Life & Style

Meet the strategists behind your favourite social media stars

(Clockwise from top left) Sumedh Chaphekar of NoFiltr, TikTok star Mrunal Panchal, veteran influencer Santoshi Shetty, the Spothlete team, Ankit Agarwal of DYT, hijabi weightlifter Majiziya Bhanu, Apaksh Gupta of One Impression and hockey player Yuvraj Walmiki

(Clockwise from top left) Sumedh Chaphekar of NoFiltr, TikTok star Mrunal Panchal, veteran influencer Santoshi Shetty, the Spothlete team, Ankit Agarwal of DYT, hijabi weightlifter Majiziya Bhanu, Apaksh Gupta of One Impression and hockey player Yuvraj Walmiki   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

more-in

When, what and how to post or what brands to collaborate with — meet the people behind the influencer marketing platforms that work with TikTok, Instagram and YouTube stars

Hockey player Yuvraj Walmiki rose through the ranks to represent India at the 2014 World Cup. He has since fallen out of favour with selectors of the national team, but has kept busy playing for the Indian Railways and German leagues, taking part in a reality show, and being an Instagram influencer. With around 1.2 lakh followers, the 30-year-old is now a New Balance-sponsored athlete, apart from endorsing sports-related gear like Noise Shots Bluetooth headphones and a nutrition brand.

But you can’t put it all down to Walmiki’s popularity. That credit goes to the Pune-based team at influencer marketing platform, Spothlete. Since the influencer boom in 2015, the task of these platforms has evolved from merely connecting brands with influencers (to help reach their target audience), to discussing content and creating strategies for how influencers approach their work. “We direct them on how to best present the brand in a creative way, both visually and with the accompanying content,” says co-founder Prateek Goyal.

Meet the strategists behind your favourite social media stars

A guiding hand

The influencer economy, especially in India, is in the midst of a flux. Social media platforms are constantly tweaking their algorithms to decide the type of content they assume consumers want to see (although, all we want is the chronological timeline on Instagram back!). Brands are also looking at a shared ethos, engagements over number of likes, and quality of content over quantity of followers. So macro and micro influencers need to stand out in a crowded playing field.

These are the services that influencer marketing platforms are extending. The focus is on helping the new wave of influencers (especially from tier 2 and tier 3 cities), with the basics of marketing themselves. For instance, YouTuber Angry Prash’s strategy was tweaked when he signed up with Mumbai-based NoFiltr. In 2017, he’d started a rant channel featuring comics made on MS Paint. Within a couple of months, he got 50,000 subscribers. “At around 1 lakh subscribers, I signed up with NoFiltr. After strategising, we decided to take things offline to engage with the audience more. I also introduced my [now signature] bird-shaped helmet to maintain my anonymity,” says the 23-year-old, who presently clocks in at 3.1 million subscribers on YouTube, and has worked with Tinder, SkillShare and Amazon, among other brands.

Meet the strategists behind your favourite social media stars

CEO Sumedh Chaphekar says he looks at NoFiltr as a human incubator of sorts. “We find early-stage influencers — someone who has managed around 10,000+ followers. It means they are on to something, and are ready to put in the work,” he says. Once they are signed on (at no charge), they undergo an intensive planning session. “We cover everything from childhood experience to current aspirations, and then paint a roadmap that draws from these narratives and amplifies their character,” he says. A strategy is created for every platform. Do HNIs (high networth individuals) approach them, to help them build up a following? Chaphekar says yes, but they don’t take such projects on.

Breaking down data

Tech can often be overwhelming for potential influencers. So, not only do these platforms break down personal analytics — to show which age group or location is working for them — but they also use data and artificial intelligence tools to make content. At Chtrbox, CEO-co-founder Pranay Swarup says, “We analyse the public content of over three lakh Indian influencers and, based on this, come up with campaigns.”

All the platforms featured in this article have built their own analytical software in-house, and rely on them for a host of decisions. But in August, Chtrbox went public with their data, with the launch of Boombox, an open discovery tool of India’s most influential voices. This is meant to help marketers shortlist relevant celebrities in an easier, more informed manner, even if they are not clients. So, if a brand is looking to collaborate on Instagram with a stand-up comic, they’ll find that Kapil Sharma has the highest reach at 18 million, but only a 2.79% engagement rate. Whereas Beast Boy Shub — a 22-year-old who puts a humorous spin on gaming — has a massive engagement rate of 32.07% with a reach of 72,600. Brands can take a call on whom to work with based on what they want out of the campaign.

Meet the strategists behind your favourite social media stars

Directing the flow

The platforms don’t charge influencers for coming on board; most take a percentage of the brand’s commission. For example, at One Impression, the team matches registered influencers with potential clients, and the platform gets a 10% commission on the completed project. “We create content at scale, mapping the influencers’ audience with the brand’s target audience,” says founder-CEO Apaksh Gupta, adding that they screen their clients, looking at engagement rates and who they’ve worked with in the past.

Ankit Agarwal’s three-month-old app-based platform, Do Your Thng (DYT), takes a slightly different approach. “We work even with those who have smaller followings, as long as they are willing to create content. Based on the campaigns, we connect their creations to the appropriate brands,” he says. Guidelines, deliverables and mandatory hashtags are supplied, and selected content is awarded credits that can be redeemed as cash. The platform is also the official media partner for the ongoing InfluencerCon in Hyderabad, which he sees as an opportunity to grow their numbers.

Meet the strategists behind your favourite social media stars

Who pushed Kohli aside?

While lifestyle, fashion, travel, tech and food are the leading topics, sports influencers are the fastest growing category. And we’re not talking just big names like cricketer Virat Kohli or badminton star Saina Nehwal. On a platform like Spothlethe, you will find hijabi weightlifter Majiziya Bhanu, three-time Deaflympic gold medallist Virender Singh, and national road racing and rally champion Aishwarya Pissay. They have a dedicated audience that is interested in the sport, and, as Goyal puts it, “The engagement rates can be as high as 20%.” Keep in mind, this rate is around 4.42% for Kohli and 4.38% for Nehwal.

Founder of the platform, Piyush Sharma, was a budding cricketer who made it to the Ranji team, but discontinued the game. He met Goyal at IIT Kanpur and the two went on to launch a site called KreedOn, dedicated to stories of Indian sportspersons. “Spothlete was a natural extension of this,” says Goyal. “These athletes were anyway posting images and videos based on their sport. So why not monetise it? We help curate the content and captions.”

Meet the strategists behind your favourite social media stars

Ready for change

In the past year, there have been grim tidings for this economy. Media reports indicate that a certain disdain has crept into conversations around influencers, with their authenticity often being called into question. Business Insider reported how Instagrammers are scamming followers by flaunting wealth they didn’t have. In August, BBC described the furore around a biking influencer’s post on being involved in an accident, which later turned out to be staged.

Governments are taking note, setting in place disclosure guidelines to ensure that posts are accompanied by #sponsored or #ad. As for the popularity charts, Facebook and Instagram are rolling out plans to hide the overall number of likes, to reduce the importance given to these stats. The platforms state that the latter won’t affect the marketing side of things because creators can still access their analytics. As for the bigger picture, Chaphekar says the worst-case scenario for them would be that their star clients get big enough to hire their own teams. He adds that there will always be newer platforms and newer influencers — “It is a constantly evolving space, and to survive, both we and the influencers have to be willing to do what it takes to stay relevant.”

Meet the strategists behind your favourite social media stars

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 10:24:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/meet-the-strategists-behind-your-favourite-social-media-stars/article30051681.ece

Next Story