Marketing and consumer consumption have changed so much over the decades. While Public Relations is considered one of the very first professions in the world, surprisingly many don’t know how it works. PR is exactly what advertising does but without having to spend much for a space in newspaper or television time slots.
An extended and more advanced version of the job is seen explosively in the form of social media influencing. With the advent of various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the likes, creative content wears the crown today. Those who channel their creativity via interesting posts on social media tend to draw in more and more views and likes which enables a wide spectrum of opportunities for the accounts to spread a message to a large audience. This very room of opportunity got noticed by corporates and they started collaborating with such persons with huge reach online and influence to promote their products, services and causes.
While the internet across the globe is booming with content from social media influencers, there are both good inspiring, and not-so-good stories you must have heard about how the world of social media is. Without further adieu, here’s a brief explanation of how it all works from some of the best in their game.
Who are social media influencers?
“Social media is a platform which we can not ignore today, it has become inevitable. Influencers play an important role in promoting businesses and yes, people do follow them. They are like celebrities now-a-days and their say matters. In a country like ours, we follow what people we like,” explains Kriti Sethi from Vedatmana Hotels.
You must have come across numerous interesting videos or photos on Instagram with thousands of like and comments — that’s what a social media influencer’s account looks like. They have thousands and even millions of followers at times depending on their content. They can be professionals in some other fields of work, but use their creativity in posts to entertain and inform their followers. While one can attain followers just based on their merit there are also other ways for one to get more followers, a very common method is buying followers to establish an account to receive collaboration propositions.
Kriti explains, “When dealing with influencers, it is very important to choose the right person who can really do justice in promoting your product. In order to choose the right influencer, you need to understand the age group you are targeting, the influencer’s strong point, how well-connected they are and what all platforms they will represent you on.”
Marketing & PR Manager Somali Bajpai, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla, says, “Not every blogger is an influencer and not every influencer is a blogger. For me, social media influencers are the storytellers over digital platforms. They give a human touch to the otherwise on-the-face advertising by a brand. A good social media influencer is one who creates relatable stories around the experiences and engages with his or her followers. The brand messages are so innovatively and creatively integrated into the overall packaging that the target audience consumes the information without even realising it.”
“With the unprecedented growth of social media in the past decade, the relationship between social media influencers and brands have witnessed a rising trend. It is not just a tick box activity but a well thought of marketing strategy,” she adds.
Somali shares some tips apart from engaging content and spectacular pictures/videos, to follow when going through the profiles:
- Analyse if the genre of content produced by the influencer aligns with your market positioning, goal and target audience
- Analyse the average post engagement
- Find out the USP and differentiation factor that makes the influencer stand out from the crowd
- Check the quality of comments
- Understand the analytics of the pages via tools such as Social blade
Finally, it is always quality > quantity.
The barter system
Most influencers work with brands on a bartered system, wherein they do not earn cash for their posts and stories, but in turn get benefits in kind, such as a free meal at the restaurant they are promoting, or a hotel-stay, or coupons or the brand’s products.
“With hotels, it’s about sponsoring their stay and meals enabling them to experience the services and promote in the most efficient yet enticing manner,” said Kriti.
“When a brand associates with the social media influencers with a specific brief in mind along with the deliverables then voucher exchange/paid collaboration options are explored. Also, doing an exclusivity contract is a must- especially for paid contracts. You would not want that 2 weeks later, the influencer is promoting your competitor’s property,” says Somali.
Travel and food influencer couple Sudipto De and Snigdha Bhowmick, explains how it works for them, “Social media influencing happens by working with brands on campaigns that help brings eyeballs from prospective customers. Along with that, affiliate marketing also adds to the income by commissions that come from selling products.”
Talking about their experience working with numerous brands on travel and food for years, Sudipto and Snigdha say, “Although we have worked with many brands, our best memories exist with those who have allowed us to channelise our creativity, creating out of the box content instead of restricting us, like the Wonderful Indonesia campaign by Indonesia Tourism. On the other hand, low infrequent payments and working with influencer agencies who try to restrict you creatively remain the biggest hurdles in the industry.”
The couple who started out on a whim, an online diary to record their culinary experiences – today, has a following of more than 100,000 along with over 150 bylines in major print media.
“As Snigdha wanted to be a photographer initially, I think that social media has given wings to her career. It has allowed her to interact with clients and get published, all reaching out through social media,” Sudipto, a surgeon by profession, praised the online platform.
Taking about whether one can make a living out of social media influencing, Sudipto elaborates, “Yes and no. Social media influencing can definitely help you set up a career but to make a living, you need to diversify into other businesses to properly sustain yourselves. So you need to be smart and cash in on your fame because the social media market is quite fickle and might change any day.”
Pooja Saha, a PR consultant by profession, shares how social media helped her, “Social media has taught me a lot. It has connected me with the right people with whom I always wanted to work. A few NGOs contacted me to support them and contribute to the society. I feel great to work with them, to know how they function and how we all are expanding vision.”
However, talking about whether social media influencing can be a career, Pooja says, “While it is very difficult to make a living out of social media unless and until you have a proper base, I would suggest to start it while you have a permanent job or an additional source of income. Though being an influencer or becoming YouTuber is attractive, it can be done alongside a job. Once you have reached a point where you start earning well by social media, you can make it your full time role. For me, it’s my passion and the love I have for creating content which gives me satisfaction. I get immense pleasure just to create good content on my Instagram page.”
Are influencer collaborations really worth it?
Promotions must be done via a healthy and well-researched mix of traditional and new age mediums. Somali adds, “Social media is not a replacement to print/electronic or online websites. The key objective of associating with social media influencers is to get instant visibility and buzz in front of your target audience. Calculating the ROI(return on investment) in terms of reach is possible but traction in terms of business still remains a challenge for most of us. However, the top-of-mind-awareness game is always on point.”
However, Kriti says that although blogs and social media influencers add on to the visibility of the product increasing the reach, Vedatmana is currently pulling in more by word of mouth as their focus is on the guest experience.
Reflecting upon a couple of her best experiences working with influencers, Somali reminisces, “My biggest project with social media influencers was in 2018 during the re-launch of DLF Cyber Hub 2.0. I coordinated a food maze event with the participation of 100 key food bloggers of the city which created an enormous buzz in the city. At Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla, we got our two food challenges viral, thanks to social media. Our 2 Kg Samosa eating challenge garnered a viewership of 5 Million organically. Our 36 Inch Parantha Eating Challenge during Dilli 6 food festival 2019 does rounds on social media even after 2 years.”
While collaborating with influencers is a go-to marketing strategy for several established brands and businesses across the globe, how far is social media influencing beneficial for local businesses? Does the barter system go well with smaller businesses? Delhi-based baker Shreya Chowdhury shares her take on the matter.
“I’ve never sent out anything for free, and I probably never will. I don’t believe in barter or sending out things that take a lot of effort, ingredients and time, just to have it show up on someone’s story/post and get attention for a day or two, so I’m strictly against the entire concept. I believe in growing organically,” explained Shreya talking about collaborating with social media influencers.
Shreya had been baking since she was a child. With the support of her maternal grandmother, she got the confidence to pursue baking further and eventually started Madeleine Patisserie in December 2017.
“The only indirect experience I’ve had with social media influencers is getting requests to collaborate, where I’d send them free stuff and they’ll promote it on their respective pages. But I never indulged in it, as I prefer organic reach. I don’t rely on any of methodologies except word of mouth,” said Shreya.