Social media wants to talk money.
Financial influencers are finding that their expertise is more in-demand than ever during the coronavirus. With social media consumption on the increase as users self-quarantine, fin-fluencers are experiencing as much as a fourfold surge in views. Search interest in the stimulus package, housing market and credit card debt has the Internet’s money gurus churning out extra content to meet their followers’ demands.
YouTuber Nate O’Brien typically sees a spike in subscribers in January, as users make financial New Year’s resolutions. That spike usually tapers off by spring, but this year, things have only picked up. In the past month, O’Brien gained about 30,000 new subscribers, bringing his overall count to nearly 500,000. Many of his viewers are seeking advice on how to invest during the coronavirus.
“A lot of people are thinking there’s probably some opportunity opening up because whenever we enter into a recession there are opportunities,” O’Brien said. Over the past week, he has uploaded three videos, all of which are investment-themed.
Marko of Whiteboard Finance, which has 340,000 YouTube subscribers, is fielding follower inquiries about real estate and the housing market.
“It’s more of a ‘How do I profit from this?’ kind of thing,” he said.
Brian Jung has noticed a 220 percent increase in viewership on his YouTube channel covering the credit card market. He currently has nearly 60,000 subscribers.
“People just want reassurance, really,” Jung said. “People want to know whether or not cards are easier to get accepted for, whether their credit limits are getting increased or decreased. I think [my viewers] want information of value.”
Haley Sacks, whose Internet persona is Mrs. Dow Jones, said she is “working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life.” A self-proclaimed “financial pop star,” as stated in her Instagram bio, Sacks is known to reference popular culture in explaining financial and job-related topics to her 140,000 followers. In a recent video, she equates a romantic relationship from the viral Netflix show “Love Is Blind” to being furloughed by a company.
Sacks recently launched MDJ Stimulus, an eight-week educational program that touches on themes such as personal finance, giving back, taxes and health care.
“I’m much more of service now and trying to be there for my audience,” Sacks said. “People will remember the brands and financial services that were there for them.” Already, she has inked a new brand partnership.
Ashley Louise, cofounder and chief executive officer of Ladies Get Paid, which has 114,000 Instagram followers, said she recently launched Bring Your Own Lunch: a series of virtual office hours with Ladies Get Paid founder and chief brand officer Claire Wasserman. More than 500 people registered for the first one.
“We skew pretty heavily Millennial, so a lot of people were pretty young when the Great Recession happened,” Louise said. “People in the broadest stroke want to understand what’s going on and how they can fortify themselves for whatever this down period is going to look like.”
Ladies Get Paid hosts an annual conference, which drew 1,000 women in November. Since the onslaught of the coronavirus, LGP has postponed its smaller monthly events. Instead, it is launching a subscription-based educational platform, The Ladies Get Paid Institute for Higher Learning, where users can access more than 30 hours’ worth of content for $95 per year. Ladies Get Paid also partnered with Rebecca Minkoff’s Female Founder Collective on Support Your Ladies, a directory of thousands of female-owned businesses and guide for female business owners on how to navigate COVID-19.
Ryan Scribner, a financial YouTuber with nearly 600,000 subscribers, said he has seen a fourfold increase in viewership on his most recent videos covering coronavirus-related topics.
“A lot of people go to YouTube for more of an unbiased, layman’s terms approach to what exactly is going on in the markets right now,” he said. “The biggest request is what stocks to buy right now. A big secondary question is, ‘Is the housing market going to crash, too?'”
Scribner’s top-viewed video, at nearly 4 million views, is a 10-minute clip titled “Quit My $70,000 Job After Learning This Lesson About Money.” He usually uploads this sort of “evergreen content,” but has switched to cover current events, while being careful not to violate YouTube policies that might cause his videos to be demonetized.
“YouTube is demonetizing content around coronavirus because they don’t want people to capitalize on the hysteria,” Scribner said. “We have to phrase things in a certain way, like calling it ‘the virus’ or just say ‘everyone knows what’s going on right now.’ You have to, in an indirect way, make it clear what you’re talking about.”
Despite a surge in views, revenue remains in flux. Most of the influencers WWD spoke with earn income through affiliate marketing and ad revenue from YouTube. Since the coronavirus started, these income streams are drying for some and booming for others.
Marko, who earns through affiliates and ad revenue on his channel, sensed advertisers’ hesitancy to spend on YouTube during this time.
“My CPMs have actually gone down,” Marko said. “Advertisers are more hesitant or paying less per thousand views. It’s definitely affecting a bunch of financial YouTubers across the board, some more than others.”
Scribner launched his YouTube channel in 2016, followed by his blog, Investing Simple, in 2018. He has found that the blog has become more profitable in a shorter amount of time.
“Most of my earnings comes from affiliate marketing, which is writing reviews of different brokerages and platforms,” Scribner said. “There’s a lot more potential to scale that with a blog than there is with YouTube, so I created that blog with a business partner of mine as a supplement to this. That’s been really scaling up very quickly, so that will probably be my main business focus a year from now.”
O’Brien, who earns a large portion via advertising revenue from his YouTube channel, said he has noticed ad rates decreasing because of the coronavirus. Still, for him, business has been good.
“The ads on YouTube are based off of auctions for bidding on those ads, so there’s less companies bidding on them,” O’Brien said. “The overall channel’s still getting a decent amount of views, so it’s still doing pretty well. March was my best month yet for the channel in terms of revenue.”
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