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Influencing the influencers: If you’re good friends with a SocMed celebrity, this could be just the job for you

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Noida resident Nikita Baptista, 34, who was part of the social media marketing team at an IT firm, had been looking for a more ‘exciting’ role after 2019. Since she was very active on social media as part of her role, Baptista had become friendly with influencers on Instagram, often offering them advice on how to get brand endorsements. Amidst this, she was approached by hiring consultants for a potential position as an ‘influencer relationship manager’ at an e-commerce major.

She found the job role challenging and ‘exciting’ and will be joining in February 2021.

Baptista’s colleague Parag Trivedi is also taking up a similar role, albeit at a rival firm.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak and the resultant financial uncertainty across companies, brands want to use the services of Instagram influencers to promote their products and services. But there’s a catch; there are only a few credible influencers and the competition among brands to get access to them is tough.

That is where the influencer relationship managers come in. Professionals such as Baptista are in demand among customer-facing companies in the FMCG, retail, banking/financial services and e-commerce sectors.

Hiring consultants estimate that there are 2,800-3,000 jobs for these influencer relationship manager roles in India.

What are influencer relationship managers?

Influencer relationship managers are individuals within customer-facing companies whose sole responsibility is to manage the list of social media influencers for brand endorsements.

These would include influencers on platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The job role entails getting top influencers to endorse/promote products and services for a fixed period, contract management and ensuring that a rival brand doesn’t ‘poach’ them.

“There could be an influencer who promotes a certain brand’s product on his/her social media page for a fixed period. This could be during a new product/service launch or when it is a big sale season. However, influencers typically don’t have brand loyalties and hence it is easy for them to start promoting rival company products if offered more money. This is where the influencer relationship manager comes into the picture,” said Delhi-based hiring consultant Bipin Rathod.

He added that sometimes companies already have a list of influencers and it is the responsibility of the influencer relationship manager to retain these persons with the company.

The average pay for these roles ranges from Rs 18 lakh per annum to as much as Rs 30 lakh, depending on the work experience of the individual and his/her social media exposure. Individuals qualified with mass communication or MBA in marketing degrees are being preferred. Those in the age group of 28-40 years are the most preferred.

Chaitali Prathmesh of CP Hiring Solutions, which looks into niche roles in marketing, said that companies are looking to have influencer relationship management teams of between one to three people.

“A senior resource would handle the mega influencer with 20,000-25,000 followers on their social media platforms while the juniors would be required to handle ‘nano influencers’ with less than 5,000 followers,” she added.

Nano influencers end up being cost effective because they are cheaper, charging Rs 2,000-5,000 per post and are easier to maintain. These nano influencers are used for multi-level promotions during a large product launch.

Names of companies were not disclosed by hiring consultants since these firms have signed non-disclosure agreements with these brands. However, the names include large FMCG clients, Indian retail brands, large Indian broking firms and e-commerce players.

Why is there is a need for this role?

Brand endorsement deals with celebrities are expensive, with average payouts ranging between Rs 2 crore and 10 crore. On the other hand, even a mega influencer would only charge Rs 1 lakh to 7 lakh per post and it turns out to be sustainable.

There is also a perception that Instagram influencers are more credible than Bollywood stars or sportspersons since these are typically people that the public can relate to.

Moneycontrol had reported that there was 30-40 percent growth in the influencer marketing category ad spends during the festive period this year.

Kunal Kishore, Co-founder, and Chief Operating Officer of influencer marketing platform ClanConnect, had also told Moneycontrol that the spend on such influencers is expected to cross Rs 550 crore this year. He added that the pandemic is pushing brands to focus on digital outreach to attract consumers.

Due to the tough competition, general marketing executives at companies are unable to keep track of upcoming influencers and/or their brand endorsements, the specialists in influencer relationship management come into the picture.

The job role requires aggressive negotiations with the influencers to ensure that the brand gets the best deal at the right price. It also involves planning retention strategies for influencers.

Gurgaon’s BS Nitasha, who manages YouTube and Instagram influencers, told Moneycontrol that her influencer clients not only want to do brand endorsements of product samples but also seek creative ideas to blend them seamlessly into their videos.

“For example, if it is a home cook on YouTube putting up food recipes he/she needs to blend the sponsored food product naturally in the video to ensure that it doesn’t look like a plug. While we can offer suggestions, it is the brand offering the deal that has to take the final decision,” she added.

Nitasha also said that influencer relationship managers need convincing power to retain an influencer beyond the traditional deal for big launches, which can involve up to three promotions. Apart from the compensation, she explained that influencers also look for long-term relationship opportunities with these brands.

For influencer relationship managers, it is a tough role. But the market is just opening up and opportunities are aplenty.