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INSIGHT: Influencing for good: It works!

Learn how social media influencers can kickstart social change by sparking conversations to shift mindsets

Published: 20 March 2024
Nishant Kumar

Nishant Kumar

Head of Project, ϲͼ Media Action India
Soma Katiyar

Soma Katiyar

Executive Creative Director, ϲͼ Media Action India
Tej Prakash Yadav

Tej Prakash Yadav

Senior Analytics & Comms Manager, ϲͼ Media Action India
This is how the influencer should influence society.”
— In response ϲͼ Media Action and @AiyyoShradha’s viral video “Eh Whattya”

This is just one of over 5,000 positive comments received on a viral video,  ("What's going on!"), created by ϲͼ Media Action in collaboration with India's well-known digital influencer The video recorded three million views within 48 hours of its launch. 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 Shraddha, who is known for her comedy and content creation. 

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 whom we now call the city’s #Invaluables.

ϲͼ Media Action’s #Invaluables campaign has been created with the support of , a first-of-its-kind collaborative in India, where 10 implementing organisations have joined forces to enable informal waste pickers to 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, ϲͼ Media Action aims to shift perceptions about waste picking and informal waste pickers in Bengaluru by bringing their crucial contributions to the forefront and helping them experience greater social acceptance.

From invisible to #Invaluables

#Invaluables was launched in April 2021 with , 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 . A diverse set of Bengalureans also participated in the film.

The social experiment explored notions of friendship and revealed that the informal waste pickers of Bengaluru share all traits of genuine friends, changing how they are seen by the wider community. 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 promote the social experiment film.

At the time of the campaign’s launch, COVID-19 was at its peak. To respond to this, we adapted our content strategy to include messaging on the safe disposal of COVID-19 waste, to protect waste pickers from the risk of getting infected. That was our first collaboration with @AiyyoShraddha.

The initial results from this collaboration with an influencer demonstrated the remarkable capacity of this type of content to generate views and conversations - it was more successful than paid ads on social media or other forms of partnership. As a result, we strengthened our media strategy for the next phases of #Invaluables to include social media influencers in the campaign mix.

In the campaign's second phase, we created the song; for this, we not only collaborated with musician Vasu Dixit and rapper Gubbi but also had Shraddha participate in the music video. She then helped to promote the song using her social media handle.

So far, we relied on three main approaches for our 16 influencers, with varying follower bases:

  1. Influencers have shared and reposted #Invaluables content created by ϲͼ Media Action, on stories and regular social posts;  
  2. We have co-created content with them, providing them with technical and creative briefs, and giving them space to create content that works best for their audience, while adhering to our editorial values.
  3. We have engaged influencers in long-format programmes, on social media and at offline events held in universities, colleges and business parks in Bengaluru. 
Influencers who collaborated with the #Invaluables campaign
Influencers who collaborated with the #Invaluables campaign

Clicks on paid display advertising have crashed. shows that 99.53% of impressions on digital advertising fail to inspire consumers to click and take action.

Today’s consumers prefer organic content over slick commercial content. Influencer-generated content is seen as creative, authentic and trustworthy. It is cost and time-efficient and can be tailored to a target audience in a variety of formats, such as sponsored posts, product reviews, guest posting, and more, making it a powerful tool for reaching specific demographics and building meaningful connections with potential customers.

Learnings from #Invaluables

Our engagement with influencers provided some clear learning and directions for our work with 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. Eleven out of 16 influencers and content creators who promoted and created content for #Invaluables are women and women comprised 41% of the social media audiences reached, a higher proportion when compared to the 24% national average. Interestingly, women audiences 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 – they were more effective at driving engagement than paid ads on Meta platforms.

The analysis of comments received on influencer posts shows that audiences 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. Some also criticised people who do not segregate waste, or who dump waste indiscriminately, raising questions about who is accountable for disposing of waste responsibly. Several asked relevant questions about the locations of dry waste collection centres and how they might contribute.

In the video series with , audiences saw how rinsing and drying plastic food containers before disposal helps #InvaluableRecyclers recycle more plastic. The content sparked conversations between audiences who shared their experience of already doing this and those who said they would start from now on.

Amplification of #WashTheDabba by influencers
Amplification of #WashTheDabba by influencers

Co-creation leads to better engagement: Content co-created with an influencer resonates more with their audience than content created by someone else and posted on their timelines. For example, when we first worked with Shraddha, she promoted the social experiment film, but was not involved in its production. Then she co-created a video with us on how irresponsible disposal of COVID-19 waste, like masks, gloves and cotton swabs, can harm informal waste pickers - it was more effective, both in terms of views and engagement.

Size isn’t everything: 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, you might gravitate towards individuals with star or celebrity power or a million followers. However, we learned that this does not always guarantee success, as mid- and micro-influencers tend to have a more engaged audience. For example, we initially worked with a celebrity influencer with more than a million followers, but engagement was not as good as predicted. However, when we worked with Shraddha, who had 188,000 followers at the time, the outcome using the same content was comparable. (Her channel has since grown to over 900,000 followers!)

Inspiring other influencers: We have a growing influencer market with lots of influencer content driven by products and market needs. There are conscientious influencers who are willing to lend their voice to a subject like waste management, or to issues like the poor working conditions of informal waste pickers. This 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 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.

We believe this model of partnership has the potential to spark positive change on many more social issues.

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