Reacting to reactions on Tata’s #ZestUpYourLife blogger engagement

I stumbled on a LOT of tweets on Tata’s new car, Zest, recently. This is partly because I follow BlogAdda on Twitter and they have ganged up a lot of people who I follow and many of these people are now in Goa as part of the Zest launch promo. This, besides the fact that BlogAdda’s Activity division is handling the blogger engagement promo part for Tata’s new vehicle launch.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Nothing. I can simply mute the hashtag if they bother me and move on in life.

But then I saw quite a few annoyed tweets about this, though I wasn’t sure who specifically is being referred to – any individual, or a few people? No idea. But the overall tone is that the people who have been tweeting about the vehicle are not the right people to do so.

My Twitter-friend (we’ve been planning to meet, for eons!) Tushar put it this way:

tush1 tush2

That opened up some more light-hearted jabs :)

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And an even more peeved Varun, possibly on the same event… or some other event.

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As Tushar’s question goes, why is a food blogger in a car event?

The counter to that – can’t a food blogger be a potential car buyer? Or, can’t the food blogger’s followers be potential car buyers?

The advantage with products like cars, hotels (restaurant opening, that is), mobile phones, ice creams etc. is that just about anybody could a potential consumer. If the potential consumer happens to have made his/her name in another space (like food blogging), then that is even better – they have a following already (albeit for a different reason, but… read the first line of this paragraph again!).

See it from this point of view – how qualified is Aamir Khan to endorse Toyota Innova (he did so, at one point)?

Or, how qualified is Alia Bhat, in endorsing a 2-wheeler with, ‘Why should boys have all the fun?’?

I hear you say, ‘Hey, but they are stars and have a following… and it is a done/paid deal, no?’.

Fair enough. So, why can’t a well-known food blogger fall into that space too? The only difference – instead of offline popularity (gained via other forms of media, including theater/films, television and print) a food blogger (or any other blogger) gains stardom (however small/big) purely online.

The next question, from Tushar: tech junta becoming auto experts.

This is a logical question – can a tech blogger (or even food bloggers) comment on cars (or an unrelated area) at all?

Question – why not?

Are they masquerading as experts in the automobile space? I don’t think so and I hope not too. But they surely can comment on the car as normal individuals (with a following, of course) and as a normal, potential car buyer/owner.

Now, most brands have a definite plan to call/invite actual experts – auto journalists for car related events, tech. journalists for a mobile phone launch and so on. So, this social media influencer invite is to augment and enhance the, ‘If people like me – the blogger that I read and interact with everyday – can (possibly) like the product, I may too’. This is a bit more relatable than a celebrity doing it.

The other day, I got an office mail from a colleague who was looking for social media/online influencers who may fall into the area of ‘bold and off-beat’ with regard to music, visual arts and dance. Now that is being rather focused on the kind of people one needs and the list they had sent was mighty well-researched too. But, these filters are tough in the Indian context.

There are very few bloggers, and a lot more tweeters. The opinion that comes from them seems fleeting on Twitter and there’s no long-form reporting because most don’t blog.

So, is it just a question of filling heads in a room to satisfy the brand? Sure, why not? As long as the heads fall into one of the 2 brackets – a subject matter enthusiast/expert or a ‘people like me’ – I see no major problem there.

I see a clear role for both these groups – the former enhances the audience’s knowledge about the subject… enlightens and offers a fairly knowledgeable opinion.

The latter offers a common man perception – a view point that I, as a normal person in the market for a new small car, may offer too, impulsively or reactively, within what I know about cars, based on sheer personal experience.

Where I do agree with Tushar is the pimping part.

Naina had recently written a long blog post on Social Samosa about how an agency behaved terribly with her as regards a client engagement. While I agree with most of what she had written, the part about she agreeing to show what she plans to write about the brand and even get them approved by the agency/brand manager was something I found mighty odd (though she had mentioned about customization of content, to be very clear).

Personally, I’d need to hold my opinion and editorial judgement to myself and get it as part of my experiencing the product/service myself. I won’t, for instance, share what I intend to write about it with anyone – that’s an advertorial, in a way. You let the brand talk through you, on your platform. That is very different from you experiencing the product/service and explain your point of view of what you liked and what – perhaps – you didn’t. Biases, I can perfectly understand – outright surrender of opinions, I don’t.

But it is still very difficult to deal with brands who insist on knowing what a blogger intends to write about the product/service in question. They see it from the perspective of media journalists – even there, the best I can offer is historical perspective and I personally wouldn’t dare to ask them what they plan to write. If that’s the brand’s priority, that’s an advertising call, not an audience/influencer engagement call.

The brand’s usual response is that they would like to be sure the influencers they call (and pamper) don’t diss about the product. Fair enough, but the only way to find that is to look at the history of such influencers – have they been called to such occasions earlier and how have they reacted in those cases? Have they positively gushed about every such invite/gig? (Unfortunately, brands prefer to call these people and be ‘safe’). Or, have they attempted to be balanced in their view point, in order to be (or, seem) genuine and human to their audiences?

Personally, I prefer the latter. There are a lot of the former who are busy with tons of agencies approaching them for everything from restaurant inagurations to underwear launches (well, they can be a potential restaurant customers and a buyers of underwears, no?), but a brand would also need to check on the credibility factor, more than mere reach. This is where most of these events end up being mutual love-fests where there’s nothing but copious amounts of positivity flowing that the event may sound more like a religious sermon than a brand event.

There is also a huge gap in Indian market for general interest influencers. There are just a handful of them and some with limited/minimal clout too (online), but they literally do anything brands/agencies want and head to any/every kind of event/promotional activity that they have become the go-to folks in the name of ‘social media influencer engagement’. That’s ok from a reach perspective, but it really doesn’t help the brand in a meaningful way – it is just like paid advertising in print, for instance, where you pay money to get exactly what you want to communicate… just that the brand’s mouthpiece (instead of print) becomes the so-called social media influencer.

I will not comment whether I notice such people in the Tata Zest event in Goa, however :)

Reposted with permission from here

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