Day of the influencer
Bloggers have transformed into brand endorsers and are able to rake in some money in the process – a big step up from getting only barter deals
Till 2010, Shalini Chopra, a computer engineer by profession, was busy crunching numbers in the corporate sector. Until she started her own blog by the name Stylish by Nature. Instead of seeking satisfaction in numbers, she chose a creative field —blogging. In almost a decade, Chopra is known as one of the popular bloggers on Instagram with over 4.3 lakh followers and 6 lakh followers on her website.
“At that time, people were not aware of what blogging was all about. Even if I tried to open up and talk about blogging, everybody was talking about numbers,” she recalls.
When she joined Instagram in 2014, she says that the space for bloggers and influencers was in such a niche state, that “Indian brands were not even aware about having separate budget for digital marketing.”
“That was the time when you couldn’t just stand on the roof and shout that ‘I’m a blogger’. I met a lot of CEOs who were venturing into fashion business. Online and offline. That helped me garner the confidence that while being an engineer with no formal degree in fashion, it’s my passion that brings more value to the table.”
Today, the global influencers industry has crossed the $6 billion mark, from $1.7 billion in 2016, increasing to $3 billion in 2017.
Chopra says that earlier brands were only doing barter deals. “You’ll do the promotions, they’ll offer you something. But there was no budgeting. The entire creativity was lost in the approval cycle. At the end of the day, there was nobody to approve what you were doing or make suggestions.”
Currently, Chopra gets endorsement deals from Indian as well as international ones, ranging from fashion to food to travel. She has endorsed brands like Olay, Fossil, Amazon Fashion, Colgate, Gucci, Hyundai and more. She doesn’t reveal the amount she has gotten from these endorsement deals, but industry figures show that one can easily earn up to a lakh per post.
Prima facie, a post seems an easy task, a matter of some finely shot photographs — and you rake in the money. However, Chopra warns that it’s not as easy as it looks. “You need to plan for the entire shoot. What outfit will you wear? What will be the location? The time and duration of the shoot.”
“You have to be really, really fit. The fitness journey starts every morning. You have to eat right. You have to maintain your skin and hair. This is a long-term and ongoing process,” says Chopra.
Chopra’s style of working is that she leaves the decision making to the experts. “I don’t want to take the upper hand. I’m not the expert. The time a picture should be taken and the location, I leave the decision on the photographer.”
Speaking about her journey as an influencer, Chopra says, “There were so many things which I did for the first time while working with large-scale brands. That was a huge learning curve for myself. I ventured into fitness because I realised that it’s not just about fashion, but you have to be fit too.”
About the pressure of being an influencer, Chopra advises, “It should be within you. You should be pressurising yourself to give your best. Even if it’s a non-sponsored post, it should be equal amount of pressure.”
For her, the philosophy is that she gives her 100%, irrespective of the brand pushing her or she as a brand pushing herself.
“Instagram is a market in India which has just picked up. It’s dissolving to an extent in the US because there are so many influencers out there,” says Tejeshwar Sandhoo, a men’s lifestyle blogger based in Delhi.
Sandhoo started his Instagram page named Blueberry Blackout, which has around 74,600 followers. A marketing professional, Sandhoo has endorsed brands like Gucci, Fila, Daniel Wellington, Nivea, Clinique, Marks & Spencer and so on. He gets upto 3-4 brand collaborations in a month. He earns between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 per month on an average through these collaborations.
“I started off earning nothing. Dealing with a niche market which people won’t understand. Then male influencer? The brand doesn’t understand the concept. A lot of it started through barter collaborations,” said Sandhoo.
He says that first it was about going to the shoot and then returning the product, then he reached a stage where he could take the things with him. After this, money started coming in and negotiations started happening at the table.
At one point, Sandhoo was in a position to fetch a deal from a brand for a single post which would’ve paid him Rs 25,000. However, he had to decline it. Because “The market was getting saturated with a lot of people. I reduced my cost then I started gaining more collaborations.”
It’s not just Instagram which brands are eyeing. Sandhoo also got a collaboration with Amazon India for their fashion platform. “Although it’s half of what I earn otherwise but it’s Amazon.”
“The purpose for me doing it was actually to tell people that there are better things out there than just a kurta-pyjama with a stole. You don’t need to spend a bomb to do that,” said Sandhoo.
Like any other business, influencing also reaches a level where collaborations are not offered but yearly, half-yearly and three-month contracts through which influencers continue to endorse different products.
Sandhoo feels that the pressure is sometimes too much from the agency, “because they have their own targets to match. If it’s a good month and I have to do five shoots, I don’t sleep on weekends. Because I’m working the whole week and am shooting, starting 6 am on weekends.”
He says that sometimes a shoot lasts for some 5-6 hours, when it starts “feeling like a full-time job.”
Since the number of followers you have acts like your “experience” on Instagram, isn’t it a deal-breaker for influencers? Sandhoo is of the opinion that it is not. “If it’s an intelligent brand, it will not bother. I have fought with so many agencies when I asked for a certain price. But they compared me with someone who had more followers than me. I had to tell the difference between the content on my page and his.”
Talking about the current booming state of influencers on Instagram, Sandhoo gives an example of a boy “who is muscular and attractive, he’s aspirational in a certain way and he decides to do something on fashion on lifestyle, and he decides to earn money out of it. So the market is picking up for these kind of people, because they have mass appeal.”
People who can relate to those on social media are the key right now for influencers to grow. “A college girl wants to learn tricks to buy a cheap dress. People who have this kind of content are the people who are making it big right now.”
It’s not just fashion and lifestyle which is seeing more and more people becoming influencers. But fitness too.
Gaurav Molri, a fitness trainer who goes by Instagram handle @gauravmolri is venturing into promoting fitness on Instagram, rather than collaborating with brands.
“You are benefited from Instagram in terms of reach and marketing yourself. But for me my direct income doesn’t rely on Instagram. Brands first want to start with barter collaborations and later shift to paying for multiple posts,” said Molri.
Such is the state of a booming industry that the term “influencer marketing” saw a massive increase in Google searchers.
In 2015, 3,900 searches per month were in Google searches. In 2016, 6,460 searches and 21,000 in 2017. The number in 2018 surpassed the 2017 one, with 61,000 searches reported.
With a billion daily users, it’s foolish to undermine the capabilities that Instagram is providing the people. Influencers are posting, and users are admiring and taking notes. That’s another barter system for you.