The novel coronavirus outbreak has negatively affected the livelihoods of those whose jobs involve significant human interaction, like taxi drivers and hotel staff. But the outbreak has been a mixed bag of sorts for online influencers who thrive on the internet thanks to their legions of followers.
In the case of popular travel blogger Lulu (her screen name), many of her business trips have been delayed or canceled while some of her promotional campaigns－a key source of income for key opinion leaders－have also been suspended as her clients adjust their marketing plans in light of the epidemic.
A Chinese lifestyle influencer who goes by the avatar Mou Daren has also felt the brunt of the epidemic's impact, saying that a certain part of his income has been affected since the outbreak of the contagion.
However, Mou, who markets products with a partner on a WeChat account and also provides emotional advice, is confident that this downturn will not last long.
"Dramatic changes have occurred as our clients, a lion's share of whom are beauty brands, are among the most vulnerable groups during such an epidemic," he said.
But he's not allowing anxiety to rule the roost, and Mou compares it to normal business fluctuations during the offseason. "I'm not too concerned about the short-term impact. On the contrary, it's important to stay focused on what you do."
For example, his platform has recently been publishing articles about relationships, as people are confined to their homes during the epidemic and it's critical to make isolation time with family members pay dividends.
Lulu also includes content centered around lifestyle sharing, delicacies and movies. "I also would rather postpone promotional ads, leaving more online resources to more critical matters, such as news related to the fight against the disease."
For June Zhu, a gourmand who also handles public relations for catering and food brands, there has been at least one major positive takeaway from the viral outbreak－while her income from offline events has been hit, engagement with her online followers has grown.
"Fans are becoming much more active compared with before. More and more of them are posting photos of their food and sharing recipes and ingredients, since many of them have to stay home and prepare their own meals," she said.
Zhu has followed suit, coming up with content along these lines, such as designing unique menus and filming short videos of her cooking.
Key opinion leaders have also seen the epidemic as an opportunity to do good. Zhu, for example, has leveraged her network to help connect consumers with farmers whose sales have been hit by the outbreak.
Lulu spent part of her latest holiday in Hawaii scouring pharmacies and secured over 500 surgical masks that her followers have requested. "I only wish I could have managed to purchase more," she said. "I am doing so not just because I am an influencer. It's more because I am a Chinese and I think it's something I want and should do."
Not all influencers have been negatively affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Lei Silin (avatar), who was named among China's Top 100 New Media Luminaries 2019 by media agency New Rank, is among those who have managed to turn a recent profit.
Writing literally "anything" he wants to write－as he puts it－Lei reaped gains thanks to his efforts in helping enterprises promote philanthropic endeavors they have undertaken amid the epidemic.
"Overall, I see a surge in the amount of investment coming to my platform. These companies have devoted a lot in the fight against the virus and it's only natural that they want their endeavors to be seen by the public," he said.
KOLs can also benefit from the crisis if their content is "knowledge-intensive", said Coolio Yang, former CEO of social media agency Kantar Media CIC in China.
"The epidemic has unexpectedly proliferated and accelerated China's development of e-learning and remote working tools," Yang said. "Those who specialize in certain subjects could explore offering distance learning and online training opportunities."