Last Updated:

'India Caught On With Influencer Marketing A Little Late': Chtrbox CEO

In an exclusive interview with Republic World, Pranay Swarup, co-founder and CEO of Chtrbox spoke about influencer marketing and where is it in India today


As fancy as it may sound, the term influencer marketing is not something many of us have heard before, and for a reason. Influencer marketing is slowly gaining momentum in India as social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat continue to grow at speed like never before. Thanks to influencer marketing, these social media apps have offered a platform to modern, tech-savvy content creators who can showcase their talent and creativity, and they also ensure that content creators can monetise their content in order to maximise their earning potential.

In conversation with Pranay Swarup, CEO of Chtrbox

Chtrbox, a Mumbai-based influencer marketing firm, claims to have more than 350,000 influencers and hundreds of brands. Chtrbox pays its influencers for sponsored content from these brands associated with the company. In an interview with Republic World, Pranay Swarup, co-founder and CEO of Chtrbox spoke about how influencer marketing is different from traditional marketing and where is influencer marketing in India today.

On influencer marketing in India:

India caught on with influencer marketing a little late. However, it is incredible that more than 320 million Indians are social media users as of 2018! There is an exponential rise in influencer marketing campaigns recorded from 2016 to 2019 and it doesn’t look like it's slowing down. With the Gen-Z and Baby Boomers already accustomed with the workings of social media, influencer marketing is all set to change marketing paradigms. Brands of all sizes are investing in Influencer Marketing as it gives a cost-effective alternative to heavy traditional marketing methods. Today, through Chtrbox, you can even collaborate with celebrities for Influencer campaigns, whereas, previously, most of these stars would be unattainable for brands as budgets for all-day shoots, production costs and advertising budgets are minimum 12x of what an influencer campaign with the same celeb costs. Influencer marketing is changing the definition of stardom by giving common people the celebrity status that our Bollywood stars enjoy. In fact, it makes them more relevant. At Chtrbox, we can predict that influencer marketing will pave the way for new methods for influencers to grow their reach and impact while revolutionising the way brands in India would use them as a means for promotion.

On the on-boarding process of influencers:

At Chtrbox, our teams are constantly looking for new and talented influencers to expand our influencer network. We look at content and creators that are trending or emerging and conduct a quality check on their profiles. If they match our standards, we invite them to our network.

On ensuring the quality of influencers:

There are a few boxes that we have to check off while shortlisting an influencer for a particular campaign. An influencer’s ability to create quality content is one of them. 'Quality Content' here means that the influencers must produce thoughtful and creative content that has a positive story to tell. It should look aesthetically pleasing while doing it. The influencer should be able to seamlessly integrate the brand messaging in their content without it being a force fit. An engagement rate is a metric that measures the level of engagement or audience feedback that any post or created content receives. It shows a quantifiable figure of how many people have interacted with the influencer, on any particular post, and in what manner. If your audience keeps coming back to you, then you're doing something right. With the rise of fake followers on social media platforms, it's important for us at Chtrbox to identify influencers with a genuine fan following and engaging audience. Therefore we analyse various engagement patterns to weed out influencers that have an above-average fake followers/bots following them.

On influencer marketing versus traditional marketing:

Influencer marketing has advantages over traditional marketing in that it’s more personal, targeted, cost-effective, relevant and most importantly - trustworthy! As leaders in people-powered marketing, we have numerous case studies that show how word of mouth is more personalised, sticky and impactful than traditional push-advertising mediums. We are now able to segment influencers based off of their followership, making sure that brands get higher ROI based on relevance. Producing content at scale with influencers and quality is really the biggest value addition. Storytelling, when done well with the right influencers, can be extremely powerful on the digital medium and help brand campaigns become what we call as 'people-powered movements'. The cost and speed of content production too with influencers has drastically come down, allowing creative content to be churned out and shared with audiences that tune into those influencers every day, by choice.

On the number of followers versus user engagement:

Both metrics do have their own significance. Influencers with large numbers of followers include mega and macro influencers. Approaching these influencers ensures a larger reach and proves to be very effective in creating a buzz. User engagement is one of the key metrics that we measure for a successful campaign apart from audience demographics, brand affinity, passion points, location and more. It gives us a good idea of how many authentic followers have actually appreciated the content.

On threats and challenges in influencer marketing:

From looking at pretty much any industry projections, influencer marketing is taking an increasing chunk of digital marketing spends as a percentage; and digital spends are quickly growing in proportion to traditional marketing. Even within our own client set, we’ve seen budgets grow significantly towards influencer marketing rather than other mediums because of its high impact. As long as content consumption on digital keeps growing, marketing with influencers and content creators will become the preferred way to influence audiences.

On fake followers in influencer marketing:

More followers don’t always mean real followers. Fake followership involves buying a certain amount of followers to increase your total number of followers. The problem is that this creates the illusion of a greater reach while skewing one’s true influence. Luckily, at Chtrbox we have filters to weed out fake followers to derive an authenticity score which enables us to reject influencers that have a high amount of fake following and select only those that have a true reach and engagement.

READ | India has 16 million fake Instagram influencers with a tendency to artificially boost both followers and engagement: Study

On constantly changing social media paradigms:

While search engines like Google are constantly updating their algorithms and search ranking criteria, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube are rolling out new features to make their platform authentic and engaging. It is necessary to adapt and regulate our campaigns, keeping these parameters in mind as it can affect its overall run and impact the ROI (return on investments).

On the measurement of influencer marketing ROI:

We are starting to take up more influencer powered work for brands that are linked to performance and long term goals that matter, including engagement actions, clicks, opt-ins and sales. We’ve seen a lot of questions as to ROI of influencer marketing, and think that improved sales measurement tools as well as brand impact studies to understand brand recall will help the industry significantly. At Chtrbox, we guide brands to set up campaigns that are measurable and track performance for brands depending on objectives.

On revenue model:

While we still take up key campaigns for brands, Chtrbox now mostly follows retainer models with brands that have dedicated plans to work with influencers. We manage end-to-end influencer marketing for our clients, which involves everything from defining the Influencer strategy, search and discovery of influencers according to the objectives, creation of highly engaging social media content, the tracking and analysis of the campaign’s reach and engagement and finally delivering a strong ROI.

On advice for budding influencers:

It (influencer marketing) isn’t for everyone. Becoming an influencer requires patience and a LOT of creativity. Gone are the days when you can post stock content and get away with it. You need to understand quality production, scripting, and understanding what your audience wants. Furthermore, you need to make sure you’re investing efforts in the right platform for you - do you see better growth and engagement on TikTok for example than another platform? Focus your efforts into one platform as your core expertise, with a niche speciality and creativeness that you bring to the table. You need to know the importance of consistent & creative content postings, expressing your ‘personal voice’, and especially interacting with fellow followers to build trust. Be careful with who you collaborate with as every brand chooses a particular influencer for the image they project in front of their followers. And lastly, have fun with it!

First Published:
By 2030, 40% Indians will not have access to drinking water