Culture as an Influencer

Role of Social Media Influencers in Promoting Cultural Products by Anindita Patra Today social media platforms have become an important tool to promote products and services. Social media marketing is inexpensive when compared to the traditional ways of advertisement, reaches out to a wider audience and is fast in its response. By using social media, brands have the chance to create a strong media presence by interacting with customers online, this can also help to strengthen brand perception by communicating core values to a wider audience. With social media platforms taking the centre stage in the world of marketing we often hear the term ‘social media influencers’. So, who are these influencers? An influencer is someone with the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her ‘authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience’. An influencer has a digital following in a distinct niche, with whom he or she actively engages.  Over the last decade, we have seen social media grow rapidly in importance. According to the January 2019 We Are Social report, 3.484 billion people actively use social media - that's 45% of the world’s population. Inevitably these people look up to influencers in social media to guide them with their decision making. Over the years we have seen these influencers create campaigns for fashion, beauty, travel, lifestyle. With the world becoming more aware about sustainability we find a lot influencers promoting sustainable living, home grown products, small local businesses. Keeping these in mind as a part of the HIPAMS project we decided to take the plunge of involving social media influencers with a little push from our colleague and marketing expert Dr. Diego Rinallo from Kedge Business School, France in order to promote Bengal Patachitra. Promotion of cultural products by social media influencers is not a common sight especially in India.   Mapping a strategy to involve influencers rather the ‘correct’ influencers with a campaign that would not only try to sell the craft products but at the same time create awareness about the art form, the artists, their rights, the heritage aspects of the art form was a challenge. We had to be extra careful while choosing the influencers we wanted to work with, keeping in mind our target audience. After much research we reached out to influencers who promoted sustainable fashion, home décor with traditional art pieces, small businesses, cultural products, rural tourism on their respective pages. Influencers with different followership were approached though focus was more on the micro influencers with followers less than 10k. Micro influencers with their less followership have higher engagement, niche audience and is cost effective. Other factors like deciding on the storyline of the promotion, the timeline of the posts, type of content, scope of enganement with the audience had to be kept in mind as well. Diwali is an important festival in India where people buy new clothes and gifts, clean and redo their houses. So, we launched our social media campaign during Diwali in the year 2020 with the message to rethink fashion and gifting choices and support local artists going with the trending #vocalforlocal, #supportart, #supportartist campaigns that were already doing the rounds in the country. The influencers posted on how to drape a Patachitra saree for Diwali parties or how to decorate the house with Patachitra pieces like kettles and coasters. 84 Bongully, an Instagram creator beautifully adorned garments with Patachitra motifs to create festive looks for their follwers whereas influencer Sharmistha Guha Chowdhury made a video on how one can use Patachitra products to add a festive touch to their house décor. An young fashion influencer sported Tshirt with Patachitra motifs and gave out the message to her millennial followers on how to make traditional art look ‘cool’.We kept in mind to not only promote the products but also the artist, the process and the place where it came from. So along with every post the influencers mentioned about the art form, the artist who painted it and about his/her village. The campaign was a success as the Patachitra artists received orders from people who came across the Instagram posts of Patachitra by the influencers. The second phase of the campaign was held during World Heritage Week in November, 2020 and focussed on creating awareness about the heritage aspects of the traditional art form. For this phase of the promotion influencers like art photographers, policy advocates, environmentalists were utilized. For example, the ace photographer Upahar Biswas made a video explaining why it is important to mention the name of the art form and artist while sharing photos of Patachitra products. The heritage aspects of Patachitra like Pater Gaan (songs accompanying the scroll paintings), natural colour making process were shared along with information on GI (Geographical Indication) registration, Craftmark, the village as a cultural hub, community museum. The audience engagement during this phase of the promotion was very encouraging. During the month-long promotion three short videos, 22 posts and around 30 stories were shared by the influencers on their respective pages. The videos have received around 3000 views; each post on average had received 350 likes. The influencers who worked with us on the promotion of Bengal Patachitra were happy about the campaign and the response they received. They said that cultural products have a huge market out there and it just requires the correct branding to reach the customers. Do visit our Instagram page to get glimpses of the beautiful campaigns: https://www.instagram.com/hipams.india/  
Name of Influencer Social media handle No of followers Area of Expertise
Sreenanda Ganguli sreenanda.ganguli 4k Lifestyle
Roshni Sen & Paushali Majumdar 84bongully 26.8k Art, textile, craft
Upahar Biswas upaharbiswas 9k Art photographer
Rishika Das Roy themillenialsguidetothegalaxy 7k Climate Change and Policy
Sharmistha Roy Choudhury nomadicwardrobe 18.9k Sustainable fashion and home decor
Mandira Paul M A N D I R A 5k Fashion
Debarati Ghosh debaratighosh 5k Fashion
 

This research project, Heritage Sensitive Intellectual Property and Marketing strategies: India (HIPAMS - INDIA), is funded by the British Academy's Sustainable Development Programme, supported under the UK Government's Global Challenges Research Fund 2018-2021.