(And what it means for the small guys)
– A (Justified) rant of a small business owner
Disclaimer : I am a small business owner myself. All the points I mention below are out of my own personal experience. I am not in the business of naming names and dissing people. I have written this post because genuinely believe that as a community, we can do better than this.
Before I dive into the topic, I would also like to mention that this is not directed to everyone. I have come across some wonderful bloggers and influencers who use their positions with responsibility, and I have so much respect for them.
Influencer marketing. We know all about it now. It’s surrounding us everywhere. Every other Instagram profile we look these days claims to be an ‘influencer’, and every other brand is trying to get on this bandwagon. Very few brands get it right though. As do very few influencers.
An influencer, in marketing, is someone who has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinion of others. They have an effect on the purchase decisions of their audience. However, the overuse of the term has made it so hard for there to be any credibility, and there lies the problem.
- The first and most obvious point that I’m going to dive into is the fake likes and followers. We’ve all seen profiles that have gone from 2-3k to 10k likes in what seems like overnight. How is that even possible? I’ve been running an Instagram account for 2+ years now and we post regular, quality content. Yet we’ve seen an organic growth of just 2000 followers in the last two years. I do understand that fashion and food bloggers that use the right hashtags tend to grow at a faster pace than others. That could still lead to a growth of just 30-40ish followers per day. But that is not what I’m referring to. World-over there are these bizarre “like farms” or “click farms”, that are designed to boost social media pages. I have attached a screenshot of a post I came across the other day. I find this absolutely ridiculous. If you just go through the followers of many Instagram accounts that seem to have grown overnight, you’ll see the number of fake profiles that are following them – profiles with no information, and no posts.
Now these ‘influencers’ who have followers that aren’t even legit, get paid by brands to post and promote their products to their ‘audience’.
- I have seen so many influencers who endorse just about anyone who pays them/gives them freebies. I don’t really understand this culture. The power of a micro-celebrity on social media is that they could promote brands and products that are meaningful and doing good work. Whatever happened to responsibility? If you are willing to promote just about anything (even though you would probably NEVER actually use that product), how does that make you credible? It’s just like how celebrities who are into fitness sometimes promote Coke, even though they’d never actually drink the stuff. Why are you making other people buy into something if you don’t buy into it yourself??
- Let’s look at this from the perspective of a brand. I own a small fashion accessories brand myself. I like to think that I create meaningful products that have an impact in this world. My downfall? We don’t have deep pockets. Being a startup, we need to be extra careful about every single rupee we spend. Big brands with deep pockets don’t have to think as hard as we do before investing in influencers (I’m looking at a certain watch brand). Sure, you could argue that that’s just the way it is. You need money if you want to advertise your products, etc. etc. Fair enough.
However. Where’s the proof of ROI, is my response to that.
I have spoken to many bloggers over the last few years. They hardly ever hesitate to send you their price list with ridiculously expensive rates, for a single social media or blog post. Again, I’d like to point out that this does not apply to everyone. There are bloggers who create some AMAZING content and I am in admiration of their work. Even if they ask me to pay them a lakh, I would be willing to. Not right now, because I can’t afford it. But I would wait, ad go to them when I have the budget for it, because I know it would be worth it.
The others, though, seem to just be pricing posts at any amount they wish. They do not send a media kit, or any details of what response I could expect their post to give me. How many page likes/followers could I expect? How many sales could I expect? Because as a business owner, I’m looking for ROI on any form of advertising. If I spend 50,000 on a post, unless I earn double or triple of that out of it, how is it worth it? When you ask me why my product costs what it does, I will tell you exactly why. I will tell you why it’s worth the price. Is it too much to expect the same from an influencer?
- Quantity over quality. How about, instead of pumping out so many posts that are complete rubbish, we work on creating quality content? Content that is unique, meaningful and authentic. Why are so many people creating content that is hardly different from the next person? So many people clicking flatlays of just anything, clicking pictures of just any food, and calling everything #OOTD?
I have found that the best influencers are ones that have a unique voice of their own. They are experts at a niche, and don’t talk about vague topics. They put thought and consideration into their posts, knowing that people are listening to them. They won’t promote something unless it connects to the people that they are. They know their audience and that’s what makes them trustworthy and credible. Credibility is king. A credible influencer who has 5000 followers, to me, is more effective than an untrustworthy influencer with 50000 followers. Trust me on this.
I heard that UAE National Media Council recently announced that influencers in the UAE who do paid promotions would need a licence to operate. It’s an interesting step to regulate the industry and I really hope that more such steps are taken worldwide.
I’m in no way undermining the effectiveness of influencer marketing. All I’m saying is that just like not everyone can fly a plane, and not everyone can cook amazing food, not everyone is an influencer. For young businesses, it’s very easy to end up wasting money because you didn’t know any better. I urge you do do enough research before deciding which influencers to work with. If you’re paying, demand proof and actual stats from previous promotions they have done. If you’re an influencer, I urge you to do justice to the brands you partner with and let’s build a really strong community with voices that matter. We’re all on the same team. 🙂