MW 20TH Anniversary Special: The Rise And Rise Of The Influencer Culture
The term “influencer” has been coined because of different platforms where people have public opinion and I think nomenclature has changed and continues to change in the time of social media. There’s a whole new vocabulary now. It’s not just the rise of social media, it’s the rise of different mediums and access to these mediums that has led to the influencer culture. To go check out your favourite celebrity, you don’t have to go buy a movie ticket or flip through a magazine. It’s also different forms of expression that comes through web portals. A person’s opinion and the access to it is more immediate now.
I think the term “influencer” still has to be used very carefully, because you’re not just influencing one or two people, but the masses. I know a lot of people think of the term in a negative way, but I don’t, I truly enjoy some influencers’ art or the work they do. For me, an influencer is also someone like Karuna Nundy, who uses Twitter so beautifully to influence opinions. I don’t think people got on to the blogger or influencer wagon — I think we put them on the wagon. People were just looking for different ways of putting their work out there. Honestly, not everyone is an influencer and not everyone is a key opinion leader. I’m not going to diss anyone, but I like the fact that someone who is sitting at a dining table can have a massive audience. I know I’ve worked closely with some people with great content, and I don’t see the harm in doing something that resonates with people. Look at it this way: not everyone will get to perform in the traditional spheres of the media, write for a magazine, or be on a channel. When people started blogging, I think it was to carve out a space for themselves. And it’s like any other sphere. If you’re good, you’ll last. If you’re not, people won’t buy it. Trust me, if you think influencers are lying around, it’s not that. They’re running their own companies, and I respect that. They didn’t call themselves influencers, we did.
The fact that there’s a market for it is why it’s become big, right? It’s a career. Influencer marketing is a huge market now. People have agencies. Brands have also changed the way they reach the audience. Movies, beauty brands, fashion, everything has influencer marketing as a big part of the industry now. And ultimately, they are allowed to make a living. If there’s sponsored content, it’s because it’s business. The audience is not stupid, and with social media, the response is always immediate. I’ll explain. What are the complaints about the influencer culture that you hear? That everyone’s an influencer. But do you need to watch everything that’s out there? No, you watch what you like. It’s a two-way street. If everyone’s an influencer, people who are complaining are also complicit. The aesthetic is forever changing and there’s something for everyone there. We see a lot of different categories, and a lot of people have made their mark doing more real content like “body positivity” or comedy on relatable topics and so on.
Yes, the market is saturated right now, but as long as people are buying, someone is going to be selling it. If you look at it from a content point of view, short form content has massively evolved in India. It has become an art form. Look at what kind of brilliant content people are able to put out there in a minute or two. And that’s exactly what we need right now — good short-form content. We say “cringe content”, but what really is cringe content? What may be cringe to one, may be comedy to another. Speaking demographically too, what might be cringe to Tier 1 may not be cringe to Tier 4 and vice versa. Content and the choice to consume it is subjective. Influencers definitely influence, if they’re good at it — whether it’s a person, brand, or a content creator. And as an audience, the bottom line is choice. If you like it, watch it. If you don’t, you can choose not to look at it. That’s what I do. Do we need to troll, put down influencers? It’s a shame to do that to someone’s mental health. A lot of people have jumped on to the influencer bandwagon because it works, but you know what? Why not? Ultimately, an influencer’s fifteen minutes of fame will remain only for fifteen minutes unless they can find their art form in it.