by BBC Media Action
“This is how the influencer should influence the society”
“What actual influencing looks like (sic)”
“Never really believed in the term influencers (sic) until this video. Incredible work, Shraddha”
This is just the tip of the iceberg of over 4,500 comments received on a viral video created by BBC Media Action in collaboration with the well-known digital influencer @AiyyoShraddha. Called “Eh Whattya”, the video recorded 3 million views within 48 hours of its launch on July 24. Since then, it has amassed over 10 million views and been shared a staggering 164,000 times on Instagram alone, making it the highest-ever viewed content by @AiyyoShraddha.
In a world deluged with content, where mobile phones have powered us all to become content creators, ‘influencing’ is a whole different ball game. It is about shaping perspectives, driving change, and sparking conversations about issues that often remain invisible. And in this case, “Eh Whattya” shines the light on the 22,500 informal waste pickers of Bengaluru who have remained invisible for years, and who we now call the city’s #Invaluables.
BBC Media Action’s #Invaluables campaign has been created under the aegis of Saamuhika Shakti, a first-of-its-kind collaborative in India, where ten implementing organisations have joined forces to enable informal waste pickers have greater agency to lead secure and dignified lives. Recognition and respect for informal waste pickers and the value of waste picking were identified as key objectives of Saamuhika Shakti. Through the #Invaluables initiative, BBC Media Action aims to shift perceptions about waste picking and informal waste pickers in Bengaluru by bringing their crucial contributions to the forefront and help them experience greater social acceptance.
#Invaluables was launched in April 2021 with a social experiment film, to reposition informal waste pickers as friends we did not know we had. Acknowledging the need for a well-known person to conduct the social experiment, we approached Kannada actor Radhika Narayan. A diverse set of Bengalureans participated in the film. The social experiment probed their notions of friendship and revealed that the informal waste pickers of Bengaluru personify all traits of genuine friends, thereby lifting the shroud of invisibility off them. While Radhika Narayan allowed us to use her social channels for amplification, we also collaborated with cricketer Robin Uthappa and Kannada TV actor Shwetha Chengappa to further amplify the social experiment film.
At the time of the campaign’s launch, COVID-19 was at its peak. To respond to the need of the hour, we adapted our content strategy to include messaging on safe disposal of COVID waste to protect waste pickers from getting infected. That was our first collaboration with @AiyyoShraddha.
The initial results from this influencer engagement demonstrated its remarkable capacity to generate views and conversations, exponentially more than paid ads on social media or other forms of partnerships. As a result, we strengthened our media strategy for the next phases of #Invaluables to include social media influencers in the campaign mix.
When we created the Happy Number song for the #Invaluables campaign in its second phase, we not only collaborated with musician Vasu Dixit and rapper Gubbi, but we also had @AiyyoShraddha participate in the music video. She then amplified the song using her social media handle.
So far, we have engaged with a total of 16 influencers, with varying follower bases to co-create and amplify outputs from the #Invaluables campaign in three ways:
First, for amplification of #Invaluables content created by BBC Media Action – by sharing and reposting on the influencers' posts and stories.
Second, by co-creating content with them. We have provided technical and creative briefs to influencers and given them space to create content that works best for their audience, while adhering to our editorial values.
Third, by engaging influencers in long-format programmes both on social media and offline activations conducted in universities, colleges, and business parks in Bengaluru.
Clicks on paid display advertising have crashed to an average of 0.47% or, to rephrase, 99.53% of impressions on digital advertising fail to inspire consumers to click and take action. 1
This is a new era of democratic media consumption where consumers choose what they listen to and who they trust. Today’s consumers are looking for organic content in a social setting. They do not react with the same energy or engage well with slick commercial content. Unlike advertisements, the stated purpose of social media is to entertain, so typically influencer-made content is seen to be creative as well as authentic.
