For those of us that do not blog, do not have a YouTube channel, do not post much on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram included) – all this ‘sharing’ could just be a waste of time. This ‘waste of time’ is often attributed to ‘you can eat your food without sharing its pic on social media’ or ‘you can travel from any airport without checking in on facebook’ sort of comments.
So what is it that the people not posting their #foodporn photos on social media missing out on? Nothing much. Except for the fact that there are bloggers who get paid to review restaurants and earn a share when people visit those restaurants on their recommendation. This revenue-sharing-for-expert-opinion model is precisely the impact of the blogger.
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A new term has recently emerged – YouTuber. Earlier, a YouTuber was basically a Vlogger (aka Video Blogger). Gaming, Tech, Beauty, Reviews, Sports, Cooking, you name it and the YouTubers are available in abundance. What is their impact? Ask someone who owns a large LCD TV and the latest PlayStation gaming console because their favorite tech youtuber ‘recommended’ it or someone who skipped a movie because it couldn’t garner a good review from their favorite reviewer.
Talk about travel. Travelling is a default hobby of every millennial today. Most of the people didn’t even know travelling was their hobby before the internet came around. Just google the term ‘reasons to travel’ and the flurry of results will encourage you to drop everything and pack your bags. The referrals that bloggers earn out of flight and hotel bookings is enough motivation to start a travelogue right now. The amount of money travel and booking websites have poured in on marketing is ‘miles’ ahead from other forms of e-commerce.
Travel websites have 70% share in India’s e-commerce market (worth more than US $10 bn) as revealed in a 2013 report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI). The more the travel websites earn, the more they can share in referral programs and the deeper pockets they hold for marketing. And thus the more ’25 places to travel before you get married’ or ’10 most romantic locations for your honeymoon’ kind of articles, written by bloggers packaged with referral links, you find in your facebook feed.
In an interview to Live Mint, here is what Mr. Deep Kalra, owner of MakeMyTrip says,
“Most people in their early 20s are now travelling abroad. Their first few salaries might be on material things like clothes and mobiles but then they go abroad. For young married couples, their honeymoon has to be overseas. It’s a done deal. In our times, we had to think twice—in spite of me working in a bank—for making the trip.”
Travel is, ofcourse, just one domain. There are bloggers and vloggers in all sorts of spaces. From cars to education and from politics to sports every blogger is a potential influencer. Companies have realized this. Companies understand that Hrithik Roshan and Sonam Kapoor can sell an Oppo phone but if they want even more sales, positive opinions of the ‘technical gurujis’ out there is a must.
But from our perspective, how does the understanding of this entire framework matter?
It matters because this is impacting our purchase decision. This is impacting the perceived value of a product. We may hate the nauseating roads to hill stations but will still end up vacationing there because of the perceived value (derived from the HD photos in someone’s travelogue) of the weather, the view and the overall experience fed to us by a very influential travel blogger. We may not capture even 2 photos a day but might still end up buying the best camera phone because it has been recommended by our favorite tech youtuber. Ofcourse the expert opinions of these experts shouldn’t be discounted totally. We seek advice before making a purchase and we should be thankful that these folks have been our go-tos.
In an ideal world, we should strictly buy what we need. But in the real world, impressive marketing campaigns have led to sales. And now we are increasingly buying the opinions of the bloggers / vloggers / influencers – the new age endorsers.