Bye travel, hello TikTok: How Singapore’s influencers cope with the circuit breaker measures
Stuck at home, no travelling and brands dropping their marketing budgets. Many social media personalities have had to adapt to stay afloat and keep their feeds relevant.
The life of an influencer always seems to be filled with gloss and shine – showing off those numerous branded goods on Instagram or travelling to far-flung places whose names we can’t pronounce.
The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, however, has thrown a spanner in the works, stopping many an influencer in his or her tracks.
More than a month into the “circuit breaker” measures imposed by the government, some influencers told CNA Lifestyle that they have been forced to change the way they work in order to keep up.
For now, gone are the puffed-up product launches, the glitzy glamour of media events and the attractive advertisement campaigns. Being stuck at home means having to reinvent their content to suit home living more and, perhaps, looking outside social media as revenue sources.
So how have local influencers adjusted to something that’s put a dent in their feeds?
‘IT’S COME TO A LITERAL STANDSTILL’
For travel influencers Hemandra Tanapalan and Cheryl Chua of TodayWeExplore – an Instagram account with almost 100,000 followers – the global quarantine has pretty much grounded them.
“Since we mostly focus on travel, our Instagram page has come to a literal standstill as most of the brands we tend to collaborate with have held off their marketing efforts,” they told CNA Lifestyle.
“If we were to compare it to our revenue from the same time period – February to May – last year, the difference is an almost 90 per cent decrease,” they added.
The couple’s feed is filled with photos of far-away lands and the staycation life in Singapore, but the slowdown seems have affected their posting rate, too.
In a post on Apr 20, they wrote: “Sorry for the lack of updates on here and our stories guys! We've been focusing a lot on our other work since travelling or even moving around here in Singapore is out of the question for now. Can't wait to be out and about!”
Most of the brands we tend to collaborate with have held off their marketing efforts.
Even for influencers in other areas such as lifestyle or beauty, the constraints put on marketing budgets have forced them to rethink the way they put out content.
One such influencer is Nicole Chang Min, who has around 60,000 followers on Instagram.
“Obviously, a lot of campaigns and product launches have been cancelled. Projects that were supposed to happen have been pushed back multiple times,” she said. “Things are very unpredictable and clients are scurrying to finding new ways and angles to promote their products.”
'INTO THE DEEP ABYSS OF TIKTOK’
With this in mind, Hemandra, Chua and Chang have had to switch from their usual content.
Hemandra and Chua said they have been working on other ventures and businesses besides their social media account.
“It's safe to say we no longer can rely on income from sponsorships and advertising so we've adapted. I know a lot of other influencers who have had it a little more difficult because this was their primary bread,” they said.
“The market spending habits will definitely shift after this pandemic so I think we all need to be able to adapt quickly to survive.”
And as for their Instagram page?
“Once the ‘circuit breaker’ lifts, we have decided to make our IG page a little more personal and about our casual lifestyle to adapt to possible restrictions on travel,” they said.
It's safe to say we no longer can rely on income from sponsorships and advertising.
Chang, on the other hand, still appears to be able to continue with some form of advertisement content, albeit ones focused heavily within the confines of circuit breaker measures (and her room, too).
She mentioned having to manage clients’ expectations when it came to shooting advertisement posts at home, which she described as “pretty old and shabby”.
“(I have to) tweak content so that it's circuit breaker-related and venture into the deep abyss of TikTok,” she said.
While she noted that there has been an increase in food and delivery advertisements, there is some struggle with finding her creativity after being indoors 24/7.
“I'm struggling to cope with the constraint of space to produce content,” she said. “In every post, I'm thinking how to continuously reinvent it within my four walls to keep the viewers engaged but still get my message across.”
“It's different because we can't go to a nice location to shoot Instagram-worthy shots or get help from professionals to produce top quality content,” she added.
‘I’VE FORMED FRIENDSHIPS WITH FOLLOWERS’
It’s not all doom and gloom for influencers though. There are some upsides that come with more people staying at home and glued to their screens.
It's different because we can't go to a nice location to shoot Instagram-worthy shots.
Audrey Faith Lim, who runs Tippytoess and has 60,700 Instagram followers, has had the fortune of working from home for the past two years, creating content that caters to home life. With the nation, well, stuck at home, she’s seen a growing interest in her content, of which 80 per cent is centred around home living such as home decor and organisation tips.
“I can see a sharp increase in engagement across my social media platforms and it is a great time for advertisers to feature products. I think it is mainly attributed to the fact that people are bored at home and spend more time scrolling through social media,” she said.
And like Chang, she too has had to wander into the previously unknown lands of TikTok, which she says was “totally out of my comfort zone pre-COVID-19”.
However, she’s also not immune to the downturn, as advertisement campaign cancellations have affected her income as an influencer as well.
But she’s optimistic. After an initial sharp drop in advertising revenue, Chang said there’s been some upswing when it came to advertisement clients.
It's reassuring to know that we are still a viable option that advertisers turn to in times like this.
“Initially, there was quite a drastic drop due to the campaign cancellations but as soon as advertisers found a way to circle around the restrictions, we are back in the ball game,” she said.
“It's reassuring to know that we are still a viable option that advertisers turn to in times like this. I also try to compromise and match their current budget so that we can help each other for a mutually beneficial collaboration.”
One thing’s for certain – their fans and followers are going through this period with them, providing encouragement and support.
“I have formed a close friendship with many of my followers and we regularly share recipes or organisation tips with each other via direct messages,” said Lim.
“It is nice to bridge that virtual gap especially during this trying period. Everyone is having a hard time and that mutual understanding helps to create bonds like never before.”
Editor's Note: The headline to this story has been edited. An earlier version had included a quote that was incorrectly used. We apologise for the error.