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- The influencer industry has seen a downturn in recent weeks, especially for those primarily working in the travel category.
- Christina Vidal, a travel influencer with 85,000 followers on Instagram, said she experienced a sharp decline in overall revenue as her main streams of income (like paid trips and travel commissions) stalled.
- But to make up for lost income, Vidal and other travel influencers have been leaning into other content verticals like food and lifestyle to reach wider audiences.
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Christina Vidal, a travel influencer, has experienced a major hit to her digital business in recent weeks.
Vidal’s business is run primarily on her Instagram page JetsetChristina (85,000 followers) and on her blog Jetsetchristina.com, where she shares travel guides with her readers and earns revenue through paid trips and affiliate commissions with booking websites.
Many influencers, like Vidal, who primarily work in the travel category say brand sponsorships are their main source of income. But in mid-March, the lucrative market began a steep decline because of the coronavirus pandemic, as brands canceled influencer-marketing deals and paid trips were placed on hold.
Along with those cuts, Vidal said she experienced a sharp dip in direct-ad-revenue rates from the display ads on her travel blog.
To stay afloat financially, she decided to pivot and focus on what her audience would be more interested in right now, like easy recipes and a quarantine gift-giving guide.
“I focus on luxury travel, and that is definitely not what people were thinking about in mid-to-late March and in all of April,” she told Business Insider. “I immediately was like, ‘OK, if people aren’t reading about travel, I need to write about other things.'”
Vidal is not alone in having to make drastic changes to her content in recent weeks. Business Insider spoke with several travel influencers and industry experts about how the coronavirus had affected their businesses and which strategies they were focusing on to continue to earn revenue and build up readership.
Leaning into new content categories like food and lifestyle
Audiences online aren’t searching for the same content as before, but they are still there and hungry for other types that are more relevant to life at home.
“A lot of the travel influencers still have engaged audiences,” Evan Asano, the CEO of the influencer marketing agency Mediakix, said. “By sharing more about themselves, their journeys, struggles, etc., it tends to personalize them more. In some ways, with some influencers, it’s actually bringing them closer to their audiences and also helping them to diversify their content.”
As readership plummeted on travel stories beginning mid-March, Vidal said the ad revenue on her blog dipped. Now a few weeks later, she said the traffic on her blog was the highest it’s ever been (though her rates are still down).
What did Vidal do to bring back her readership?
“My website is at the highest readership it’s ever been because I am writing about all of these different things, and I’m just reaching a much wider audience,” Vidal said.
She has been leaning into other content verticals like food and lifestyle, and she used Google to study which search results were trending and new ways to customize posts around those searches.
“One of my most successful posts right now is gifts to give your loved ones in quarantine,” Vidal said. “Based on my own experience, I think that the more I write about different verticals and categories, it gives me a better opportunity to have a better ad rate because no one is spending in travel right now.”
Lindsay Silberman, a travel influencer with 168,000 Instagram followers, told Business Insider she has been leaning into beauty tips, loungewear recommendations, and at-home workouts on her blog and Instagram.
Silberman recently put together a list of her favorite wines under $30 for her blog, which she said was “a big hit” with her readers.
Turning to affiliate revenue when sponsorships are put on hold
Vidal said her primary revenue streams were brand sponsorships, display ads on her blog, and affiliate revenue earned through commission links through booking websites or hotel affiliates.
But with brand sponsorships in free fall, Vidal has been focusing on the revenue she earns from her blog and commissions.
Silberman’s number of inbound partnership opportunities has definitely slowed down, she said, but “hasn’t come to a screeching halt.” Her affiliate revenue has been spiking, she said, and she recently started accepting one-on-one consulting clients for search-engine optimization and blogging, which is something she previously considered but didn’t have time for.
“I’ve been doing a consistent number of sponsored posts. I’d say about one to two a week,” she said. “Most were with brands I’d previously worked with, although a handful were new business — like a fitness app that reached out to me after seeing my ‘Quarantoned’ video series on Instagram.”
Establishing partnerships with brands on new platforms like TikTok
Some travel influencers are trying out new ways of reaching audiences, from TikTok to Instagram Live.
Helen Owen, a travel and lifestyle influencer with 1.6 million followers on Instagram, told Business Insider that she used Instagram Live to share her home workouts with followers and was building up her presence on TikTok.
“I am also planning to expand my online presence to YouTube where I feel I can break out of the more staged and curated nature of Instagram and connect with my audiences more personally,” Owen said.
In recent weeks, Owen has worked with brands like the clothing retailer Revolve and the skin-care company Neutrogena. She has continued to expand her TikTok business, working with brands like Olay and Vital Proteins.
“Just as I have had to readjust my content, I have also been leaning into partnerships that are relevant to life at home,” Owen said.
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For more on the business of influencers, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:
- 8 ways YouTube and Instagram influencers are earning money besides advertising, as brand sponsorships stall: Influencers earn their money through merchandise, subscription-based memberships, commission sales, and other popular streams of income.
- The influencer economy hasn’t been destroyed by the advertising meltdown, as creators make money from merch, subscriptions, and even personalized shout-outs: Creators and marketers are adjusting their businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic and showing why the influencer industry won’t collapse.
- A YouTube microinfluencer shares his exact monthly income in April and how the coronavirus has affected his business: Jimmy Ton, a microinfluencer who runs a tech-review YouTube channel with 25,000 subscribers, shared how much money YouTube paid him in April.
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