The social media influencer is the creation of a modern, attention-deficit world. Today, time is a precious commodity, which means we cannot afford to give our attention too long to anything. Consequently, anybody who has the ability to hold our attention for a rather longer time becomes a person of great value. Technological giants have found infinite ways to monetise that attention on social media platforms. Taking their lead, renowned brands across the globe have learned how to turn that attention to pure profits. In fact, that is exactly what anybody who has a significant audience can do today.
Good for business
Bloggers, YouTube personalities, and Instagram stars with substantial, dedicated online followers are becoming Internet influencers. Many of them are being roped in by brands to promote or sponsor products. Consumers trust product recommendations from influencers, believing them to be more honest than aggressive product advertisements or commercials. Companies connect with these influencers to line up with their brands and products to target demographic groups.
Despite the excellent packages offered to these influencer marketeers, the dent in annual marketing budgets of companies is nowhere close to the hefty requirements of traditional advertising. On the other hand, influencers ensure a faster and effective way for products to reach consumers and clinch sales. In fact, some of the best influencers have now become businesses in themselves. Recently, the popular food vlogger Madhura Bachal launched her own brand of spices called Madhura’s Recipe. It is all about leveraging off of one’s assets. Financially, it certainly makes sense, for that is how businesses grow.
Unless one goes overboard.
Remember that enormous numbers of engaged followers mean enormous power to influence. And with great power comes great responsibility.
Unlike in other professions, a social media influencer does not need any specific qualifications. A smart phone, apps, and a good Internet connection are all that is required. Take a case where an influencer with, say, around 10,000 followers, hosts a programme that claims to heal children of inner traumas, increase emotional hygiene, and reverse other problems. If the influencer is not professionally qualified or trained in mental health counseling, yet makes these claims to ‘help’ followers, then sooner or later this person will be called out for misleading followers. While most influencers are genuine, unscrupulous claims are becoming increasingly common in the world of social media marketing.
Vaccines were a ray of hope during the dark days when Covid-19 engulfed the world. At the same time, there were the vaccine sceptics who spread paranoia through their concerted social media campaigns. It almost seemed like a cottage industry thrived on vaccine disinformation. The Center for Countering Digital Hate conducted a study and surprisingly discovered that just 12 people were responsible for spreading the bulk of this disinformation about Covid-19 vaccines on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Could there be a better example of the power wielded by influencers than how only 12 people managed to propagate 65% of this anti-vaccine movement?
Health is one of the common areas where social media influencers make unsubstantiated claims. Especially in matters related to weight management, influencers pass on opinions as ‘facts’ and even promote unhealthy eating habits and exercise routines. Sometimes they advertise or sponsor supplements, home remedies, or exercise equipment, which ideally should not be used without the advice of health professionals or a medical prescription. Unfortunately, research points out that 21% of young adults prefer to take advice doled out by influencers rather than consult health professionals. This dangerous trend has led to multiple eating disorders among teenagers.
An online shopping site used influencers extensively to market its goods. But this very strategy backfired on it. It discovered that many influencers were also spreading a negative campaign against its products at the same time. People attested that they had been offered monetary benefits to bad-mouth the company on social media platforms. Eventually, the company did slap defamation cases on these influencers. Not only did this hullabaloo expose the dark underbelly of influencer marketing, but it also served to warn businesses of the kind of two-edged sword it can be.
Recently, collapsing crypto prices brought another negative focus on influencers. Crypto marketing with exaggerated claims has been flourishing on social media for a while. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Matt Damon endorsed crypto investments, leading to huge sales of obscure coins and NFTs by fans. It did not take much time for crypto prices to crash, wiping out unsuspecting investors.
Now was the time to take a stand.
The Advertising Standards Council of India did just that.
The ASCI has released draft guidelines that place the onus on influencers to add disclosure labels on their sponsored products. While it does not have penal powers, the Consumers Protection Act, which penalises misleading ads, recognises ASCI as a self-regulatory industry body.
The 2022 Budget placed a 30% ‘crypto tax’ on all digital assets and a 1% TDS on each cryptocurrency-related transaction. ASCI followed up by declaring that advertisements for all virtual digital assets, including exchanges and products, must begin with the disclaimer, ‘Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions.’
