THE GENUINE INFLUENCE

Amrita Prasad
Monday, 21 May 2018

While youngsters now increasingly rely on social media to make their lifestyle choices, this world of blogging/social media influences is a complex game. Here’s a look

With the growing number of social media influencers and increasing impact of bloggers on the choices we make, it has become extremely important to understand the ethics of bloggers and influencers.

In this day and age, when influencers are trying to market something or the other to the common man, the aspect of ethics in blogging does need to be looked at closely, believes Aditya Gundecha (Instagram handle Uraveragefoodie). “What really goes into this collaboration differs from blogger to blogger — there are some in the industry who start a page, make it big and go after money through collaborations and promotions. They take a product and promote it the way a marketing personnel would do because that’s how they work. But there is also another group of bloggers who don’t care much about how big a brand or product is or who approaches them. They care about the audience they are catering to and feel responsible towards their target audience/followers; what they endorse matters to them,” says Gundecha who is a food blogger.

He says that influencing people’s opinion works tremendously in the fashion industry/fashion blogging. “For instance, if a big makeup brand like MAC is coming up, a few bloggers, without ever having used it, will go ahead and endorse it just because it is a huge brand. In the long run, people following these bloggers will realise this because their product choice was based on its promotion by a specific blogger and ultimately they may not like it personally. If this continues to happen for quite some time, people will understand that you are no longer an influencer or blogger but merely a brand promoter — your identity becomes equivalent to an advertising agency,” he explains.

THE NUMBER GAME
“Free and paid followers is another plague that has affected the industry badly,” says Gundecha when asked to comment on the genuineness of the number of followers. Although buying followers has become a common practice, it is essential for brands and customers to verify the numbers. “It is pretty easy for another blogger or agencies who work closely with bloggers to verify the truth. Say there are two bloggers with 3,000 and 30,000 followers respectively, and they post about the same thing (a dessert or a makeup item). The blogger with 3,000 followers gets a minimum of 500 hits, likes and comments on that post. This is in accordance with the general ratio for engagement — 10 per cent of your total number of followers in the industry. That way, the other blogger with 30,000 followers should get at least 3,000 likes or engagement, but instead gets only 1,000 odd engagements (likes, comments). It then becomes obvious that his followers are not genuine and are probably bought.”

HOW BRANDS LOOK AT IT
For the reach of a blogger, Roopali Pasricha Bhasin, founder of SpotLYK Media, a Delhi-based PR agency, generally sees his/her followers on their relevant social media handles and posts, and the engagement received. “The correct way to check for genuine bloggers is by ensuring that the engagement and followers ratio is in place,” she agrees.
Arundhati Gewali,  assistant manager — marketing communications, Courtyard by Marriott Pune, Hinjewadi, who regularly invites bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers and influencers for food reviews or tasting sessions says that her criterion of selecting them is based on their profiles on Zomato, Instagram, YouTube  and Facebook. “For Zomato — the foodie should be an active blogger, with at least 1,500 followers. The profile should be on the top 10 leaderboard. Also the last review should not be more than 10 days old. As far as Instagrammers are concerned, we prefer 20,000 plus followers. The quality of content and engagement are the major deciding factors,” she adds.

Not everything that bloggers post or endorse is genuine — they either accept payment from the brand or do it on a barter basis. In that case, how much should we trust them? Also, the ethics involved in such collaborations demand special attention. Bhasin points out that if the partnership is paid or on a barter basis, then bloggers are often bound to do positive reviews. “At the same time, they have to do this tough job of balancing. Hence majority of them share the pros and cons of a product,” she adds. But yes, for new launches and comparisons between brands, they are the best informers, but one must understand that the views expressed are their personal. A skin-care product might be liked by one person and hated by another.

As for the common man, all these things can be difficult to judge. “In the food industry, when a lot of bloggers are invited at an event, they are bound to click some wonderful images and use proper hashtags. When a consumer sees a lot of bloggers visiting a place (check-in, Instagram/FB post), and posting pictures, he/she is likely to feel that the place is good enough and visit it. Even Zomato reviews are taken into consideration before visiting a restaurant by the common man. Thus it is important to follow multiple blogs if you are going by these to make your choices and do your own research too,” she cautions.

“Some do positive reviews, while others share honest opinions. The audience can get confused this way, so it’s the bloggers’ responsibility to analyse and assess well,” Bhasin advises.

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