Fourteen-year-old Avni Deshmukh and her 16-year-old 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 cross-checking 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.