followings.
Over the past couple of months we’ve read a lot about the possible impact a global pandemic would have on Instagram Influencers. This made the Marketing Team at Attain curious.
Just how much were Influencers feeling the pinch? How much is lockdown potentially costing them? Are all Influencers affected or just certain niches?
So we did the research and found out for ourselves.
We analysed over 500 Influencers on Instagram, ranging from Nano-Influencers to Celebrity Icons, to better understand the extent to which their earnings potential has been impacted by COVID-19.
The Impact Is Real
If you read about an Instagram Influencer claiming that the results of countries going into lockdown have impacted them – they’re more than likely not exaggerating.
Our research found that 65% of the Influencers that we analysed posted less sponsored content in the 8 weeks from March 12th – May 7th, in comparison to the 8 weeks prior.
This equates to an average loss in potential earnings of £16,635 ($20,537) over 8 weeks – £2,079 ($2,567) a week.
Interestingly, just over 10% of Influencers saw their earnings go from something to absolutely nothing.
Contrastingly, only 24% posted more sponsored content in partnership with brands than they did in the previous period.
Year-on-Year Is Much The Same
For more accurate analysis and to account for any seasonal factors, we also compared the level of sponsored posts to partnered content from the year before. The results were remarkably similar.
66% of the Influencers we studied posted less sponsored content than they did in the same period in 2019.
23% posted more content and 13% were unable to continue cashing on paid ads.
That’s almost identical to 65% down and 24% up from the previous period – possibly suggesting that many Influencers adhere to consistent posting schedules for their sponsored content.
The average loss in potential earnings was higher though – £2,934 ($3,622) a week on average.
How Much Is Coronavirus Costing Influencers?
For the Instagrammers savvy enough to build up a large enough following, Instagram can become an extremely profitable platform.
Of the 500+ Influencers that we analysed, we discovered that each follower is worth on average £0.00313 ($0.00387).
This means that accounts with upwards of around 300,000 followers can start looking at over £1,000 for a paid partnership ad. Or if you’re Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, at least £1 million for 4 ads.
Taking the average of the potential earnings our Influencers made in the previous year and period, we discovered that Instagram Influencers are losing on average 33% of their potential earnings as a result of COVID-19.
This translates to an average loss of £2,500 ($3,100) a week.
That 33% figure falls roughly in line with the 35% drop that Socialbakers reported in the amount of posts using #ad for the first quarter of 2020 compared to the previous quarter.
It Doesn't Matter How Many Followers You Have
The earnings hit has impacted Influencers of all sizes, regardless of whether you have a few thousand followers or a few million.
Of the 5 groups that we split the number of followers into (0-100k, 100k-500k, 500k-1m, 1m-3m, 3m+), at least half of the Influencers in each category posted less sponsored content than they normally would.
As would maybe be somewhat expected, the group with the smallest followings (below 100k) have felt the pinch the most – 72% are earning less and only 16% are earning more.
In contrast, the group with the largest followings (3 million and up) have lost out the least – 55% earning less and 30% earning more.
Nobody Is Exempt
One of the names most associated with the term “Instagram Influencer” is likely Kendall Jenner. If you think that even someone of that stature is exempt, you would be very wrong.
The prior year she posted 6 ads. The prior period 8 ads. So lets assume she probably would have posted 7 ads this period. That would have earned her £1,934,916 ($2,388,785).
Since lockdown restrictions went into place – she’s posted ZERO. That’s nearly £2 million in lost potential earnings.View this post on Instagram
Travel Influencers Hit The Worst
Somewhat predictably, Travel Influencers are the group that have been impacted the most.
Using the average of both the previous period and previous year differences:
- 79% of Travel Influencers are posting less sponsored content with their potential earnings reduced by 47% on average
- 68% of Lifestyle Influencers are posting less partnered content and are losing on average 46% of their potential earnings
- 65% of Fashion Influencers are working less with brands to produce partnered content and are earning 31% less on average
- 65% of Influencers that found fame on Reality TV are posting less sponsored content and are earning 24% less on average
While the Influencers that found fame through shows like Love Island and Geordie Shore seem to be losing out the least, that’s by no means the case for all of them.
Love Island’s Amber Rose Gill however, could be missing out on over £130,000 from sponsored content.
What The Influencers Have To Say
To gain better insight, we talked to several influencers to see what effect the Coronavirus has had on them as an Influencer.
roamaroo is a Travel account ran by couple Scott & Collette. Collette was kind enough to offer us their personal insight.
