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Influencers have increasingly become a source for customers looking to buy products and services. Reports suggest almost 50% consumers depend on recommendations from influencers while 60% teens prefer influencers over celebrities.

However, a brand doesn’t need influencers just to amplify its communication but also to build an overall advocacy that elevates it. Measurement around influencer-led marketing and its ROI is another challenge faced by brands for long.

Karthik Nagarajan

“Measurement in the advocacy space is an evolving sphere. I don’t think we are there yet as an industry,” Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker India, said in an interaction with He explained how its influencer marketing offering WM Thrive is helping brands build long-term advocacy road maps.

The APIs that the agency uses for the measurement for clients are public and it is always 100% transparent in the methodology. In fact, in most cases, it co-creates the measurement system with clients.

The agency also analyses the content history of every influencer that it works with through the help of social listening, in the process ensuring brand safety.

Nagarajan said the agency has worked with best-in-class technology partners to ensure brand safety while creating a seamless experience for clients.

“One thing that often gets overlooked is the legal framework under which advocacy operates and the indemnification of clients when things go wrong. That is the first thing we worked on. Beyond that, there is a dire need to go beyond follower numbers and look at influencers from political, toxicity and language lenses before they associate themselves with a brand. These are areas where we have worked with the best-in-class technology partners,” he added.

With Wavemaker Thrive, the agency is focusing on increasing the believability of brand storytelling by treating influencers more as customers or talent and not just as media channels.

With the presence of multiple influencer marketing agencies in India, Nagarajan said Thrive is not replicating the agencies that work as via media to engage with influencers.

“We are helping brands build long-term advocacy roadmaps that impact the actual purchase behaviour of their potential customers. It is a bigger envelope that we are pushing. Thrive is not just for WM clients and it is not just an influencer outreach offering. It is an overarching advocacy product of which influencer outreach is merely one part. It addresses the larger issues like outcome-based content co-creation, customer advocacy, employee advocacy, etc., and also deals with influencer outreach. I am not aware of any other offering that has a canvas like this in the country,” he said.

Nagarajan said amid the debate of influencers and amplification, one has forgotten the trending and engagement businesses.

“I think amplification is a very small part of the puzzle. We called them ‘influencers’ originally because they were supposed to impact buying behaviour. Somewhere I feel we have lost track of that with all the trending and engagement businesses. That is a long-term commitment and that is where we are focusing our efforts,” he said.

The agency has a separate team for Thrive, both at a product level as well as at a project management level.

Asked what kind of technological disruptions and data-driven model Thrive has adopted for the seamless experience for its clients, he said, “I think the biggest concerns for clients are at three levels — Discovery (how do I ensure I am working with the right influencer), Content ROI (How do I ensure that I am co-creating with them the right content in a data-driven way) and negotiation (How can I ensure that I am getting the best possible price out there). These are the areas where we have had technology interventions.”

Having launched in December last year, Thrive has witnessed phenomenal growth till now.

Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, it has done a few of the most successful campaigns in India, including Cadbury’s 5Star #DoNothingOutside challenge.

Nagarajan said it is a true benchmark in terms of how a brand can connect during a crisis.

Cadbury’s 5Star #DoNothingOutside challenge:

It has also launched the Myntra Masterclass series last week, which is the brand’s biggest advocacy initiative until now. 

Apart from this, the agency is working with category-leading clients such as Myntra, L’Oreal, Pernod Ricard, etc., as well as challenger brands across categories and regions.

The pandemic has forced a change in priorities for the masses. But at the same time Nagarajan believes that the trust of customers remains the same in influencer-led marketing.

He added, “The trust of clients on this (influencer-led marketing) as a viable, scalable channel of communication has increased. However, in this space, I think price standardisation is a huge challenge. The other is working with social platforms on increasing access to measurement. Both are WIP for the moment.”

With a lot of brands shifting to influencer-led marketing amid the lockdown, he said it is not the time where one can afford knee jerk investments. Brands investing in influencer-led marketing amid the outbreak have been well thought through and rationalised and thus this direction is long term, he said.

Nagarajan said influencer marketing as a short-term strategy doesn’t justify the investment. “Having said that, it can be used as a pure amplification medium as well. But then I wouldn’t call that influencer marketing. It is what we call it – amplification,” he said.

Dismissing the belief that influencer marketing is only meant for B2C space and has no role to play in B2B, Nagarajan said, “We work with a lot of clients on B2B engagements. The dynamics of that are different and you might not see it on regular social media platforms. B2B overall is the most fertile ground for content marketing.”

He mentioned how influencer marketing will not overshadow content marketing ever because the former is a sub set of the latter and advocacy will help content marketing grow.

With the immense potential of influencers and their collaborations, he said, “As a market, I don’t even think we have scraped the surface on the potential of advocacy for brands. There is a very long, exciting journey ahead.”