The huge denominator in influencer marketing in India is too good to be true
The shift in how brands reached out to us — from TV and other traditional media to the digital age of advertising on the web, social and mobile — has been massive. In India alone, digital advertising in 2018 was at Rs 9,752 crore, and will climb to Rs 21, 000 crore approximately by 2021. As more and more data and avenues become available, brands are expected to start optimising the medium with more innovative approaches to serve specific purposes.
Influencer marketing is one of the hottest trends of these times. Marketers have realised the power of influential voices reaching diverse audiences at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. Whether it’s a comedian with a smartphone or an athlete with a pair of headphones — brands now have a voice to reach their intended audience.
But as the scope of influencer marketing increases, so do the challenges. One of the biggest challenges is of ‘fake followers’ among influencers. It is believed that upto 40% of Indian Instagrammers use third-party apps to increase their follower count. Bot factories and click farms have allowed just about anyone to accrue large follower counts almost overnight, and then cash in on it by posing as influencers. Where some of the good influencers in Europe and Britain have not more than one lakh followers, in India the same league of influencers possesses five lakh followers. Today, you can get 10,000 followers on Instagram for Rs 2,500!
The second biggest concern is credibility. Today, consumers recognise when influencers are benefitting from promoting a product. The cost of hiring these influencers seems to be a fraction to us as compared to that of hiring celebrities (influencers of traditional advertising), but due to non-exclusive rights, these social micro influencers are making as high as Rs 17-18 lakh per month, even though a single deal could be for as low as Rs 75,000. During Diwali, one of the influencers with 5.5 lakh Instagram followers posted 23 pieces of branded content from different brands. Their reasoning was simple: ‘brands are ready to pay, and it does not matter to us’.
A lot of marketers select influencers on the basis of their follower base and have forgotten that reach and engagement of a post are the right metrics to do so. They think of influencer marketing as a campaign extension rather than a year-long strategy. Moreover, brands are not gaining anything out of them specifically — even with a follower base of 5.5 lakh, the post reach is only around 70,000 and the engagement rate is merely 0.2-0.3%.
Brands need to take responsibility for creating content with influencers that is original and relevant to their audiences. Building trust amongst consumers by investing in long-term relationships with a handful of carefully selected influencers goes a long way in weaving meaningful stories around your brand. But the success of those stories depends on the right measurement.
A marketer must keep three things in mind: look at the organic reach of the post and engagement rate of the selected influencer; engage with the influencer on long-term content creation exclusively to drive more credibility; and create a payment model that is based on the return to the brand which can be done in three ways — a fixed amount, cost per visit and then, cost per transaction derived from the sales. The last two payments could be over and above the fixed deal to make influencers more comfortable charting this out.
The author is COO, Grapes Digital