If you are a true blue millennial, chances are that you might be following a lot of online influencers through your social platforms. Maybe knowingly or unknowingly, the popular set of bloggers, vloggers, YouTubers, and Twitteratis are brain-washing you into buying something that really has no relevance in your life – but that’s how the influencer marketing works and in the race to stay ahead, a lot of them are now thriving on controversies that get them instant likes on the Internet. If you look at the recent online scandal between Beauty YouTuber Tati Westbrook and fellow YouTuber James Charles – the war of subscribers continue as the two influencers are now posting videos to bring the other down.
According to a recent report, most global internet users lack confidence in what they see and read online, with only 8 per cent believing that the bulk of information shared on social media is true, dropping to a four per cent when it comes from influencers. The figures come from media agency UM that found just a tiny minority of Internet users agreeing that the ‘three-quarters or more’ of the insight they gleaned from platforms like Facebook and Instagram were correct. On the same measurement, even governments were seen as more trustworthy than most celebrity influencers or bloggers or vloggers with 12 per cent of people globally saying information shared by governments was ‘mostly truthful’. Which brings us to a very important question that in 2019, do you trust the influencers and their marketing strategies?
The influencer market is a big sham and compromised beyond belief, says Swati Rai, a Delhi-based blogger. She points out, “With people from the public relations industry jumping on to the bandwagon for a quick game, the integrity of real influencers are also under the scanner. Brands need to undertake an in-depth study and more importantly, read their posts and reserach background. On the influencers part, there needs to be authenticity and commitment. I personally choose the products and services that I would be genuinely interested in and can add my own relevant insights over a period of time. One can easily identify fakeness when the same people comment every time and there’s a lack of good content.”
While consistency is the key to be popular, being an influencer is not just about joining a Whatsapp group and supporting each other’s posts to sabotage a brand’s trust. Advertising professional Nalin Sharma, opines, “In the digital age, almost every other person claims to be a social media influencer with their followers soaring at a mammoth speed. It is, however, hard to tell if their followers would actually buy the products they are endorsing. Brands, on the other hand, should be very considerate about picking the right people because quality is of high importance. It is always better to run your product with someone who talks understands the market even though they might have very little following than going for those claiming to have a massive following of bot followers.”
According to Delhi-based entrepreneur and founder of InviteKaro, Arpit Kumar, the influencer category should be organised well to make it more appealing to the brand. He says, “I feel that there should be categorised influencers, such as wedding influencers, finance influencers and so on. It brings the trust and credibility and seriousness of that influencer and his/her hold in that genre. However, that alone does not bring confidence but creates an awareness and when you do the marketing of the brand it becomes easier.”
While, Roopali Pasricha, founder of SpotLYK Media (a fashion marketing agency) shares her experience of working with fashion bloggers in the Indian market. She says, “Before running a particular campaign, we always compare the number of followers with the engagement on their posts. Secondly, we often ask for the analytics i.e impressions from them. In this genre, there is no guarantee of engagements or sales coming from any influencer, but people need to understand that it generates presence and creates an aided-recall. I think there should be more real people, of all shapes and sizes, wearing a particular label, then it looks real and people can relate to it well.”
While creating a fake sob story or amassing bot followers to become an overnight influencer is not a new practice, many aspiring influencers prefernot stooping to newer lows by creating fake wars online with another popular influencer. Ambica Gulati, an independent journalist, and blogger mentions, “Since most people following the influencers are either competitors or brands, I don’t feel anyone with vested interests can be genuine and that reflects. When an influencer is being paid good money or goods, then their goal is surely an undercurrent of “I got it. And that’s about it.” But, there are also genuine experts with professional background and knowledge, who share live examples from personal experiences and generate genuine responses.”