Influencers promoting the brand and brands promoting the influencer

I have to confess – I have no clue who Karan Wahi is, nor do I particularly care. Whoever he is, I wish him all the luck and good fortune in the world.

Karan Wahi entered my consciousness via a promoted tweet. He was promoting his new Honor smartphone and Lord Ganesha, and this tweet was promoted by Honor India… which is how/why it reached my timeline.

Digression: There were tons of comments under the tweet about how he won’t leave even Lord Ganesha in his promotional spree, but I don’t particularly care about that part of the equation. In India, God is perhaps the best ‘business’, next—or equal to—politics. One Karan Wahi promoting Ganesha through a few tweets is not going to change our collective interest or faith in Gods, nor does it reflect any differently on Karan as it does on so many others who do the same offline. Digression ends.

I found that Honor has been promoting, on Twitter, quite a few of Karan’s tweets where he says good things about their phone.



Minor hitch – all his tweets proclaiming love for Honor smartphones are from an iPhone.

Actually, till August, Karan was professing love for OPPO phones. Even those tweets are from an iPhone.


In fact, almost all of Karan’s tweets are from an iPhone! It’s safe to assume that Karan *LOVES* iPhone and may have already got the new iPhone XYZ (I lost track of the new model names). Considering, so many others have professed love for assorted phones and said so from an iPhone, that’s no point in pointing that out anymore.

The more interesting angle here is that Honor is promoting on Twitter, Karan’s tweets.

Honor India has 100K odd followers. Karan Wahi has a million+ followers on Twitter. When Honor is promoting Karan’s tweets (tweeted from an iPhone no less), they are also accentuating Karan’s own personal brand, for whatever it’s worth.

I had written about brands promoting influencers some time ago, with the example of Mahindra Rise promoting Terribly Tiny Tales on Twitter.

The Karan-Honor example is similar. In Mahindra’s case, the equation was the reverse – Mahindra Rise has about 1.28million followers, while Terribly Tiny Takes has about 43K followers on Twitter. But the point remains the same – the influencer gains in terms of personal brand, at the expense of the sponsor, while the sponsor, in some way, gets muddled inside the influencers’ content.

The standard approach, if you take the offline method, is to get the influencer to do something for the brand, package it into interesting content and place it within the brand’s content stream. So, Karan does something using a Honor phone and that content is shared by Honor, tagging Karan, at best (so that he retweets it and helps the brand reach his audience too). Or, the brand lets Karan share it on his own timeline (which has a far bigger number than the brand) and helps the brand with by-association (with Karan) visibility or as a 3rd party validation.

The reason for choosing Karan, in this case, is two-fold – use his face value (whatever it’s worth) and use his online fan following. Honor seems to have done both, but it also goes one step ahead by promoting (for a fee that goes to Twitter in this case) Karan’s own content (as against putting that in its own stream and promoting it).

The fundamental starting point of online influencer marketing is that the influencer is a quasi-media entity with relevant, existing audience. And brands go to them for both face-value and that audience. If that audience can be reached when the influencer shares something with them, the brand spending money to promote it too—while being a perfectly reasonable activity given low engagement rates on social media—helps both itself and the influencer too.

But just consider how the same task would look like, in the real world: a brand advertises in a newspaper, say, The Times of India. The very point of advertising in The Times of India is to reach the newspaper’s audiences. Now, imagine the brand buying 1 lakh copies of that day’s newspaper and distributing it to a lot of people they know. Sounds absurd? It sure is. But that’s precisely how promoting an influencer’s tweet looks like, over and above roping them to say something about the brand in the first place.

It actually makes sense if the contractual terms with the influencer get any cheaper for brands because of the paid promotion of the influencers’ content by the brand. The brands could argue that they are promoting the influencer as much as the influencer is promoting their brand.