Social Knights: Influencer marketing set for 25-30% y-o-y growth

Social commerce is going to be one of the largest contributors.

NEW DELHI: Influencer marketing has grown by over a 100 per cent in 2020 and is all set to clock in an year-on-year growth of 25-30 per cent from hereon, for at least two-three years, Content+ Mindshare SVP Ajay Mehta stated during’s Social Knights virtual roundtable discussion on Friday. 

Moderated by founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari, the virtual panel gave deep insights into the leading influencer marketing trends, brand and influencer requirements and the role of agencies in the process. Other panelists included digital content creator & actress Prajakta Koli (@mostlysane), Improv genius, comedian, writer Abish Mathew, Syska Group head marketing Amit Sethiya, ITC Ltd VP - personal wash & fragrances, personal care products business division Subash Balar, Godrej Group lead - influencer engagement, alliance & brand PR, corporate brand & communication team Supreeth Sudhakaran, and Facebook India vertical head - tech, telecom, education, health & automotive Prasanjeet Dutta Baruah. 

Sethiya noted that the brand has extensively increased its spends on influencer marketing in the past few years. “Initially, we used to do it periodically depending on if the opportunity is right or to run a pilot testing of campaigns. But today, we recruit 20-40 influencers on a monthly basis for various campaigns for our diversified range of brands.” 

The rising popularity – both with people and marketers – is undeniable. This, Baruah highlighted, is because of the authenticity influencers bring on-board, much like the word-of-mouth promotion of brands. “Creators of today, or as we call them, influencers are playing a bigger role in marketing than big celebrities do because of the trust factor that their fans have in them.” 

He added that platforms like Facebook are therefore investing time and energy into training and grooming the next league of influencers. “We run a programme called ‘Born On Instagram,’ wherein we pick new influencers and groom them in every possible manner; we train them and keep telling them what they can do the best to reach out to their audience.” 

On the influencer’s part, brand partnerships are both an opportunity and a challenge. Koli, better known to her fans as MostlySane, said that it gives her an immense thrill to make these tie-ups happen. “It is a great feeling to know what the brand wants out of this collaboration and how I can marry it with the content that my audience is expecting out of me.” 

While the panel was all for supporting creators and influencers, Mathew (of AIB and Son of Abish fame) posed an interesting question that probably most people from his side of the spectrum need an answer to: “As creators, we want to know if you need numbers or views, or some intangible things?” 

Sudhakaran replied, “As a communication professional, for me, it’s more important to have a return on objective rather than return on the investment. Even if you have the numbers in place and the audience doesn’t connect, then your efforts have gone for a toss. Numbers might support you but you have to remember that you have to put the brand in the audience’s consciousness.” 

Being from a leading FMCG that frequently deals with those wielding social media clout, Balar added that they have segregated the influencer pool into two categories: content connectors and reach riders; they pick up the relevant voices from each section depending on the need of the certain campaign. 

“We look at the choice of the voice and also the reason for the voice. There are very strong filters before picking up any influencer. So, we are very clear if we want to sell a product or want to educate the consumer about it. Sometimes the grey area comes when you are talking about brand purposes. There you have to be conscious of what you are picking,” he detailed. 

Wanvari then went on to ask the panel if the use of influencers on such a large scale will anytime drive social media and content fatigue. After all, a survey conducted back in 2018 showed that 47 per cent of social media users had grown tired of seeing “repetitive” influencer content and desired authentic engagement.

To this, Mathew replied that if brands and creators keep discovering and telling new stories, that need not ever happen. Another vital aspect is to rightfully reimburse the content creators to get them generating high-quality content, pointed out Sethiya, emphasising that the industry needs to figure out a way to give some fixed and variable income to the creators, which will help them produce high-quality content.

Balar, on the other hand, dismissed the idea of influencer fatigue setting in. “We are still a very nascent industry. If fatigue hasn’t set on TV, why will it set on social?” 

Mehta agreed, stating that it’s still early days for the industry to have that conversation. For the next leg of growth he placed his bets on the growth of social commerce that will eventually drive a lot more micro-influencers on board. 

Showing excitement at this prospect, Koli declared that she is all for partnering with brands to work on inspired by or curated by her lines of products. “In fact, we are in the process of discussing many interesting prospects like that.”

However, Mathew did not seem much interested in this aspect of the business. “I had started with my own merchandise line, which was kind of a reality check for me that all I touch cannot turn into gold,” he rued. 

Instead, he would rather have brands support his existing creative ventures like his marquee show Son of Abish. “I make so many losses with Son of Abish every year but the brand association gives me something to cover that up and come up with the next season. I want to tell everyone that instead of giving me so much money for a swipe up story, please help me build that show. See what we have done with 5 Star.” 

In conclusion, the panel unanimously agreed that influencer marketing is all set for a spectacular future with micro and nano categories taking the lead in being a solid part of brand journeys and marketing activities. 

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