Post Thumb
Kunal Sawant

Recently, GroupM, the media investment group under WPP, announced the Top 100 Digital Stars List for 2023 curated by The Goat Agency, GroupM’s influencer and content marketing solution, in partnership with Forbes India.

The top 10 digital stars who became a part of this list are Dharna Durga, Apoorva Mukhija, Raj Grover, Siddharth Batra, Rakesh Kumar, Sourav Joshi, Komal Pandey, Meethika Dwivedi, Harshita Gupta, Malvika Sitlani (In ascending order).

The rise of influencers in the comedy genre

In the list, one genre of influencers that have stood out amid tech, travel and beauty is “comedy”.

Talking about the growing popularity of comedy influencers, Kunal Sawant, Business Head, Goat, GroupM India, said, “Given the presence of enough drama in one’s life, a person comes to social media for entertainment or infotainment, is one big reason for comedy influencers’ growing popularity. Plus, comedy influencers can work with brands across categories along with creating relatable funny content.”

He added, “Take, for instance, individuals like Saloni Gaur, Viraj Ghelani, or the well-known Aiyyo Shraddha, aka Shraddha Jain. They excel in producing authentic content that seamlessly incorporates brands. Whether they're enjoying ice cream at home, using a particular oil, or embarking on family trips, their brand integrations feel exceptionally natural, never causing a disconnect with their audience. The key, ultimately, lies in not rushing to incorporate the brand within the initial 5 seconds of the content..”

Beyond the rise of comedy influencers, Sawant also spoke about measurement-related challenges in the influencer marketing space, long-format content by influencers, problem areas of Live Commerce and the rise of regional language influencers.

How brands can utilise the Top 100 Digital Stars list

Throwing some light on the inception of the list and how it will benefit brands, Sawant said, “It is our genuine effort to recognise the talent born and grown on digital. One can anytime Google top 10 influencers and get different websites offering different data. Over here, we have considered the 12-month performance of influencers not just basis their followerbase but several other factors across Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.”

To compile this list, a multi-step process was initiated. Beginning with the identification of top creators in nine specified genres based on engagement rate and follower count, the selection was then narrowed down to the top 100 influencers through a comprehensive assessment of vital metrics, including reach, engagement, impressions, and follower count. Goat’s proprietary scoring algorithm played a crucial role in the process.

This algorithm, which compares creators within similar categories, types, and audience sizes, ranks their content based on engagement rate. The careful consideration of authenticity-verified profiles, compliance with disclosure labels, and platform presence ensured a fair and data-driven assessment, highlighting the real impact of these influencers in the digital landscape.

While there is growth in short-format content, content creators do not shun the importance of long-format content and hence we continue to see a rise in vlogging and live vlogging.

Sawant commented, “All the influencers that I speak with love to make long-format content. It's not that they have shifted completely to short-format content. Live blogging has become a big thing. Gamers do hours and hours of live blogging and their engagement rates just shoot off the roof. People love to see what’s happening in the lives of their favourite content creators. For example, when moto vlogger Mumbiker Nikhil puts videos of his daughter Sky, he gets a really high engagement rate in his vlogs.”

The focus of the list is on original content creators, with tech, travel and photography, and comedy influencers constituting over 50% of the list. But does that mean influencers in other categories will have to struggle harder to garner brands’ attention?

Sawant answered, “There is so much diversity of clients also. I believe every genre today has a role to play, even changemakers for that matter. Socially responsible influencers too get brand campaigns. There is enough and more elbow room for all influencers to coexist and thrive. As the influencer marketing industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds.”

Notably, the list boasts a balanced representation of both men and women, showcasing the diversity of talent in the vibrant influencer community.

How influencer marketing campaigns can stand out in the festive season

The festive season is the time when the majority of brand spends the maximum part of their annual budget. Influencer marketing’s share is also increasing in the festive season budgets of brands. To stand out in the clutter of festive influencer marketing, creative storytelling and putting content before the brand in campaigns is the key.

Sawant emphasised that influencers are storytellers and not salesmen. Influencers should be mindful of the frequency of paid partnerships in their feed. He explained, “Audiences readily embrace creators' branded content if it comes across as relatable and is presented in an authentic manner. Today's viewers are discerning and can easily recognize when an influencer is promoting a brand. The audience becomes frustrated when they perceive an absence of original content, replaced solely by paid endorsements. It's imperative for influencers to strike a balance between sponsored content and unpaid, authentic posts.”

From the brands’ perspective, Sawant shared that they should treat influencers as storytellers and not salespersons. He added, “Brands should also give influencers the creative freedom to create content which will resonate the most with the audience. They know their audience well and understand what will work best for them.”

Measuring the success of influencer-driven campaigns remains a complex task

While quantifying metrics such as reach, views, and engagement has become more straightforward due to the availability of various tools, a significant challenge in influencer marketing measurement lies in establishing a direct correlation between expenditures and the performance of campaigns led by influencers, according to Sawant.

He noted, "Advanced companies adopt the mixed modelling approach, which associates each penny spent with the resulting sales. However, this method demands a substantial historical data set and a considerable investment, limiting its use to only a few brands."

Sawant emphasised that audiences follow content creators for entertainment and information, rather than for coupon codes and discounts. Consequently, most brands predominantly use influencer campaigns to enhance awareness and consideration, rather than as a direct driver of purchases.

Some brands have started employing UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) and Shortcodes to connect influencer posts with performance, but this approach also presents its own set of challenges.

Elaborating on this challenge with an example, Sawant explained, "For instance, when an influencer shares content and is provided with a UTM code or a unique Shortcode, there are limitations. Shortcodes are not the most effective solution, as once the influencer redirects their followers to the e-commerce website, it becomes challenging to track whether those followers completed purchases, especially in the case of closed, private e-commerce sites. Additionally, since brands operate across multiple platforms, attributing results to specific sources becomes complex."

Demand for regional language influencers to grow in the future

Sawant, who actively works on influencer marketing campaigns, has observed a rise in demand for regional and local language influencers. He believes that the demand for regional language influencers will grow in the future.

He said, “With the growing fatigue in the top six metros, brands will penetrate into tier 2 and 3 towns where language plays a very important role. Therefore, regional languages will play a much, much bigger role than what it is currently. It has already started playing. Right now even, we do get market-specific briefs. But I think it will grow in scale.”

Live commerce remains a wait-and-watch phenomenon

As per Sawant, the technology of shopping in the same environment where the content creator is streaming live and the lower viewers’ concurrency remains an issue with Live commerce.

He said, “Today, none of the social media platforms have a Live commerce offering. Secondly, while Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra have Live commerce options, the concurrency of people watching the Live stream is hardly 1000. There have been instances of 10,000 people watching a Live commerce stream, but garnering such huge numbers requires heavy investment. Therefore, it is a wait-and-watch situation when it comes to the evolution of Live commerce.”