As travel writers and photographers, the lockdown has had a substantial impact on our earnings since we cannot safely participate in and complete our travel assignments. Because of the lockdown, all of our jobs have been postponed until later in the year to ensure safety.
The majority of our sponsored posts have been postponed since it is not currently safe to travel and it would be insensitive to advertise destinations during this time. Also, advertising budgets have been cut dramatically and there are not as many paid opportunities.
We also talked to Vanessa Christine, a Fashion Influencer with over 500,000 followers who told us:View this post on Instagram
As a full time influencer/content creator my salary is based on brand collaborations and product deals. Being that ad and marketing has been cut almost completely I can definitely say the impact of Covid-19 has greatly affected a lot of ongoing and potential contracts with almost every company.
George LaBoda, the man behind Mens Fashion account atlasandmason, helped to detail the extent to which his earnings through Instagram have been effected:
My earnings have been cut by more than half. 75% of the campaigns I had lined up either canceled or postponed until summer. Offers [for sponsored posts] have been down about 50% as well for me.
It's Not All Doom & Gloom
While the investment from brands looking to collaborate on sponsored posts has understandably diminished, Influencer Marketing still remains a potentially profitable channel for brands to utilise.
With people having more free time due to lockdown restrictions, Influencers have generally been finding engagement rates on their posts either remaining steady, or as Collette explains, even performing better than usual.View this post on Instagram
Hold me tight 💞 ••••• It’s a time of uncertainty filled with anxious energy and a lot of fear of the unknown, but it’s also a time for us to lean on the people that we love, call our loved ones, FaceTime our families, and cuddle up at home with the people we’re self-quarantined with ❤️ • In a way, this is a time for us to come together and unite (at socially safe distances 😉) Think about what we’ve seen around the world: Italians singing and creating beautiful music on their balconies, the Spanish applauding healthcare workers from their balconies, and Australians are barbecuing and obviously taking good care of Tom Hanks 🙏🏼. • We as a human race will get through this with thoughtful and swift action, self-isolation, the amazing healthcare workers out there, healthy hygiene, and a whole lot of empathy. Everyone is reacting to this differently and there is no right or wrong answer. There is also no playbook to this because we’ve never seen a pandemic of this magnitude in our lifetimes. • Now is a time to be selfless and a time to practice safe distancing. Many people will suffer not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. As @elizabeth_gilbert_writer said, “if you believe that somebody is overreacting just try to remember that another word for “overreaction” is “fear.” Try to be compassionate and not contemptuous.” If you are in need, we are here for you 💞 •••••• #visitcalifornia #journeysofcouples #loveandwildhearts #creativetravelcouples
Our Instagram saw a 10% increase in engagement when the lockdown started. Our Instagram serves as a positive place where our community can find valuable information and engage in meaningful conversations about health & wellness, relationships, and travel.
Engagement rates performing well was a common theme across all of the comments that we received from the Influencers that provided insight to assist us.
As too was the theme of Influencers using this period for reflection and to learn new skills, as well as adapting their content strategies to different types of organic content that keep their followers engaged, as Vanessa and then Collette explain:
During this pandemic I have been able to take a step back and reevaluate many things and really slow down the fast paced lifestyle being an influencer brings to one.
I have started doing yoga on my free time, refurnishing my entire house, learn countless new recipes and I even have had time to open my Youtube channel that I never before found the time to do so.
While travel is one of our main pillars of content, we have taken this challenge as an opportunity to pivot, creating videos and articles that offer value in the current state of the world.
We’ve created content such as: How to survive quarantine with your partner (extremely important ;), how to stay in shape during quarantine, and virtual vacations / inspirational travel content to dream about for the future.
What Does This All Mean?
The impact of lockdown restrictions have made for a worrying and uncertain time for many industries which has had a knock on effect down to Instagram Influencers. Everyone has been affected by it regardless of fame, popularity, loyalty or category.
Good opportunities are also presented in the light of these circumstances.
With engagement rates generally improving and Influencers possibly having to reduce fees due to a temporary decline in demand, brands that have the fortune to be able to spend a Marketing budget may see improved returns compared to previous campaigns, but also compared to other channels that may not be performing as strong during lockdown.
The Bit For The Nerds
- Dataset in £ and in $
- To avoid anomalies, Influencers that didn’t post any sponsored content in the previous period/year were ignored.
- Earnings per Post were calculated using Influencer Marketing Hub’s Instagram Money Calculator at the 4 week mark
- “Sponsored Content” was considered anything signalled with variations of #ad, #sponsored, #brandpartner, #giveaway, etc