The effects of COVID-19 travel on the brands of influencers

There’s been a growing public debate over recent weeks about social media stars travelling to luxury locations abroad during tough COVID-19 restrictions back home. High-profile politicians, TV hosts and fellow celebs have all weighed in, angered by what they consider to be a blatant breach of “essential travel only” rules.

For the brands positioning themselves in the social media space by forming high-value paid partnerships with these stars, there’s also lot on the line if it turns into a PR disaster. After all, brands are the bridge between a company and its customers, and if you lose control of the narrative you risk your well-earned reputation.

But what do the fans of these so-called “influenzers” think and how could this reflect badly on the disruptor brands aligned with them?

To find out, we analysed the Instagram accounts of 50 popular social media stars who have been pictured abroad this Winter. And the results are somewhat surprising…

Likes per post for influencers abroad are up a staggering 144 percent compared to their average. Good news for partner brands like online fashion retailers Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing who rely on the aspirational images many of these celebs are posting in the sun to sell their clothing.

Of the social media stars posting from abroad, over half (25) are former Love Island contestants and Dubai was by far the destination of choice for influencers chasing the Winter sun.

Love Islander Maura Higgins saw the biggest jump in likes during her Dubai break in December with boyfriend and co-star Chris Taylor.

Her most-liked holiday snap of the couple was liked 939,555 times (at the time studied) – a jump of over 400 percent compared to Maura’s average number of likes per post. Her new beau also got 378 percent more likes than normal for posting the same picture going public with their relationship.

TOWIE’s Amber Turner comes in third place, with her most-engaged getaway pic from Dubai bringing in 370 percent more likes than normal. Amber shared plenty of holiday snaps with fans on Instagram, including an impressive shot of her posing on a jet ski outside the Atlantis Hotel.

Made in Chelsea sisters Lucy and Tiffany Watson also enjoyed a sun-soaked Christmas break, escaping before London got plunged into tier 4. And the likes flooded in during their Barbados getaway. Tiffany saw 338 percent more likes than normal on her photo of them splashing around in the Caribbean sea, while Lucy received 268 percent more. The pair make up the rest of the top five.

However, it seems that while loyal fans can’t get enough of celeb’s aspirational (and often provocative) holiday pictures filling up their social feeds during lockdown, only 40 percent of influencers studied gained new followers.

Demi Sims of TOWIE fame saw the biggest increase in followers (+145,405), up over 41 percent since she’s been on an extended trip to Dubai and Mexico with new girlfriend Too Hot To Handle’s Francesca Farago.

Love Island’s Chris Taylor comes in second place again, bringing in nearly 210,000 new fans while in Dubai – up 23.28 percent compared to before he left the UK.

In third place is Sophia Peschisolido – Karren Brady’s lookalike daughter – who boosted her Instagram followers by over 15 percent while sunning herself on a yacht in the UAE. That’s 30,450 more fans.

However, it appears that not every influencer has escaped criticism. TOWIE’s Kaz Crossley lost over 100,000 of her followers during her luxury stay in Dubai (a drop of 7.5 percent). Chloe Veitch from Netflix’s hit series Too Hot to Handle also lost fans – almost 35,000 compared to before she jetted off to the desert and Amber Gill, former Love Islander, lost over 22,000 fans.

Here are the results of the study in full:

Rouge Data Study - Influencers Brands and COVID travel - 28-01-21

50 social media stars who travelled abroad in Autumn and Winter 2020/21 were identified from recent stories in the UK media. Accounts that were set to private or where holiday pictures had been deleted were removed from the study, leaving a total of 47. 

Official Instagram accounts were analysed using the Ninjalitics tool to identify each influencer’s average likes per post and follower numbers on different dates – before they travelled abroad and their first post back in the UK or last abroad whttps://www.ninjalitics.com/here they remain.

To assess the effect on likes, average likes per post was compared against the number of likes their most-liked holiday post received. 

Data is correct as of 28.01.21. 

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