One hopes that these regulations will rein in unethical and unscrupulous practises by social media influencers. However, the bastion of integrity is having a high moral compass rather than legal vigilance. It is up to the influencers to retain the trust of their audience as well as an unsullied marketing reputation by always being above board and beyond temptation.
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After shooting at Russian school, six people, gunman dead
A shooter killed six people and injured 20 others in a school in the central Russian city of Izhevsk on Monday morning.
According to the Udmurtia branch of the interior ministry, the shooter killed himself. According to the Russian official, the school has been closed and the surrounding area has been fenced off.
Alexander Brechalov, the governor of the Udmurtia region, of which Izhevsk is the capital, stated in a video message that the as-yet unidentified shooter entered the school and killed a guard and some of the students present. Children among the victims and wounded, according to Brechalov.
(More details are awaited.)
Malayalam filmmaker Ashokan dies at 60
Raman Ashok Kumar, also known as Malayalam filmmaker Ashokan died on Sunday (Sep 25). He was 60. Recently returned from Singapore, he passed away while receiving medical care in Kochi, Kerala, at a private hospital.
Ashokan, a Varkala native, began his career in film as filmmaker Sasi Kumar’s assistant. After roughly 25 years of working as an assistant director, Ashokan released his first picture, “Varnam,” in 1989. The ensemble cast of the critically acclaimed movie “Varnam” included Jayaram, Suresh Gopi, Ranjini, Thilakan, Meena, Jagathy Sreekumar, Parvathy, and Mukesh. He collaborated with director Thaha to co-direct the Suresh Gopi and Parvathy-starring film “Saandaram” a year later, in 1990.
He teamed up once more with Thaha in 1991 to co-direct the slapstick comedy “Mookkilla Rajyathu,” which starred Mukesh, Thilakan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Siddique, and Vinaya Prasad. The movie “Mookkilla Rajyathu” earned positive reviews and became hit. After that, Ashokan directed “Aacharyan” in 1993, starring Thilakan, Suresh Gopi, and Sreenivasan, and the movie also succeeded in attracting viewers. After that, according to reports, Ashokan relocated to Singapore and concentrated on business, but he never lost his love for movies. The telefilm he later directed, “Kaanappurangal,” earned him the Kerala State Award for best telefilm.
The filmmaker’s funeral will take place on Tuesday at his Varkala home. Ashokan is survived by his wife Seetha and their daughter Abhirami.
PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi wish Manmohan Singh on his 90th birthday
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday sent Dr. Manmohan Singh his birthday wishes on his 90th birthday, wishing him a long and healthy life.
“Birthday greetings to former PM Dr Manmohan Singh Ji. Praying for his long and healthy life,” tweeted PM Modi.
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress, sent Dr. Singh birthday greetings as well.
Wishing one of India’s finest statesmen, Dr Manmohan Singh ji a very happy birthday. His humility, dedication and contribution to India’s development, have few parallels. He is an inspiration to me, and to crores of other Indians. I pray for his good health and happiness,” tweeted the Wayanad MP.
Before the partition, Singh was born on September 26, 1932, in the Punjabi village of Gah. He studied at Oxford, Cambridge, and Punjab University.
Today marks the 90th birthday of Dr. Singh, who served as prime minister for two consecutive terms (from 2004 to 2014). He is a well-known economist who is credited with enacting significant reforms in the 1990s.
PM Modi conveys condolences to families of those killed in Kullu accident
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives when a tourist vehicle crashed into a ravine in the Kullu area of Himachal Pradesh on Monday. According to PM Modi, who described the tragedy as “very sad,” “all possible care is being provided to the injured.”
“The incident of a tourist vehicle falling into a ditch in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh is very sad. I express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their loved ones in this accident. Along with this, all possible help is being provided to the injured. I wish him a speedy recovery,” he wrote on Twitter.
After a tourist vehicle crashed into a gorge near Kullu, at least seven visitors perished and about ten others were injured. Around 8:30 p.m., the collision happened on National Highway 305. Ashutosh Garg, the deputy commissioner of the Kullu district, reported that there were 17 passengers total in the vehicle, including the driver.
“As per the initial report, there were 17 people travelling in the vehicle including the driver. Police, home guards, and local administration teams have reached the spot. Some of them are feared dead and the priority is to save the lives and rescue the injured”. Garg said.
