How Webchutney Influence is trying to relook influencer marketing from a micro lens

Webchutney Influence is hand-picking micro-influencers across Instagram and Twitter to collaborate and create content for brands

Influencer marketing has picked up pace in 2017. Last year eMarketer said, “Globally marketers spend $570 million on influencer marketing on Instagram.” Another research from influencer marketing firm Linqia shows that the 170 marketers it surveyed are typically likely to double $50,000 to $100,000 per program in 2017, as 48 percent plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets.

According to a Google study, 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTubers more than to traditional celebrities - and one can bet that’s not just happening on YouTube.

Influencer marketing is defined as picking up credible and influential voice over social media to promote a brand’s product. Ideally, a brand picks up influencers who drive expertise in a specific field to promote its product among their community on social media. The state isn’t different in India but spends are not high (digital itself is still minuscule when it comes to budget allocation). Exchange4Media recently stated that “Influencer marketing may make up a minuscule fraction of the overall digital advertising spends in India (around 3%,) but it is no longer just a fad.”

Definitely influencer marketing is not a fad, at Lighthouse Insights we have covered influencer marketing campaigns from 2014. Over the year, brands evolved to better understand the process of leveraging influencers. Read :15 Memorable Influencer Marketing Campaigns Of 2015)

However, over the last one year influencer marketing in general has become all about ticking a box. Social media that once gave birth to it, is now its graveyard. Thanks to most of us who think that we are today’s  influencers in any field under the sun. Just because we have X number of followers and there are brands who are ready to pay for a couple of retweets and shares, we have now evolved from social media contest players to social media influencers. The state of influencer marketing is grave and it is time to relook.

Along with issues like credibility and fakery around influencer marketing, another challenge for brands has been measurement. Most of the 170 marketers surveyed by Linqia, 78% said that determining the return on investment is the biggest challenge of influencer marketing.

To solve the current problems and owning it as a business opportunity, Dentsu Webchutney recently launched ‘Webchutney Influence (WI)’. Lighthouse Insights (LI) was informed that the new division within the agency seeks to leverage influence on the internet for brands through effective content creation, co-creation, and content distribution.

WI is trying to relook the entire piece with a micro lens. It is identifying and hand-picking micro-influencers across Instagram and Twitter to collaborate and create content. Secondly, it is trying to amplify content in the most relevant and cost effective manner through various channels.

“Over the last year or so, we’ve noticed a pattern of brands across categories working with an extremely limited circle of content-creators: mostly the top-tier publishers and creators. Unless these circles expand, the nature of content created, will not either. Webchutney Influence has been making inroads into doing just that by working with Instagram creators who are known more for the quality of their work, with a smaller but focused loyal fan base, and other smaller publishers on Facebook to co-create and distribute content effectively. And we aim to economize this model to scale”, said PG Aditya, creative director, Dentsu Webchutney.

WI team

But then how different is it from the influencer marketing agencies that are already functioning in the country. Another obvious question that comes to mind is why should a brand work with an agency rather than going to the specialized agency if the objective is influencer marketing.

WI believes that being born within a digital ad-agency is a boon for it. “We enjoy the benefit of understanding a brand inside out. We have several resources accessible at the snap of a finger - from copy to design and film production, we ideate and execute everything in-house.”

From an influencer’s perspective, the team thinks it understands them better. “Given our understanding of their POV, we ensure their quality of work never diminishes. Our existing agency setup also allows influencers easier access to some of the biggest brands in India.”

We are a creative agency at heart. We believe it’s not a process in a silo but a collaborative effort between the influencer and our creative expertise. It’s a two-way street to get the best creative output.

The rise of micro influencers is the future of influencer marketing especially in India where a majority of brands have limited themselves to collaborating with a limited set of popular creators, therefore leading to a certain level of saturation when it comes to executing quality branded content.

Working with micro influencers isn’t a new approach, there are brands who have experimented but not on a consistent basis. WI wants to go the extra mile. “A long-term, consistent approach of collaborating with influencers builds the most important metric for any brand on the internet today - trust.”

Over the last few months, the team has already executed campaigns with brands such as Flipkart, Mach City, Quikr, Canon India, Rentomojo and Reliance AJIO across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The campaign that has been quite close to the team is the #DoubtIsOut micro-influencer campaign executed for Reliance AJIO. “It was by far the best in terms of a seamless collaboration with both the client and micro-influencers leading to stunning and effective pieces of content created on Instagram.”

The small team at WI right now follows a manual and arduous process to hand pick micro-influencers. However, this process is one of the keys to its success. “What we realized after executing a couple of campaigns with a handful of them, was the ever-growing relationship we developed with them. This relationship was the reason we were able to expand our base of micro-influencers. At the end, it comes down to one simple thing - listening to them.”

The agency, however, didn’t share any details on the financial relationship it has with this set of influencers. Our guess is that they won’t be as expensive as a brand tweet from Virender Sehwag or (José Covaco) HoeZaay.

Influencer marketing is here to stay for a while especially with the rise of ad blockers and who really wants to see an irritating 30-second brand pitch in the name of creativity. Recently, I loved the funny review from HoeZaay about the new OnePlus5 than any other renowned tech review done on YouTube.

HoeZaay isn’t a micro influencer but it is interesting to observe how OnePlus relooked influencer marketing. It gave its new smartphone to stand up comedians to do an unboxing in their unique style.

Trust is the most important currency for brands in this digital age. Influencer marketing can be one of the ways if it is done in the right way. The consumer today is way smarter and forward than a brand. WI is makin an attempt to relook influencer marketing but how many brands are going to get sold to this idea. Influencer marketing also means a brand breaking its walls of control and letting its content being driven by influencers. Not many brands would like this, they still want to control each and every aspect. And then there is the whole new aspect of payment and disclosures. (Read more: Confessions of an influencer marketing exec: ‘Micro-influencers are the biggest scam’)

Nonetheless, WI has set a benchmark for brands to gain trust in the most creative and effective way possible.

Going forward the team is looking at several business models of scaling such a business. “We’re discussing this internally and will take the best step forward.”