Star Power

Star Power

Brands are roping in influencers on social media to connect better with consumers.

[Photo: Raj Verma] [Photo: Raj Verma]

On its tenth anniversary in June, beauty products brand The Body Shop reached out to bloggers and social media influencers in India, such as Miss Malini and Tisca Chopra, by sending them personalised gifts with a thank-you note for using and liking their products. "This initiative was not intended to be a marketing campaign but went viral with 20 million impressions, as these digital celebrities posted their appreciation messages across social media," says Savita Kaushik Dhami, Head - Marketing, Digital and CSR, The Body Shop India.

Influencers are known for their creative content on social media, and have a vast following on at least one or two platforms. Indeed, in many ways, they are opinion makers. Not surprisingly, brands are keen to harness their power on social media through word-of mouth publicity. McKinsey research shows that "marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones". Moreover, users acquired through this route have a higher retention rate with the brand.

But brands ought to do it right. One wrong message about the brand can risk the brand's reputation. "The most important thing for brands is to filter the right influencers depending on the campaign's objective and the audience," says Vikas Chawla who runs the influencer marketplace, which does the matchmaking for brands and influencers on the basis of the number of followers, demographics of the target audience, content created, blog traffic and level of engagement on social networks.

For instance, when American casual wear brand Gap launched in Mumbai in February this year, they identified over 240 influencers - bloggers, actors, corporate employees and radio jockeys, among others. "Each person we chose is a self-starter, and had a story to tell. Their posts also suggested they were in sync with the life in Mumbai," says Oliver Kaye, Business Head of Gap India. This was important because Gap sent the launch event invites through Mumbai's famous dabbawallas. Subsequently, the images and posts shared by the influencers reached 6.3 million users in three days. As a result, Kaye says, there were serpentine queues outside their store at Oberoi Mall, Goregaon. on the launch day.

Usually companies pay influencers in cash or kind (products or gifts). "In India, unlike the West, the influencers do not deem it necessary to include a disclosure in their posts that it is sponsored or that there was some form of agreement with the company. India is still a very nascent market with laws and regulations not laid out especially across digital media," says Neil Shah, Research Director, Counterpoint Research.

The onus lies with the influencers to maintain their authenticity and following. An influencer on Twitter, who didn't want to be named, says, "Tonality, way of expression is always my own. Brands pay a premium to me for my four lakh-plus followers. They often outline what features they want but how I string it together is left entirely up to me."

Fashion influencer and actress Sana Khan, with around 70,000 followers on Roposo, and 1.5 million on Facebook, says she particularly likes working with brands that let her zero in on the products from their catalogue, rather than just sending it to her. "This ensures it matches my style, and I can then write about what I like about the product."

Chawla informs that one problem with influencer marketing is that the impact on the number of people who have read a blog post, or retweeted/liked a post cannot be measured in monetary terms. Influencer marketing helps emphasise to users the value of products, which often leads to increase in sales.


Listening Post

Find a Job on Facebook

Facebook has announced that it is testing a new jobs feature that would allow the page admin to create job postings and receive applications from candidates. The new feature would make Facebook a direct competitor of LinkedIn, which is already an established player in the professional networking space. "Based on the behaviour we have seen on Facebook, where many small businesses post about job openings on their page, we are running a test for Page admins to create job postings and receive applications from candidates," a company spokesman told Reuters. Facebook told technology website TechCrunch that it is experimenting with a slew of recruitment features that would allow companies to drive traffic towards their page while allowing them to pay Facebook for displaying their job openings to more people.

Free Reads

Pinterest's Instapaper has scrapped its monthly subscriptions and now opened its premium features including full-text article searches and speed-reading to all. Even though the app, acquired by Pinterest earlier this year, has always been free for everyone, the more important features such as the text-to-speech playlists were available only to subscribers. "The decision to drop subscriptions was simply a matter of the app being better resourced, so that it can offer everyone the best version," Pinterest said. It has no new monetisation plans to share at this point. The app had a $2.99 per month and $29.99 per year subscription model previously. The company will give a refund to subscribers who have already paid for the yearly subscription.