Are you getting influenced by the influencers? Pause!
The brigade of social media influencers has increased more in the last three years and is exponentially post-pandemic. Digital media being available at the palm makes it easy for those who know how to join the right dots (read as knowing the strategy of the influencer market, including gaining the paid followers of various social media handles) and the right time for personal gains.
Reels and videos of products that can make one look glamorous in two days or repair skin wrinkles overnight sound alluring. A place picture perfects to fit the budget and the fancy spot that you were looking at, with all ticks in the box to make the family pack bags and leave only to realise the reality once you land up at the ‘super luxurious spot’ that you got sold to looking at the reels may make one bite your nails. And you are again reminded of the phrase you learned in primary school, ‘all that glitters is not gold.’
The Influencer collaboration
The Centre has decided to tighten its noose to curb this kind of ‘misleading’ promotion. The Consumer Affairs Ministry will very soon issue SOP (standard operating procedures) for social media influencers. The guidelines will make it mandatory for social media influencers to make clear disclosures regarding paid promotions. So if it’s a paid promotion, the influencers must mention it in the content. Sources inform that social media influencers will soon have to declare their brand associations or paid advertisements. Otherwise, heavy penalties will be charged to them.
The need for the guidelines comes when brands across sectors increasingly turn to social media influencers for brand endorsements and give them positive reviews of the services offered. According to digital market agency AdLift, the influencer marketing segment in India is pegged at $75 million-$150 million per year. The Federal Trade Commission has already enforced guidelines for social media influencers in markets such as the US.
Impact on the youth
The buck doesn’t stop at beauty products or dream getaway; the paid content posting gets serious when social media influencers create an atmosphere and give guidance to buy particular shares from the stock market or suggests people switch from one brand of their phone to the other-the newly launched product or even about to be found in the market. “Be the first to buy and put your picture holding it,” does the line sound familiar?
So it’s not about promoting one brand or company, the social media influencers who have followers in thousands and lakhs on Instagram or Twitter get paid to defame companies and brands. Some months back, down the memory lane goes when an e-commerce company issued a legal notice to specific social media influencers and those contacting said influencers who had allegedly orchestrated a smear campaign against the company. They had been paid considerable money to defame the other company for professional gains. Influencer marketing can be said to be one of the grey areas of social media promotions.
Being a part of SUBURB, I learned my first lesson about eight years back. Suburb had published an interview of a senior Gurgaon administration officer just before the rainy season began, wherein he had mentioned the cleaning drive of the drains across the city the government had taken before the onset of the season to stop water flooding the roads. And as luck would have it, the magazine hit the stands and four to five days post that, Gurgaon saw a massive flood-like situation and traffic snarls for long hours and at some locations even up to wee hours in the morning. I still remember after that incident, the phone calls with angry people on the other side and the harsh messages that Suburb received, accusing us of being hand in glove with the government being the Gurgaon magazine; hence we had decided to promote the official system and more. Well, we had, or the official had no role to play in what had happened that year; indeed, it was terrible chaos. But we had learned our lesson, ‘public kisi ko nahin chodti.’
On the other hand, internally, we were delighted getting these calls into the psychology, thinking, ‘well, people trust Suburb as its local media. The rest was a noise of people who had gone through a nightmare because of the traffic mayhem due to unprecedented rains that year and drains clogging, gushing out water back on the streets.
The second experience I had about five years back was the time when home-grown beauty products were doing rounds. So Suburb did a story on the new ventures mushrooming from more minor setups in the name of manufacturing organic products. Suburb editorial team covered the brands and people behind it. About all most two months after the story, an editorial team member received a frantic call complaining about one of the beauty brands covered in the report on home-grown beauty products. The lady on the call had developed a severe allergy to one of the products and blamed Suburb. Wow! We know how to look at the glass half full as a team. Of course, we were very concerned for the consumer but again realised wow! she trusted us, so she bought the lesser known brand. The lady insisted, “since I had read in suburb, I didn’t think twice before buying.” Trust or media influencing factors can be impactful. But as a team, we had learned our lesson too. After that incident, we as an editorial team cleanly refuse to carry such stories, and new products always mention the line, “according to the press release.”
The most significant gift and power that I think an individual has is to make a choice, and if we let it go getting easily influenced may be detrimental. The mark the influencers leave or faith they may have in the media or influencers can be remarkable sometimes.