Term ‘Instagram influencers’ has boomed in recent years, thanks to disrupted market dynamics. Pick a fashion, beauty, food, hospitality or travel-related segment – you get to see the promotion of random products or services in beautiful picturesque surroundings or among those sensual curves and colours. No doubt a product gets noticed by the audience, but who cares about the product here?
The required activity goes well if things happen organically till the last reach! Genuine category of users who work hard, add value to brands and need commendations. Just like two sides of a coin, there is a dark side to this influencer economy or creator programs and activities too, and now do we need to call them growth hackers or something else? Can a brand or country proudly represent these posts (pictures/videos) in partnership or collaboration? If you feel yes, you can stop reading, else you can go ahead with the story.
The below user findings are from our observations of groundwork done in the Indian Market and maybe case-specific. Thankfully, in the absence of TikTok, and the foray of home-grown apps to fill the void space, the scenario is no different. Whatever, the ecosystem will take its course.
They say numbers matter, and unfortunately, this logic makes us wonder about the kind of users and ways these numbers get aggregated! While we keep the open secrets within ourselves, as you may be already aware, we have delved into this game and put forward some of our findings below. We believe only a specific portion of the story is for brands, while the entire story remains food for thought.
The Number Game:
How are the follower numbers being aggregated? We have no comments if it is in an organic manner and through the right content and there may be actually such users. We discuss below the other ways around:
1. The General Tendency of Users:
How many times have you gone back through your following list and done a cleanup based on the activity or least interacted with? We believe the majority answer could be ‘Never’. Exactly, that’s how the stale follower count gets piled up.
We come across an eye-catchy post (thanks to the Algorithms – Reference a), hit the follow button at that moment, after which the user may regularly follow the updates or forget the followed account in question by being carried away with the times.
Based on the same logic, the so-called growth hackers exploit the general users by posting pictures of someone else and asking to follow certain accounts for more such updates. Many do follow the same without even a second thought, and so as the follower counts of certain accounts.
a. Recommendation/Suggestion Algorithms:
Regular users are in a most vulnerable state due to the algorithms implemented by such platforms for garnering views or likes and project investors. We believe that an algorithm with a specific purpose or flawed logic can spoil the market dynamics and talents of a country.
No wonder, with the actual benefits serving a small percentage, the exercise of projecting the good goes mainstream on a large scale. Though presenting those specific findings is not the purpose of this story, we believe you can get it yourself if you apply some logic and spend some time researching.
2. Bio: The point that we have already kept forward in Online Dating Apps Analysis.
Many of these influencer accounts, in the beginning, do create accounts on dating apps with bio: Not much active on this platform, message me at @Handle.
The profile settings may or may not enable you to message unless you follow their accounts, and most of the users may end up following the profiles to try their luck and then followed by point 1 of the general tendency discussed above.
3. A Growth Hacker Story:
The user is a college student and is evident from the initial posts. Posts in the starting days of the account were family-friendly. The user tried to gain traction, but nothing helped. Finally, the camera focus gets changed, and so as the acts performed in the video. Account gets 2M+ followers and maybe more now.
- The user now creates a new Account profile in the form of a Growth Hacker Manager.
- Changes the bio of existing account to managed by @profile of growth hacker manager and now adds Public figure tag.
Now, the sad part is the association of brands for the kind of followers of such accounts. After all this, any user with common sense will understand the desperation and the standards of the brand. While some brands need it, there may also be some brands that may not even be aware of such things due to the involvement of middlemen.
While there are many other ways to increase followers or page tractions, explaining them is not the intention of this story.
4. The kind of users and the followers:
If we closely observe, these are a specific category of users and maybe not the potential users that all advertisers generally look for or target.
Now, companies may arguably show the intellectual user base and try to show things positively. We have a personal account too, and leave it to your understanding about its usage.
So, this brings into question the quality and kind of users or followers in the discussion. Whatever it is, in the end, it is up to the brands to decide their reputation strategy and with whom they collaborate and where they are investing their money into.
The Creator Economy:
The Creator Economy matches up with Web 2.0 – a point when the basic paradigm of the internet changed. People stopped using it simply for information gathering and storage and discovered new potential uses, such as social media and video sharing. Web 2.0 offered numerous opportunities for people to express themselves online, and the Creator Economy grew from this.
It’s whole a new world out there. Creators earn anywhere from Rs. 50,000 to 2 Lakh per month these days. While they are creating a whole ecosystem, brands should not fall for their prey.
Every brand needs creators, no doubt. Brands pay money to creators basis on the number of followers and engagement on the page. Below are some points that they also need to consider:
- Don’t opt for middle management agencies or PR’s to find influencers.
- Do your research and negotiate with influencers. Check the ROI you are getting.
- See the brand positioning while choosing the influencer. Just don’t do it as everyone is doing.
- Find a suitable match for the brand and plan your campaigns.
- These days even for short video formats exuberant money is being paid, but the question is are they worth the exercise? Stop getting manipulated, and brands need to come across smart from it.
- Even though creators have the virtual power to influence, brands need to get wise and learn to act smart.
