IPads are for toddlers. A 10-month-old can scroll and choose his or her favourite cartoon. That maybe insane but true. A generation that is born on these gadgets has changed the way products and services are marketed and sold. Traditional advertising was monopolized by big budgets spent on print and electronic media by the few who could afford. It was one way with the objective to reach a mass audience and in that also get through to their target market.

The top actors, sportsmen and women and celebrities used to adorn the billboards to influence people to buy. This was the hit and hit method that was based on the premise of extensive promotion. The social media has changed it all. The person in the crowd waiting for a message is now a profile that is seen, followed and flooded with the right products and services by the influencer he or she likes. The time to reach everyone, every mind and every pocket is possible due to the influencer marketing techniques.

Data analytics possible on Facebook has made the possibility of getting into the target audience’s consideration set. Once you enter the mind of a target person, the ability to push it to the preference level becomes a strategy of matching the brand with the type of influencer the target person is influenced by. That is determined amongst other researches by the following of the person of certain celebrities or type of personalities. According to State of Influencer Marketing 2023 Benchmark Report, influencer marketing has grown into a $21.1 billion industry. This is a significant increase of 29% from $16.4 billion in the previous year. This is such a big industry that now there are matchmaking companies coming up that just tell you who your next suitor can be.

The ability to reach each person on the target market has widened the domain of who can be the influencers. In traditional marketing big names in big cinema or sports etc were the main influencers. The Lux girls, the Pepsi boys were the safe few to get to reach a market that was diverse and spread out. Presently, the diverse market is being micro targeted. It is being data sliced through social listening, etc, to create patterns of brand purchase. These customers are then divided into mini segments that can be influenced through different influencers. There are four types of influencers depending upon their following.

Firstly, there are Nano influencers. They have a 0-10K followers. They are good for the small medium businesses who have small marketing budgets. They have a special niche they are promoting. Their engagement is much more than larger influencers and their comments get more credibility points. They may be talking about a particular subject like stone jewellery or best Gyms for women in the city, etc. People who want very specific information are likely to follow and be influenced by them. Then come the micro influencers who have followers from 10K to 100k followed by mid influencers with following of 100K to 500K followers. The biggest influencers are called Macro influencers with following of 500K to infinite.

This new tool of marketing has created race in becoming an influencer and a YouTuber. The most popular areas of influencing are food, health, fashion, beauty, sports, etc. The fact that a YouTuber needs views on his or her video of a certain number to start earning money has really turned YouTube into a video mania circus. At the moment there are around 40 million YouTube channels with almost 22000 having more than 1 million subscribers.

The smart phone is the TV plus gaming devise, plus video sharing facility, that most people possess. In Pakistan, housewives have started their own channels on daily house activities, showing their houses and lifestyles. They have a huge following of other housewives. Food channels by the most basic of chefs get millions of views and many very humble names have become millionaires. The combination of self-projection and easy money has made these channels a double-edged sword. While they have provided many a way of living and earning, they have also created problems for people. The time to create some sense out of them is necessary due to dual issues:

1- Lust for more— YouTube is addictive. The influencers on YouTube are now in constant pursuit of more. The monetization of views has made them become desperate for attention getting content. This desperation is visible in the low quality of content and ethics coming into play.

Most YouTubers are amateurs and by some luck or initial enthusiasm their video becomes viral. Since they do not have an overall mission and strategy they only focus on numbers of views. This focus brings their downfall. Recently, a Vlogger young girl who was trying to grow her subscribers made a video on visiting her sister’s grave, whom she had lost in 2015.

In the video, Noor Rana informs her viewers that she is going to visit her sister’s grave on her death anniversary. The over 19-minute-long video documents her entire day, from getting ready in the morning, to getting flowers, to returning home after visiting the graveyard. This has sparked a lot of criticism but is typical of the money overtaking sense issue of being obsessed by the follower count.

2- Fame Management— The Instagram should be renamed as Instafame. The number of overnight sensations due to Insta following is countless. The feel good stories are many where the famous “chai wala” in Pakistan became a model. The music industry is full of Instagram sensations crossing over to Coke Studio.

However, the durability of this fame is a question mark. The most perturbing aspect is the children Vloggers. The west model of Roma Diana children Vloggers who show their luxury living has seriously induced consumerism in the children’s mind.

Recently. a Pakistani child Vlogger Shiraz’s parents have shut down his channel. Shiraz, from Baltistan, had amassed a huge following of 1.58 million subscribers on his YouTube channel i.e Shirazi Village Vlogs. In a recent vlog, Shiraz’s father explained why his son chose to quit vlogging. Firstly. Shiraz’s newfound fame changed his personality, making him less obedient and charming. Secondly, his studies were suffering.

The fact that these channels are excellent disseminators of useful information is true.

Khan’s Academy and a whole online industry has cropped up to make education more available and interesting for students. With popularity comes abuse. With abuse there needs to be judicious rules of the game or an extreme reaction will curtail the good operators too. The money per click model needs to be regulated and monitored to ensure that these channels do not become a victim of their own popularity.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Andleeb Abbas

The writer is a columnist, consultant, coach, and an analyst and can be reached at [email protected]

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