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We have all scrolled through Instagram and have wondered how the lives of our favourite content creators/ influencers would be like and have also admired/envied their lifestyle, wardrobe, and talent. 

This admiration often also turns into aspiration. With the booming creator economy, it is no surprise that there are many aspirational content creators out there. According to GroupM’s influencer marketing and analytics agency INCA, influencer marketing will grow at a CAGR of 25% for the next decade, reaching a size of Rs 2,200 crore in 2025. 

While one may dream of becoming a content creator, how far can people go to achieve their dreams? 

According to sources, aspirational content creators are paying established influencers with blue ticks to follow them and interact with their posts. An established influencer who didn’t wish to be named stated that she has been offered large sums of money to follow certain upcoming talents in the influencer space. “Although I didn’t take it up, these deals are happening,” she said. 

A source close to the developments further added that stated established creators are being paid anywhere between Rs 25,000-50,000 to follow these aspiring creators. 

Nahush Gulawani

Nahush Gulawani, Co-founder at Wit And Chai, said, “Personally, I have no first-hand experience of carrying out such ‘deals’ per se. On a local level, it is more like a community of creators who frequently feature in each other’s content. This not only helps them grow as individuals but also get brand deals.” 

“Digital content creation has democratised talent and the key to achieving success on digital platforms is to stay relevant. Collaborations with other influencers are one way of staying in the loop. In the last few years, I have worked with various influencers, from A-level to micro-influencers. They collaborate willingly with each other but the motive on both ends is quite clear. The micro-influencer gets a wider reach by getting featured on the A-level influencer’s page. The A-level influencer, too, gets more engagement as the micro-influencer has a better hold on their audience and hence a better engagement in comparison. So, it is more of a barter, if at all there is a deal,” he added. 

Another spokesperson from a leading influencer and content agency said that although this practice doesn’t happen at a formal level, it definitely happens at a micro-level between creators. He said agencies may not be carrying out these ‘deals’ but they are definitely happening at a micro level, between the creators. 

Authenticity in the influencer world is a myth?

While we have all heard of concepts like ‘paid followers’, when a creator ends up paying an influencer to follow him, to the audience the profile looks more genuine or renowned with established people interacting with them. 

However, in this case, the audiences and the brands are being misled. Speaking about this, Gulawani of Wit and Chai said, “Influencer marketing has become a popular strategy lately and all brands covet collaborations with different kinds of influencers. I have seen some serious numbers being achieved by brands with influencer activations. Of course, there might be some influencers who take a shortcut. But for one such influencer, there are 10 who create content with sincerity.”

What are the other sources of revenue for influencers? 

If you thought that branded content partnerships and advertising deals are the only way creators today are earning money, you might be wrong. There are several ways in which influencers today have managed to earn a little more than what brands have to offer to them. 

For example, we see a number of influencers on platforms like Patreon, a platform that allows artists and creators to earn a monthly income by providing rewards or perks to their subscribers. 

Another such concept that is slowly growing in the influencer space is ‘meet and greet’. 

Just like platforms such as Patreon and Twitter give badges that provide a super follower feel, and exclusive access to the creator's content, influencers also give a chance to their fans to meet them in the real world, sometimes for a huge sum of money. These ‘meet and greet’ are usually held at community centres, music festivals, or even at coffee shops and hotels. 

A leading influencer recently held a meet and greet session in Mumbai for her fans and even met some people individually for 10-15 minutes of chat sessions. However, these might not always be the safest option. Recalling an experience, the influencer spoke to us about how a man tried to misbehave with her and she had to call in security to intervene.