Multiverse of marketing madness: 2024 will see social media influencers radically change traditional marketing

Cinema or politics, chocolates or perfume… social media influencers cover it all and are set to spread their influence further and wider in 2024 with MNCs, movie stars and even politicians using them to reach target audiences, bypassing mainstream media and traditional marketing avenues.‘Influencer’ entered the lexicon in a big way in 2023. The tribe will become more visible and more effective in disseminating myriad messages as a new year in which the growth of social media platforms is a virtual certainty stretches ahead. We are now on WhatsApp. Click to join An influencer can be any person who has a significant following on a social media platform and holds considerable sway or ‘influence’ over his or her followers. A product, brand or celebrity endorsed, used or reviewed by this person is what entails influencer marketing.The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) estimates the social media influencer industry at USD 150 million, approximately ₹1,200 crore.The wide reach, relatability and ability to connect brands with their audiences make influencers the next big thing in marketing campaigns, say trade experts.And perhaps the most celebrated of them all in 2023 was fitness influencer Ankit Baiyanpuria, propelled to stardom when Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared screen space with him while leading a nationwide cleanliness drive in October.Sharing a four-minute video on his official X account, Modi posted, “Today, as the nation focuses on Swachhata, Ankit Baiyanpuriya and I did the same! Beyond just cleanliness, we blended fitness and well-being also into the mix. It is all about that Swachh and Swasth Bharat vibe!”The prime minister even said “Ram Ram bhai sara ne”, a phrase popularised by the Haryana wrestler in his exercise videos. The 25-year-old has over 7.6 million followers on Instagram and a huge following on YouTube where he regularly posts his workout videos.By sharing the screen with Baiyanpuria, Modi spoke directly to the increasing number of those who are “influenced” by the wrestler and also reflected his own ear to the ground attitude.What makes an influencer like Baiyanpuria the means for a mass message by a tall leader such as Modi?Manish Solanki, co-founder of social media marketing agency TheSmallBigIdea, credits the “genuine, unscripted connection” of influencers with their followers that cuts through “advertising clutter”.“Influencers allure brands with authentic, word-of-mouth appeal… Trendsetters by nature, influencers navigate cultural currents, guiding brands to the forefront of what’s in vogue. Whether mega or micro, their reach fosters engaged communities, transcending mere numbers. One of their fortes is versatility – creators, storytellers, and brand ambassadors rolled into one,” Solanki told PTI.Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too went the influencer route when he chose to give an interview during his ambitious Bharat Jodo yatra to YouTuber Kamiya Jani, who goes by Curly Tales. In another time, the interview would, in all likelihood, have gone to a mainstream media outlet.Another YouTuber and social media celebrity Ranveer Allahbadia, known as BeerBiceps, has hosted the likes of cabinet minister S Jaishankar, cricketers Yuvraj Singh and KL Rahul, actors Priyanka Chopra, Sunny Deol, and Sara Ali Khan to name a few.According to Solanki, influencers in this “trust-centric era” act as conduits, establishing genuine connections between brands and audiences.“It’s not drama; it’s the pragmatic charm of influencers, turning brand narratives into relatable stories etched in the hearts of their followers,” he said.Journalist-cum-Instagrammer Arun Singh, who goes by the name Jhumroo on the platform, added that brands have suddenly become interested in influencer marketing because “that’s where people are”.“…that’s why influencer marketing started because everybody might not be reading newspapers, or everybody might not be tuning into the news channel, but they are on Instagram or before this there was a YouTube wave as well,” Singh, who has more than eight lakh followers on Instagram, told PTI.In his view, brands realised that most of their audience is on Instagram and it is much more engaging than a TV or newspaper ad.He connects with his followers through mimicking everyday characters such as a Punjabi uncle on vacation and a “daadu” with his grandchildren.Creators like Singh give businesses a venue to tap into newer audiences.Instagram, a leading social media platform for influencer marketing, has over two billion accounts globally. According to its parent company Meta’s Q2 earnings for 2023, Reels plays exceed 200 billion per day across Facebook and Instagram.Reels are the short videos on Facebook and Instagram, introduced in August 2020.“We’re seeing good progress on Reels monetisation as well, with the annual revenue run-rate across our apps now exceeding $10 billion, up from $3 billion last fall. (Q2 2023 earnings),” Paras Sharma, director and head, content and community partnerships, Meta, India, told PTI.In a Meta-commissioned Global Media study by Ipsos, 58 per cent of respondents in India said Instagram is the place to build relationships with brands.Brands such as Tanishq, Maruti Nexa, Amazon Prime Video, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Silk, and L’Oreal have run campaigns on Reels. “…(they) found that not only Reels led to engagement and entertainment but also drove business outcomes whether it was an increase in message association, ad recall, conversions, or reaching out to a specific audience,” Sharma said.Meta expects India to become the largest base of social media content creators globally with the figure crossing 100 million this year.Cinema marketing has also undergone an influencer makeover with actors choosing YouTubers and podcasters over traditional media outlets to promote their films.These interviews are light, frothy with actors engaging in games and fun activities without facing uncomfortable questions.A huge following on social media can also help one land acting assignments.Prajakta Koli, Kusha Kapila and Kanan Gill are amongst those who first found stardom on social media before landing movie roles. Koli, who starred in Netflix’s popular series “Mismatched”, is a regular when it comes to interviewing celebrities for the streamer whether it is for Indian projects or Hollywood mega titles.In March, she was among the handful of people to interview Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler for the Netflix film “Murder Mystery 2”.By working with social media platforms and influencers, the company aims to create content for their social media platforms “as entertaining as the content on Netflix itself”, said Netflix India marketing vice president Srivats TS.He added that influencer marketing is an evolving space and “with the increase in creators, the impact is definitely becoming more dynamic”.Smaller influencers are finding their own niche spaces.Like marketing executive-turned crocheter Kunal Chaurasia.New to the world of influencer marketing, Chaurasia said two big brands approached him for some branded content that will add to his income from selling crocheted items.“The deliverables for them include making two-three videos that show me using their products,” Chaurasia said.He will be collectively receiving the amount in the range of ₹15,000-30,000 for these collaborations.

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