Five of the total injured people have been sent to the Kullu Zonal Hospital, and another five are receiving treatment at a nearby hospital in Banjar, according to the police.
According to local BJP MLA Surender Shourie, those involved in the accident were from a number of different states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana. The victims’ identities are now being determined. At 12:45 a.m. on Monday, Shourie streamed a video on Facebook informing users of the incident.
Mallikarjun Kharge, Ajay Maken to meet Sonia Gandhi today over Rajasthan crisis
Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, two Congress observers who were in Rajasthan on Sunday to attend the legislature party meeting at the home of the chief minister Ashok Gehlot, are anticipated to meet Sonia Gandhi on Monday afternoon.
With Gehlot expected to run for presidential polls next month, the state is currently dealing with a new crisis. Numerous Gehlot’s supporters resigned on Sunday and handed them to Assembly Speaker CP Joshi as a result of Sachin Pilot’s name being mentioned. The resignation is reportedly from more than 80 MLAs.
The MLAs made clear to the observers their demands, emphasising that the next chief minister should be chosen after October 19, once the party’s presidential elections are over, that the Gehlot successor should be chosen from among the roughly 102 MLAs who supported the party during the 2020 crisis, and that Ashok Gehlot should be kept informed throughout the decision-making process. They were reminding the party of Sachin Pilot’s uprising against Gehlot when he visited to Haryana by bringing up the 2020 dilemma. Later, after guarantees from the senior management, he returned.
Ajay Maken said: “We came for the CLP meeting fixed by the CM at a time and date of his choice. Very strange that MLAs didn’t come for that. We also wanted to follow the procedure of speaking to individual MLAs about what they want so that they can speak freely.”
The condition that no announcement – on the chief minister – should be made before October 19 seems to be conflict of interest as resolution authorises the Congress president to take the decision, and by October 19, Ashok Gehlot would have been the Congress president,” he further said.
Netizens divided over Deepti Sharma ‘Mankading’ England’s Charlotte Dean
Indian all-rounder Deepti Sharma’s act of’mankading’ England’s Charlotte Dean at the non-striker’s end has generated a lot of polarising reactions on social media, leaving the cricketing fraternity divided.
This was first done by Indian cricket legend Vinoo Mankad during 1947-48 during India’s tour of Australia by running out Australia’s Bill Brown at non-striker’s end, which earned it the name ‘Mankading’. Though many cricketers argue that it is against the spirit of the game, it is totally legal as per the laws of the sport.
The Indian cricketers were extremely quick in coming to the defence of Deepti.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who had run out Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler during IPL 2019 in a similar manner while playing for Punjab Kings, quipped on him trending after Deepti’s act, saying that “tonight is about another bowling hero, Deepti Sharma.”
“Why the hell are you trending Ashwin? “Tonight is about another bowling hero @Deepti_Sharma06,” tweeted Ashwin.
Former Indian opener Virender Sehwag also defended the all-rounder, posting a meme and sharing the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) law as per which mankading is completely legal.
“It’s funny to see so many English guys being poor losers. #Runout” tweeted Sehwag.
Former Indian opener Wasim Jaffer also defended Deepti, saying that the ball comes into play when the bowler starts his run up and as a non-striker, one must have his eye on the ball.
“It’s actually quite simple. Ball comes into play when bowler activates run up. From that moment on, as a batter or non-striker, you have to keep your eyes on the ball. If you are a bit careless, the opposition will get you out. And you can get out at either end,” tweeted Jaffer.
Deepti found support from international players from other countries as well.
South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi seemed to voice his support for Deepti, saying that batters can also learn to stay behind the line just like bowlers are forced to stay behind the line while bowling.
“I’m on no one’s side here but my opinion is that if bowlers are forced to stay behind the line while bowling due to the laws in place…. batters can learn to stay behind the line too while backing up due to the laws in place. Seems fair to me if we all just follow the laws,” tweeted Shamsi.
Former English spinner also said that though it will be questioned, but mankading is under the laws of the sport. “It would be questioned for a long time but it’s in the law of the games. You can be run out by #mankading. Bear in mind it’s in the laws of the game. #ENGvsIND,” tweeted Panesar.
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