Varun Ramdas, Legal Analyst, Koan Advisory
“Influencers are like TV channels that people subscribe to by following them”
Spurred by mobile penetration that is expected to increase from 43 percent in 2017 to 61 percent by 2025, social capital today is as desirable as any other form of capital. Acknowledging this, FICCI Frames dedicated an exclusive session to social-media influencers in India.
Who is an Influencer?
To contextualise the discussion, the moderator of the conversation, Nishant Radia who is a co-founder of Vidooly – a data analytics and digital marketing platform – urged the panel to define a social-media influencer. Specifically, the question sought to understand the distinction between a celebrity, an influencer and a micro-influencer. Typically, a micro-influencer is an influencer with fewer followers but one who appeals to niche crowds. Rohan Joshi pointed out that all those on the panel that day were celebrities before they transitioned into becoming social-media ‘influencers’. Celebrities from three years ago with a healthy following organically transitioned into influencers. He added that celebrities used to be shrouded by mystique earlier, but now they add value to branding because of how familiar or relatable they are to their audiences.
Advertising – the Sole Objective?
Prajakta Kohli said that brands use influencers as advertisers, but for her it is personal and that she identifies as a content creator. Gaurav Gera echoed the sentiment, adding that there is great degree of audience-attachment to the characters they create. Sumier Pasricha, known better through his character ‘Pammi aunty’, said that it irks him when brands approach him with a pitch for a video. He finds that his characters and content work best when he develops them organically and would not be nearly as effective if he acts-out a pitch. Digital marketing through influencers is largely through product placement in videos that are routinely uploaded by influencers to You Tube or Instagram.
The Future of Influence
Digital marketing accounts for around 16 percent of the total advertising market today. For influencers, this growing revenue potential bodes well. However, for the individual influencer this opportunity comes at a cost, given the speed at which the digital space is being disrupted. Srishti Dixit said that the value of social-media influencers is dependent on the frequency of their uploads, leaving little room for downtime. According to Rohan Joshi, this is an effect of the democratisation of content that has been spurred by digitisation.
With five-billion people connected to mobile services in 2017 and with the mobile industry and internet penetration expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, the role of social media influencers is only likely to increase.