Some weeks ago, the very wonderful Anaggh Desai (@anaggh on twitter and the God of all he surveys on social media) sent across a mail inviting me to be part of a discussion on Influencers at Social Media Week, Mumbai. When Anaggh commands, you dare not say no, arey how can I, my tongue ties itself into knots on a stage, and do you know I was the one who always got chucked out after every GD when I was trying to get into the corporate world because I would feel terrified to jump into the discussion, etc. But, to cut a long story short, I said I would be there, hair in a braid, etc, and so I presented myself, duly spit polished on the appointed date at the appointed time.
With me on the panel, which was being moderated by Anaggh, were some of the most popular names on social media, Rohan Joshi of All India Bakchod, Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal and Food Blogger, dear friend and the owner of the APB Cook Studio, Deepali Naair from Mahindra Holidays who serendipitously turned out to be an old acquaintance from my days as one who earned my keep as a paid employee at a media house, Karthik Srinivasan or @beastoftraal on twitter who is with Ogilvy and Dharmesh Gandhi from Star. It was a very interesting discussion. To start with, I learnt there are rate cards for tweets, and ‘influential tweeters” have set rate cards. Clearly I am not one of those, because I’ve been pretty much babe in the woods regarding this, and no one has offered me money to tweet yet. A gift voucher for Rs 500 has been the most tempting offer I have received so far. And one that offered me conveyance to attend a restaurant tasting. Sigh. I’ve also learnt that folks buy followers, and there are agencies that can buy you the desired number of followers on twitter. It has been a harsh cracking of the rose tinted lenses.
Here’s my take on the entire influencer debate. To start with, I don’t think I am one. Having got that out of the way, I think the only true influencers in this country are Bollywood superstars and cricket stars. And you can only influence someone if you have some credibility with that person, and this credibility does not come across if they don’t have some sort of connection with you.
I do, however, have fun conversations on twitter occasionally, something I have consciously cut down on recently, having deleted both twitter and facebook from my phone, because seriously, there is a need to start withdrawing before one begins living one’s entire life on social media. And I had begun spending too much time than was mandated on social media.
I have used this ability to generate conversations, rather shamelessly I might say, to promote my books online. But then I am but a gareebz author and must make use of whatever promotional tools are available to me. I have also used twitter and facebook and blogs and other social media networks to further Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Violence Against Women Awareness. One of the initiatives that is very dear to me, India Helps, did come through a blog and a group of volunteers who connected online. I have no qualms absolutely about using social networks for all of these.
The trouble began when I began receiving mails from PR agencies for everything from fashion to sanitary ware to technology to industry body releases. I realised I’d gotten onto some list, and ergo, was being bombarded with mails that wanted me to write/tweet about their clients. If it was something of interest, I still might. But sanitary ware? Industry body releases? And frankly, the tone of some of the mails irked me. They came with an assumption that I would jump through hoops for them. I have spent a lot of time replying to mails asking people to take me off their mailing lists. My inbox is calmer and so am I now that I am not bursting a blood vessel every time I open mails.
I see folks running contests on twitter, and I have no issues with them doing so at all, at the end of the day there is no harm in earning an income and if they remain interesting tweeters I continue following them. If I feel that their feed is all about contests and promotions, I might just unfollow. And that is what every person who runs these promotions risks, me included, when I promote my books. There is always the unfollow button. No gun to anyone’s head to continue following. I appreciate a honest disclaimer if a brand is paying one to promote them, and I’m suspicious of tweets randomly promoting a brand. But, as I said, earning an income is no crime. And there’s always the unfollow button.
I’ve tried to keep my blogs, tweets and commercial work separate. I did have a blog where I wrote about beauty products. I was honest enough to put a disclaimer that I had received the sample for trial from the PR agencies and was clear that I would write what I believed about the product. I’ve since discontinued reviewing beauty products for reasons I will not get into here, but suffice to say I’m not missing it. I write a blog for a biscuit brand, but it is a separate blog altogether from mine own.
I have had fun blogging. I’ve taken a brief break because it wasn’t fun anymore. I will return eventually, I’m sure. And at the end, that is all that matters to me. Having fun while tweeting and blogging, and not really worrying about what label gets tacked onto one.
Here is a picture from the event.