This is making the digital marketplace increasingly competitive. With the rise of the attention economy, we see a new power in native content by creators and user-generated content by a brand’s audiences. Followers relate to the creators they subscribe to and, most importantly, they listen to them. Influencers hold a key power that is a fundamental factor behind any strong brand: trust.
In terms of affordability, influencer content is also cost and time-efficient. This is content on the go and many pieces can be made in a much shorter time.
In addition, influencer marketing can be highly flexible and customizable. Brands can work with influencers to create content tailored to their target audience and can use a variety of formats, including sponsored posts, product reviews, guest posting, and more, making it a powerful tool for reaching specific demographics and building meaningful connections with potential customers.
The engagement with influencers has provided us with some clear learnings and directions for our work in the second phase of Saamuhika Shakti and for the sector at large.
Reaching more women on social media: Data shows that there are significantly more men using social media than women – 76% men versus 24% women. Working with women influencers has the potential to increase the reach among women social media users. 11 out of 16 influencers and content creators who amplified and created content for #Invaluables are women. Women comprised 41% of the social media audiences reached, a higher proportion when compared to the 24% national average. Interestingly, women audiences have interacted more with the content, contributing 47% of 15-second views recorded on video content.
Meaningful conversations: Influencers have been instrumental in driving meaningful conversations around each phase of the #Invaluables campaign, contributing to 80-85% of the total comments received, being more effective in driving engagement than paid ads on Meta platforms.
The analysis of comments received on influencer posts shows that audiences have appreciated the work of waste pickers and their contributions to the city and its environment. Audiences raised concerns about the working conditions of waste pickers, lack of access to personal protective equipment, and their health and safety while dealing with waste.A few also critiqued citizens who do not segregate the waste and resort to indiscriminate dumping, raising questions on who is accountable to disposing waste responsibly. Several asked relevant questions around locations of dry waste collections centres and how they might contribute.
In the #WashTheDabba video series with Vani Murthy (@wormrani), audiences were sensitised about how rinsing and drying plastic food containers before disposal makes them fit for recycling and helps #InvaluableRecyclers recycle more plastic. The content sparked a rich conversation between audiences who shared their experience of already doing this action, and those who said they will start from now on.
Co-creation leads to better engagement: A content co-created with the influencer resonates more with their audience than content created by someone else and posted on their timelines. For example, in the beginning when we engaged with @AiyyoShraddha, she amplified the social experiment film created by us. And then she co-created a video with us on how irresponsible disposal of Covid waste like masks, gloves, cotton swabs, etc. can harm informal waste pickers, it was more effective, both in terms of views and engagement.
Size isn’t everything: As mentioned earlier, we worked with 16 influencers from diverse fields, each with varying follower counts, ranging from mega to mid to micro-influencers. When it comes to influencer collaborations, as designers of communication programs, we might gravitate towards individuals with star or celebrity power or a million followers. However, we learned that this does not always guarantee success. Mid- and micro-influencers tend to have a more engaged audience. Initially, we engaged with a celebrity influencer with more than a million followers, but the level of engagement fell short of expectations. Conversely, we achieved comparable results with @AiyyoShraddha, who had 188k followers at the time, for the same content.
Inspiring other influencers: While we have a burgeoning influencer market and now a lot of influencer content is driven by products and market needs, there are conscientious influencers who are willing to lend their voice to a subject like waste management or the issues of informal waste pickers. The engagement with our partner influencers has inspired writers, content creators, comedians, students, politicians, industry and civil society leaders to engage with the #Invaluables campaign.
Influencers can initiate conversations about critical topics that often go unaddressed, such as the challenges faced by informal waste pickers, and the interconnectedness between them and the city’s other dwellers. Going forward, we will continue to collaborate with influencers to amplify our #Invaluables campaign, but in doing so, we also aim to create a systemic shift by influencing influencers to engage with social impact issues to change the way people think, feel and act. BBC Media Action is eager to collaborate and work with you/ your organisation, as this partnership has the potential to spark positive change on many more social issues.