RISE OF THE MI­CRO

Pre­ci­sion- tar­get­ing through au­then­tic voices has led to the rise of mi­cro- in­flu­encers, but self- reg­u­la­tion is needed for suc­cess.

Business Today - - THE BUZZ - By Sonal Khetarpal Il­lus­tra­tion by Raj Verma son­alkhetarpal7

FOUR­TEEN-YEAR-OLD Avni Desh­mukh and her 16-yearold sib­ling Sara al­ter­nately do a post a day on In­sta­gram, fea­tur­ing the lat­est in make-up trends and com­ment­ing on the new and the fun colours that are out. If you think it is a bit too early in the day to seek name and fame on that plat­form, take a look at the num­bers and trac­tion. Their In­sta­gram ac­count #icon­i­cakes has around 2,75,000 fol­low­ers, and sev­eral com­pa­nies send them newly launched prod­ucts, ex­pect­ing re­views.

In this era of con­nected ex­is­tence and in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion, al­most any­one can be pur­sued by brands to ‘spread aware­ness’. Whether you are a stu­dent, a techie or a home-maker, if you are pas­sion­ate about a topic and have an opin­ion, you can share your in­sights on so­cial me­dia plat­forms and peo­ple will lis­ten. In other words, a gen­uine voice, a smaller au­di­ence and bet­ter en­gage­ment will see peo­ple take off, earn­ing them the new and pop­u­lar tag of mi­cro-in­flu­encers.

Due to real-time and na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing, in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing be­came a big hit with all com­pa­nies. Of late, how­ever, the sheer fo­cus on eye­balls and the re­cent scan­dals where big-time in­flu­encers paid for fol­low­ers, likes and com­ments to in­flate their ac­counts have been a big turn-off. Even big brands are mov­ing away from celebrity in­flu­encers to mi­cro-in­flu­encers who are au­then­tic and speak their mind.

The rise of the mi­cro-in­flu­encers is not dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend. As men­tioned be­fore, they have a bet­ter en­gage­ment with their fol­low­ers and hence, are more care­ful about what they pro­mote as they do not want to risk their on­line rep­u­ta­tion. It also makes them more rel­e­vant in terms of prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tion, a boon for brands try­ing to reach tar­get au­di­ence.

“As it is a good busi­ness, we should have spe­cific reg­u­la­tions so that peo­ple who en­dorse brands could be held li­able for the com­ments they post on so­cial me­dia,” says Sid­dharth Desh­mukh, Se­nior Ad­vi­sor and Ad­junct Pro­fes­sor, MICA, and fa­ther of the bud­ding In­sta­gram stars men­tioned at the be­gin­ning of the story. Even then, it will be dif­fi­cult to draft rules and fol­low them as cross­check­ing in­flu­encer claims is eas­ier said than done. “We need to call out peo­ple who are not gen­uine,” adds Desh­mukh.

The UAE has re­cently tried to reg­u­late this bud­ding in­dus­try. As per the lat­est reg­u­la­tions, in­flu­encers who make money by pro­mot­ing brands on their so­cial me­dia pages will need a me­dia li­cence, some­thing akin to what pub­lish­ers or me­dia houses re­quire.

Ac­cord­ing to R.P. Singh, Con­fer­ence Chair­per­son, CMS Asia, and for­mer South-east Asia Head of Me­dia at VML, self-reg­u­la­tion is the key. In­flu­encers must be self-dis­ci­plined and should not en­dorse a bunch of sim­i­lar brands at the same time. They will lose their cred­i­bil­ity by do­ing so and it will also hurt their long-term growth strat­egy. Un­less in­flu­encers toe the line, they could soon be ig­nored by fol­low­ers, los­ing eye­balls and trac­tion that re­main at the core of this busi­ness.

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