The influencer diaries: How influencer marketing has upended India Inc’s sales pitch and advertising spends by drawing big money

Mumbai: About 12% of the roughly 930,000 content creators (or 112,000 creators) in India earn between ₹1 lakh and ₹10 lakh a month now, according to a latest EY report on the state of influencer marketing in India. The report was commissioned by BigBang.Social, part of the talent management firm Collective Artists Network. About 86% of creators expect about 10% increase in income over the next two years, while 77% of creators reported unspecified income growth in the last two years.

Influencer marketing is expected to grow by 25% in 2024, reaching ₹2,344 crore and rising to ₹3,375 crore by 2026, as per the report. The report was “based on an EY survey of 2,053 respondents, including 86 brands, 556 creators, and 1,411 other industry professionals,” said Amiya Swarup, partner, marketing advisory, EY India.

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Roughly 40% to 57% brands in categories like FMCG, ecommerce, and automobile are expected to increase spending on influencer marketing by 10% by 2026. Driving awareness and engagement for the brand ranked higher among influencer campaign objectives compared to lead generation and sales conversion . At present, 29% of marketers are exploring performance-linked models to drive influencer accountability, the report says.

However, “as volatile times push marketers to spend on more sure-footed channels that deliver return on investment, brands will move away from metrics like cost per impression and engagement and link their influencer marketing initiatives with sales conversion,” said Devarajan Iyer, executive director & CEO, Lifestyle International. About 47% of brands preferred driving influencer campaigns with nano and micro influencers – creators with 100 to 100,000 followers – due to lower cost per reach, the report noted.

The Influencer Diaries

Iyer observed that large brands tend to go with mega influencers who have over a million followers. There are about 7,000 content creators falling in that category. “Smaller brands driving new labels are more likely to use a lot of nano and micro influencers to build their brand,” he added.About 73% of content creators work for less than 10 hours a week, compared to up to 39 hours abroad, the report added, giving the impression that the majority of creators look at content creation as a side hustle and that perhaps only 30% are getting brand deals consistently for them to be occupied with content creation as a full-time job.Even as the number of followers is still the basis of classification of creators, their engagement rate and the quality of target audience emerged as the top criteria for brands to select influencers, as per the report. This indicates that “brands are increasingly recognizing the importance of genuine connections with their audience over reach or celebrity status,” said Vijay Subramaniam, group CEO & founder, Collective Artists Network. About 39% of creators expect lifestyle to be the biggest growth-driving category for influencer marketing in the next two years, while 26% voted for fashion and 10% for beauty.

Hot categories like tech and finance did not make it to the list of top growth drivers. Subramaniam explained: “It’s just that the lifestyle, fashion, and beauty influencers resonate more directly with a broader audience and tap into aspirational lifestyles, therefore they have a stronger presence in influencer-marketing strategies.”

Content coach Anshu Patni says it’s surprising that comedy/entertainment didn’t make it to the list of biggest growth drivers either, considering “Instagram is seen as a stressbuster by a large audience and entertainment is generally the single-biggest consumption category across social media platforms.” Instagram and YouTube emerged as the top preferred platforms for consuming influencer content, as per the report.

RoI on influencer campaigns came up as the top challenge facing brands, while building and growing a loyal audience remains the top challenge for content creators, the report further added.