Opinion: Marketing’s future lies with influencers

The author describes how brands can make the most of the situation

Jul 09, 2021 05:11:00 AM | Article | Pratik Gour

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on practically every sector and industry. Business models that were once highly effective are now no longer viable, while new approaches and techniques rapidly gain ground.
This change has perhaps been most apparent in the marketing industry. Where traditional and new media content once co-existed in a comfortable equilibrium, the events of the last year and a half have upended this situation. This shift is best exemplified by the meteoric rise of influencer marketing, and the impact it has had on the branding and content plans of companies. 
Although influencer marketing has existed in one form or another for over a decade, its impact and the role it plays in marketing stratagems dramatically accelerated this last year. These changes, though substantial, represent an acceleration of existing trends rather than the entry of entirely new market models. According to a recently released report, the global influencer marketing industry is poised to grow from USD 6 billion in 2020 to USD 24.1 billion by 2025. With a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32 per cent, it’s clear that this particular runway stretches well into the future.
However, the influencer industry’s massive potential isn’t a surefire guarantee of success. Any new entrant hoping to establish themselves has to put in the hard work and dedication to one day achieve success. As someone who’s watched the industry grow over the years, here are the ways in which aspiring influencers can take their game to the next level:
Persistence pays off
Embarking on a career as an influencer is no easy task. Content creation is a full-time job and definitely not something that happens overnight. Many people make the mistake of thinking that being an influencer is easy. They see the flashy photoshoots, brand endorsements, and smiling photos and assume that’s all there is to it. But what isn’t quite as apparent is the commitment, hard work, and consistent effort it takes to get to that point. Working hours are erratic and stretch well past 5PM, content needs to be uploaded even during holidays and sick days, and the weekends are never, ever off. So if you enter the industry thinking it’s an easy path to success and wealth, you’d best think again. 
Even after an influencer has built a following, they can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal. Their followers expect regular influxes of new material, constant engagement, content that consistently maintains its quality. Ultimately, being an influencer is a lifestyle and not just a career. 
Finds your strengths
Being an influencer is a long-term commitment. As such, it’s best to build on your strengths and focus on topics that you are truly passionate about. Create content that you genuinely enjoy making, discussing, and sharing with your audience. One of the best examples of knowing and sticking to your strengths is Yashraj Mukhate, the creator famous for situational parodies like 'Rasode Main Kaun Tha, Bigini Shoot and Pawri Ho Rahi hai'. Before uploading this video, he had 100,000 followers and over 100 videos.  After it went viral, his follower count on Instagram shot up to over 2 million, leading to collaborations with dozens of brands.
Once you’ve developed your niche, you can afford to branch out and experiment with new ideas and topics. For example, a travel blogger can slowly start to cover a number of related sub-topics such as the exotic foods they try, financial tips and budgeting advice, and eco-tourism.
Constantly innovate  
The influencer space is highly competitive. Every week sees thousands of fresh new faces join the industry, hoping to make their mark and reach the upper-tiers of the game. They all bring new content and ideas with them – it could be their presentation style, their editing processes, or even the themes and topics they choose to explore. That’s why constantly innovating your content is critical to the continued success of any channel. This became very apparent over the course of the last year. 
Pandemic creators like the popular duo Abhi and Niyu started to produce a massive array of informative content built around the theme of internet positivity, something that people craved at the time. Similarly, many fashion creators started charity drives, selling items from their closets to their followers and donating the proceeds to various charities and NGOs. As a content creator, you can never stop learning and trying new things. 
Exploring new categories
The unprecedented circumstances of the last year led to several niche categories gaining in popularity. Two of the most popular topics during this period were the financial information and self-care genres. The former arose due to the various lockdowns that kept people confined to their homes. With discretionary expenditures coming to a halt, many individuals instead choose to invest their money in the stock market and other financial options. As a result, online money gurus and financial advisors saw their content surge. The pandemic similarly led to many people reprioritising their physical and mental wellbeing and seeking out influencers in the space.  Existing influencers should make note of these new categories and incorporate elements from them into their content. 
Study international content
Although the influencer industry in India today is larger than it’s ever been, the ecosystem as a whole still has a lot of catching up to do when compared to the rest of the world. Very often, it’s international content creators from America, Europe, the Middle East, and China who set the pace and tone of the conversation. Therefore, the onus is on Indian creators to keep an eye on influencers in other countries to stay ahead of the curve. Watch for trends, features, and styles that are in vogue. Monitor new brands and campaigns that come out. Gain inspiration from new presentation techniques and styles. All of this homework is critical to maintain your position and establish yourself as a truly global personality. 
(The author is co-founder and head of business development and campaign management at Footprynt)