Why getting influencers to reveal paid brand associations is not a bad thing

India’s mega influencers hold as much power as movie stars

For all the influencers raging against the government for the crackdown on social media marketeers, please sit down. Everyone saw this coming like a dust storm in a desert. It is hard to scroll through any social media platform and avoid a video or a post that has gone viral. Viral posts are those that receive a few thousand to a few lakh ‘likes’, and are said to ‘influence’ people.

Influencers, by extension, are those with a large following on social media, who are perceived to have great control over the behaviour of those who subscribe to them, or ‘follow’ them. Their followers are perceived to be influenced by their opinions and choices. Their sizeable following makes them attractive to companies who pay them to promote their products, or services.

The new government rules ought to come, considering the size of the social media influencer landscape. The government now expects influencers to declare clearly what is a paid promotion, a brand association, or a gift, so that it protects consumers in the same way an advertorial in a newspaper is declared. Influencers will pay hefty fines for not complying, as much as $50 lakh, or they can be barred from endorsing products for up to six years.

Rahul Gandhi and Kamiya Jani | Courtesy Curly Tales Rahul Gandhi and Kamiya Jani | Courtesy Curly Tales

Influencers charge anywhere between $25,000 to a few lakhs (or a few crores if you are a movie star or a celebrity cricketer). The new ruling follows Instagram’s guidelines, too, that requires users to declare paid promotions.

Their scope of influence is huge. If you consider the delightful interview of Rahul Gandhi by Kamiya Jani, a food and travel influencer whose YouTube and Instagram following is some 20 lakh subscribers and almost 1 million followers, respectively, I have to say it was so refreshing to see a political heavyweight taking on someone so lighthearted and enjoyable.

Social media is possibly the strongest media that exists—if you compare it to print, radio and digital (web sites)—simply because of its dizzying uptick. The biggest ‘influencers’ come from fashion and fitness/health.

According to the India Influence Report of 2022, produced by Zefmo Media every year, India will have more than 100 million content creators across social media platforms by 2023. This will make the country the largest base of influencers in the world. The organised influencer marketing sector, the Zefmo report says, will cross $3,000 crore in 2022-23. Even micro influencers—those with a following of between 10,000 and 1,00,000—are expected to disrupt the scene with more and more brands showing interest in hyperlocal engagement.

India’s mega influencers (with more than 1 million followers) in fashion are some truly interesting women. Diipa Khosla Buller (1.8 million), Komal Panday (1.8 million), Kritika Khurana (1.7 million) and Masoom Minawala (1.3 million) can sell snow to an eskimo. Diipa has just launched her own skincare brand, and friends who have tried it are impressed.

These women make upwards of $25 lakh a month, and hold as much power as a movie star. They get flown first class, they have sponsored vacations in exotic locales, they get invited to Cannes and every designer wants to dress them, except they have to pay to put a frock on them.

Since they are fully advertorial, their ‘influence’ is taken as seriously as a top fashion magazine’s was, never mind their shaky content. I’m not sure a designer like Sabyasachi or Tarun Tahiliani would pay them, but boutiques in Raipur and Indore would pay top dollar, and will tell me it was well worth it.

So, do ‘influencers’ influence fashion trends or are they just saying they love a product only because they are paid to? The government will ensure you have the answer, and that may not be such a bad thing after all.