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With new-age firms spending big on online ads, even traditional companies have turned to the medium since millennials and Gen Z invest a lot of time on digital platforms, consulting firm Redseer said in its brief report on digital advertising in July. The trend is only expected to amplify as more people, especially in tier-2+ cities, engage more digitally through websites, apps and social media. India’s digital ad market is expected to grow approximately 10 times in the next 10 years, it said.

Such commentary sets the stage for the next surge in influencer marketing by brands, which is set to accelerate in 2022, claim digital agencies.

Increased digital penetration in small-town India which is creating growth opportunities for brands and the rise in time spent on the medium is likely to keep influencers in business. Besides, India is expected to have 750 million smartphone screens by 2025, according to data cited by a Ficci-EY report released in March. This could lead to massive increase in content creation, it said.

“The internet, social media platforms are very dynamic. Everyone needs content that’s fresh and new," said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at digital media agency SoCheers.

Earlier, typically a brand would create 4-5 ad films and re-purpose them for all media. The rise of digital platforms has changed that. “Brands cannot make so many ad films; so, they are increasingly using influencers to address this vast market," Gupta said.

What has also changed is how digital influencers are used. It no longer works if they pick a product or a service, claim to use it, like it and urge consumers to do the same.

The lines between content creators and influencers have blurred. “Influencer marketing is actually content marketing now. The idea is to leverage content in the best possible ways by brands," said Shuchi Sethi, India lead at AnyTag, an influencer marketing platform.

“Influencers are creating great content which brands are using on their own digital assets and on influencer channels too. This will level up in 2022," said Gupta.

A report on influencer marketing in India by AnyMind group, which owns AnyTag, counted fashion and beauty, arts and entertainment, food and beverage and games and gadgets, among the top influencer verticals. AnyMind is an end-to-end commerce enablement platform for marketers, influencers and businesses.

In India, YouTube is influencers’ social media platform of choice, with close to 68% of them being macro-influencers (with 100,000 to 1 million followers). Facebook has a clear lead over Instagram in terms of influencers, the report said.

While more than half (58.15%) of the influencers are macro-influencers, in the coming year, it expects 9.32% of them to increase their number of followers and turn into top stars with over 1 million followers. Nano-influencers, it added, are most populous on Facebook and Instagram.

Yet, Sethi predicts a huge rise in the micro- and nano-influencer category in 2022. “Buying trends are changing and hence, the narrative would be changing too; brands would want to create relatable assets for their consumers. One thing brands would be keen on exploring would be social commerce. We have already noticed a few brands which have successfully executed social commerce-led campaigns. There is going to be a huge rise in this space," said Sethi.

Rikki Agarwal, co-founder and COO at Blink Digital, a full-service digital agency, agreed the ride on micro-influencers will only get bigger as brands prefer to engage several smaller creators to make content more relatable, genuine and distinctive.

But all brand partnerships with content creators or influencers are now required to be flagged and announced as collaborations, paid partnerships or as ads on digital media, as per the Advertising Standards Council of India’s guidelines.

The rules are fair and ensure transparency, but they do impact branded content views. “Take any top 20 influencers and compare their likes, comments and shares for the organic content they post with brand content in paid partnership. You will see the difference—if they get 50,000 likes for organic content, for sponsored content it could be down to 10,000," explained Agarwal.

If content is hard-sell for brands, engagement drops by 50-60%, agreed Gupta, adding, “but if the content piece is good, they will stick to it."

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pre-ssing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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