Aishwarya Ramesh

"You can buy followers, but you can't buy engagement..." - Saket Jha Saurabh, Head, Entertainment Partnerships, Facebook India

Facebook and all of the brand's apps have had an eventful few days...

At Facebook's Mumbai office, Instagram India held the second edition of their 'Instagrammer of the Year' awards. The awards are meant to recognise creators' efforts on the platform across categories such as - Most Followed, Storyteller of the Year, Food and Entertainment Accounts of the Year etc. These awards serve as an acknowledgement of how effectively participating creators engage with users on the app through its various features.

The press release that was handed out at the end of the awards show featured interesting insights on the judging process and how winners are selected. The company mentioned that the list was collated based on internal data for a period ranging from January to November 2018. The winner in the Most Followed category was Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas who was selected based on the number of her followers (39.4 million at the time of filing this story). While the basis of choosing the winner in this category seems obvious, there's more than meets the eye when it comes to the number of followers an influencer has on Instagram.

"You can buy followers, but you can't buy engagement..." - Saket Jha Saurabh, Head, Entertainment Partnerships, Facebook India

Saket Jha Saurabh along with the creators at the Instagrammers of the Year 2019 awards
Click on the image to enlarge

On the sidelines of the award show, we had the chance to interact with Saket Jha Saurabh, head of entertainment partnerships at Facebook India.

We asked him what Instagram is doing about creators who buy followers and use that number to collaborate with brands. Saurabh pointed out that this was not purely an Instagram issue but a larger issue that all platforms are looking to solve. "Brands have increasingly realised the value of engagement. You can buy followers, but you can't buy engagement. The smartest brands that we see are going after authentic Instagrammers who have real communities and a real voice. There may be an odd instance of a brand going after a follower's vanity. However, we take great pains to explain the importance of the authenticity of a community (influencer's followers)," Saurabh said.

He felt it was important to cater to the Instagram community and that ads shouldn't impede the user experience on the app. "When commercial messaging is showcased on Instagram, it appears adjacent to the content. We want to give the community the ability to say when they don't feel connected to the ads. Users can report an ad or hide it if they don't want to see it. Our idea is to show them relevant, contextual advertising. If they don't find value in the ads, we need to build tools that allow them to voice their opinion," he explains.

Saurabh outlined that the reason brands are making a beeline for Instagram is because they find engaged, real audiences on the platform. "Audiences on Instagram love shopping, sharing and searching," he said. He went on to say that different brands have different campaign objectives - creating brand awareness or generating a certain action from the audience (for example, using a link click). "Other brands are looking at action points and Instagram allows them different creative formats for that," he added. He also mentioned that brands increasingly realise the value of influencer marketing and visual storytelling.

Meanwhile, internationally, Instagram's parent company Facebook held its F8 Developers conference and Mark Zuckerberg announced that the theme for the year is "The Future is Private." During the keynote, Zuckerberg announced updates to Instagram, Facebook Messenger and the core design of Facebook's user interface.

The head of product at Instagram Adam Mosseri had some interesting announcements that can change how users interact with each other and creators through stories. Users will soon be able to shop for products that an influencer is wearing/using without leaving the app. Instead of taking a screenshot or asking for product details via comments or direct messages, users can tap to see exactly what the products are and buy them right then.

There are also talks of introducing a new camera design that includes a feature called 'Create Mode'. Create Mode will make it simpler to use tools like effects and interactive stickers, standalone, without having to put them on an existing photograph or video.

Mosseri also announced the creation of a donation sticker to help raise money for non-profits and causes a user may care about directly through Instagram stories. To use this feature, users can pick a donation sticker from the tray, choose a non-profit to support and go live. Once live, a user can swipe up on their story to see the amount of money raised. Hundred per cent of the funds raised via Instagram goes to the non-profit being supported.

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