Before we go ahead, let us put forward some real-life examples. Although we are not directly associated with any of the users in the below examples, we have closely taken notes only for our research purposes.
The user just finished a degree and landed a job irrelevant to the degree. Not being satisfied with the job, the person sought advice on how to shift career or grow. Tried to learn some technologies/tools, but that interest hardly lasted, and the user started making videos. Why? Because one of her friends became a public figure, now this person is trying to copy the same, as she feels she is much more beautiful than her and can easily make money. Stopped all the technical coaching, purchased a Ring Light, make-up kit and started making videos by jumping as per the trends.
Trying… Trying… from 2k, 7k, 10k, 16k, and now the followers stand at around 17k.
During this process:
1. Local guys started recognising her, and one day at around 8 pm, while she was walking home alone, 3 guys started following her, and she quickly managed to escape by running to the main road and standing next to the traffic police. Did she stop then? No… continued
2. Was so stressed and spent more screen time trying to make more and more followers.
3. It became a habit for her to make videos whichever place she went and post them on her account.
4. At around 10k followers, as her hair is already long and smooth, she got a hair oil collaboration from a local brand where she presented the secret of her hair is that particular oil.
5. Meanwhile, sensing her desperation maybe, a group of first time makers approached her for an acting opportunity in a short film. After all the shooting drama, and a year of waiting for the release, she couldn’t even watch it herself due to the poor standards. (Quite expected)
Off-Topic: In this context, Netflix Take Ten competition is an excellent and organised way of training, encouraging talent and creativity, and we believe that’s what the youth and industry needs.
6. With no opportunities in hand, even after significant efforts, this person, now started preparing for Bank exams.
While she still didn’t stop making videos, we hope she passes through her exams and grows in life.
A typical influencer story as above, and a team approached the girl for a short film. Her uneducated parents thought it is something big that her daughter is doing. A guy comes every day to pick her up, and she goes and comes in the evening every day. A year passed, and one day, these poor parents need to read a note in her room that she eloped away with that guy and married him with no actual film in making.
A typical case as in example 1, but here it is a boy. With the smartphone parents purchased for online education, this guy uses it for making reels, spends 15 hours in a stretch to make videos, edit and spams everyone in the family and friends to like, share and support. Created 16 accounts to like and comment and also a fan page for himself. It has been two years now, hardly there is any success, and with colleges re-opening, this guy has got a new place to make videos. With 10 backlogs in his kitty, relatives in the family feel this guy goes to college only to make videos in different locations and feel helpless.
Influencer 1 – Male and Influencer 2 – Female
Before knowing each other, respective families tried matches individually, but couldn’t succeed. Finally, influencer 1 married influencer 2. Post marriage deleted all their previous posts and accounts, as they know the damage it has created on their lives. Now, working as marketers for a small company.
An encounter with a serial actress and a trained model. This is what she has to say – “I feel pity for myself, my life and the current situations. I have taken modelling as a course and maintained physique only to try as a professional model. The jumping and shaking acts of influencers have shattered my dreams, and I ended up as a small-time serial actress as I don’t want to be any other XYZ on such platforms.”
A typical user with hardly any followers, but still the person was asked to delete all the photographs of her which she posted recklessly with everyone and anyone in different awkward poses prior to her wedding by the guys’ family.
…and many untold examples and real-life situations! Now that you have read all our experience examples, what can anyone infer?
The amount of time youth needs to spend on learning, growing, physical activities and bringing fame to parents and countries is being spent on useless activities for the benefit of whom? Can we least consider the time, efforts, health, mental health, future of the individuals and their respective countries? How can countries progress when their future is engaged in such activities? Who is the future? On what trust companies can expand? Another concern is the spread of unchecked facts, misleading information or theories by these so-called influencers that impact society on the whole. Such users may not only be spoiling themselves but also the people around them.
Of course, we have success stories too, and you all know their worthiness. Although practically impossible, the percentage of users reaching heights and the percentage of young wasting time, efforts and energy on such platforms is something that needs to be looked into.
The Multiple Perspectives:
So, from all the above experiences, we tried to put forward multiple perspectives through our findings and real-life cases that we have come across during the research process.
Usage of any service available to the public is at individual’s choice in an open market, and we have no say. We just tried to envisage the future of ourselves or our generations as we share the same society to live. Delving may give us more, but it isn’t worth the time.
From the content creator Eco-system as above:
1. In a Senseless or Opportunist Perspective: There may be certain companies that try to exploit the situation (If you are from India, we hope you can understand the situation better) and project users as active subscriber base and lobby the brands or governments. They don’t care what happens to the youth, what happens to the country, their business should thrive kind of attitude. They seem to forget the fact that even their kids and family should share the same society.
2. In a Sensible Perspective: What should ideally be an art or creative sharing platform has turned into something else. Definitely, some sensible users enjoy photography, picturesque locations, art, fashion or modelling and spend a little time to update or check the updates from their friends or family and carry on with their life. There is no denying the excellent purpose of such platforms and there are such users actually.
3. In a Government Perspective: Ideally, they should be the right and foremost firewalls who should take sensible decisions that are good for the country considering organic and positive growth. They should be well equipped with the knowledge and skilled enough to envisage the damages of certain services that happen to the society in disguise followed by the companies themselves.
1. To Influencers or those Aspiring and maybe Parents:
- You should understand that wasting time on such things leads nowhere. Is your time, efforts and life worth just a like or a love symbol comment? You have nothing more in life to achieve? When everyone in a country becomes influencers, there is actually no country! Come out of the smoke screens these platforms have created and start seeing life beyond.
- Developed countries are doing much more and there is a lot to learn, excel and create a brand for yourself. There are numerous problems in the world, learn about them and come up with solutions, and not just target a jumping buffoon tag for some small bucks.
- Awards, World recognition and Grand welcomes of countries are given to Achievers and not Influencers or creators in any developed country. Although media creates hype for just SEO, don’t fall for them. It is just news for the keyword and not for any achievement.
- You may do the jumping now, and in a digital world, these acts may affect your career or after marriage lives. If your posts are family audience-friendly, there isn’t any problem, else would be you comfortable if your kids come across your content? Which person with a decent salary would be interested to marry you? Do you think, he or she can present you in front of their colleagues?
- Also, your growth in life would be stuck and you end up nowhere in life. No big brand would consider taking you into significant roles due to the loop you have created around yourself.
- As in example 1, we, personally would not like to associate with any bank the person has joined as we know the hardships we need to face through and the quality of service we get from the IQ levels of such people. So, think and act.
2. Consider the amount of time, energy and resources every influencer spends in shooting, retaking, creating, editing, previewing and much more to it. At a time, when countries are trying to reduce carbon footprints, these micro-level parameters (battery charge cycles, lighting, shooting, editing etc.) although uncountable and cannot be precisely presented, may add to the emissions of the country.
3. With online classes, children, college-going students are in a more vulnerable situation and parents cannot always monitor their actions. This may have become more of an advantage for some companies who struggle to maintain their numbers and exploit every opportunity to fool investors or governments. Parents who are not tech-savvy, are completely blinded. There are cases where parents often support their kids without actually knowing what they are getting into. They just feel proud that they can see their kids on the internet. Thanks to the media who make news out of nothing!
To put forward in short: Using a platform sensibly is a different case and is positively encouraged while spending life worthy efforts onto something is completely discouraged.
Possible Reasons for such situations: [In specific sequence]
- Concerned government departments of those countries
- Companies that claim to be disruptive with a specific set of interests or practices facilitate such ideas or strategies. While we believe those are also the companies that struggle for survival.
- Brands associating without fact checks
- Middlemen – PR, Agencies
- Media – Pressing such stories for SEO click baits
- Self, Family and Friends Circle
- Parenting – Upbringing
Envisaging the Future:
Interests: To put it short, a sinking ship joins with another sinking ship.
Public Figure? Who is giving this nuisance a tagline too? From where are these public figures suddenly booming out of nowhere? Get numbers and self proclaim as a public figure? Are we in such a vulnerable state that we get to change the policies and strategies of countries with such public figures?
No wonder, for the sake of vested interests, certain companies may go to an extent to set up a university and grant degrees or awards to this nuisance too. We are just waiting and watching which country or company would take this first step. With situations like this, the Ivy League Universities would surely lose their value and tag and have a facepalm moment, when their products aka Human Resources can’t make it at least to match these influencers.
Global Reputation at Stake:
Maybe leaders of some countries don’t care about the future of the young of their country, truths, facts or reputation, but we would take this chance to put forward that not every one of those countries is of the same mindset. It’s just that they may not be able to put forward their thoughts openly, have got no chance to change things, or things may be out of their hands. To humbly put forward, based on a specific set of individuals’ decisions or companys’ interests, do not consider everyone the same.
Post pandemic world needs new zeal, spirit and healthy talent. Why would any company invest in a country with most such people around along with clauses to hire locals? Instead, even sensible citizens who try to make a difference would face tough times globally with backgrounds of such countries they are from.
We have already iterated the importance of People (Human Capital) in the post pandemic world in the story:
Unfortunately, if we observe the patterns, specific set of companies will join the bandwagon and partner with companies around similar mindsets, further worsening the scenario. If it goes like this, forget patents, those countries would have more psychological patients in the future. Ignoring issues like this will have an impact on future generations.
What is an actual digital dividend or growth, and what is happening? If you are sensible enough, you would understand what are we trying to put forward. Maybe someone needs to reiterate the definition or usage of technology for positive growth to those who put elevated claims. We are unsure if some people really understand the usage of the word ‘digital‘ or just use it wherever they feel it as fancy or trendy.
Ideally, things of such matters are taken care of by the respective human resources or ministries if they are concerned about the future of their country. The numbers of most used users in countries may tell us something about the future of those countries. For now, what we can do is wait for the good days, stay away from these addicts or brands associating with them, provide them with some help if possible, and feel pity for ourselves for getting to experience all this.
Through this story, we just tried to reach the ears of the parents and the young aspirants with many dreams post-pandemic.
But definitely, the future looks alarming considering the above!