What do you do to stay relevant to audiences and sponsors?
Sisan: We only take sponsorships from brands that are willing to work on ideas produced by our team. Can’t force it against our ethics. Talking about the audience, we try to stay true to what we make. If you’re not faking it, you’ll surely connect.
Niti: I try to post pictures or atleast stories of my daily activities to stay relevant to my followers. It’s best to show the real side of you than just post pictures of a face covered with layers of makeup. I try my best to engage with my followers by communicating through my stories, posts and going live. It’s a great platform to connect. However, I take social media detox once in a while because I truly feel there’s a life beyond the social media bubble.
Norchen: It may seem surprising but I have never done a sponsored content yet. I am very much open to it though. People who watch and support me are my friends. It’s hard to believe that there are people out in the world genuinely waiting for me to post. I try to stay relevant by being consistent and more importantly reminding them how thankful I am to have them in my life. I value their time, effort and unconditional support. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without my online friends and I let them know that every day.
Elena: I have inspiration all around me. I observe what is going around, what is new what is hot and happening. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to go with the trend. Initially it may be difficult but once you get the hang of it, you will enjoy it. People love seeing new and creative stuff. Look around get inspired and be creative with what you have. Make it YOU.
Siddhartha: I am a foodie at heart. There hasn’t been a single day when I am tired of food blogging. I think my followers and I can easily connect because of the style I blog. Whenever I discover a place I just don’t show food pictures but as much as possible, I try telling the entire story behind the restaurant through videos, how they have made the place, the kitchen view, plating style. I try to keep its very transparent and relevant with. Good connection with the audience is what sponsors want.
Gitanjali: I always read and do research to specialise in my area. I try to know my audience’s needs by talking to them regularly so that they can get connected with my content personally. Talking about sponsors, studying what they want to sell and clearly mentioning to them my values have helped me to stay relevant.
How do you deal with bloopers and online harassment?
Sisan: We have to stay thick. Some rare species of people will always try to make fun of you (in the most wrong ways) or even try to bring you down. I just take a long deep breath and go “hey, if talking shit about me makes you feel better, please go ahead”. At least I am being useful there. Kindness and compassion for the win.
Niti: In this internet era, bloopers and online harassment comes along with fame and popularity and there’s no way we can escape it completely. However, as an influencer we need to focus in building our brand and our commitment towards the companies that we are associated with rather give attention to memes, rude and defaming comments or bloopers. After all we are humans, we have emotions and feel pressurised too. These days people pour out their frustration and emotions through their perspective about an individual, their body, appearance or action. And it is especially hard for influencers as our social media profiles are public and easily accessible. It is easy to criticise, and making fun definitely harms mental space of the target and this is what I’d say is intolerable. In general, social media users need to be aware of how to put their view across accordingly. Hate is a strong emotion and I feel social media users need to be careful or at least there should be restriction on abusive/ hateful comments. I have had bad experience as I have been a victim of online bullying myself. It has created deeper impact on my mental space and self-confidence. Some YouTubers made videos of me, some Instagram pages made memes etc. It might be fun for them to put someone in that spot but having to go through such emotional and mental ride is a painful experience.
Norchen: It took me a while but I think I have grown a thick skin now. People say mean and offensive things everyday for no reason but I try not to give them what they want (a reaction). I have learnt that people will talk no matter what and it’s really not my job to please everyone, besides not everyone has to like me. I just try to ignore it. A random stranger who doesn’t know me personally can’t ruin my vibe. I am not that fragile.
Elena: I wasn’t strong before. I was new to everything I was doing so people had a lot to say. I was a victim of online bullying and trolls here and there and am still bullied sometimes because of my weight and religion. But what I’ve learnt from being in this field for this long is that you can never please everybody. Even if you are loved by all the people there will always be one or two who will try to pull you down. And I choose to ignore what they have to say. It doesn’t matter. My boyfriend always tells me “if something will not be useful or relevant to you in the next five years, do not waste even five minutes thinking about it”.
Siddhartha: I believe it is a part of the journey. When I started blogging five years back people used to tell me I shouldn’t criticise a restaurant with bad reviews because it would hamper their business but I kept my honesty from the very beginning. I always believe that as a food blogger when you give a review it motivates the restaurant owners to do more or look into things that are lacking. In this food review journey, I have had many harassments and bloopers which I take normally because people judge you for everything. Today if I start eating only local food and blog that, people will say I am poor or boring. If I eat only in restaurants, people will say “this blogger has started asking money from the restaurants”. So, people will either love or hate what you do. One needs to keep doing what they love.
Gitanjali: Bloopers can be minimised by practicing. That’s what I did. Read and practice that will make you more fluent. Online harassment is something we cannot control. We cannot control them from writing but we have control over our response. I just don’t get bothered and block them directly.
How difficult is it on your mental wellbeing to be an influencer?
Sisan: About mental wellbeing, there’ll obviously be difficult times where you just learn how not to care about things. You can only care about things you can control. If you can’t control something, just let it be.
Niti: It’s important to have a thick skin. It’s best to avoid negative comments but it’s important to take actions too if you’re being harassed intentionally.
Norchen: Great question! Sometimes it can be really draining. Especially when you’re a full time university student, working part time on the side, and also living alone on the other side of the world. It’s definitely difficult and overwhelming when you have a lot on your plate but also not impossible if you’re really passionate about it. It’s also important to be honest with yourself and your audience and take breaks if you feel like it. I took a long break because things weren’t going right in my life and sitting in front of the camera wasn’t really doing anything for me. I felt like I was forcing content and it didn’t feel real. I really needed some time with myself alone. I did feel bad for people who followed/subscribed to me but pausing and being mentally happy first was very important.
Elena: To be honest, time and again it gets exhausting. I’ve thought of quitting multiple times but at the end of the day I question myself, “why did I start?” And it is because I love it. I do have a lot of breakdowns. It is not easy being in front of thousands of people watching you and everything you do. Sometimes, I don’t want to do videos. I want breaks. They are very understanding which is why I feel blessed and will continue to do what I have been doing. Mental health is important and in my opinion, if one wants a break, one should get it. We should also talk more openly about mental health and I am doing that from my side.
Siddhartha: With time one adjusts. For instance, I hadn’t revealed my face until I hit 100,000 followers on Instagram. Before that life was very normal. I could go to any restaurant, do my blog or hang out with friends and have good times. But now that few people recognise me it is crazy how mentally that hits you in the initial days. Now, I randomly visit a restaurant and the owners recognise me and they put extra effort into my plate which I believe is not fair because every customer should be treated and served equally. When my followers complain about the food I reviewed not being the same in standards, that hits me very hard.
Gitanjali: Well there’s a saying, “if you love what you do, you will not feel like you are working”. If being an influencer is what you love then it’s definitely a fulfilling job. But there’s always two sides to the coin. There’s going to be a lot of bullying and FOMO (fear of missing out) and constant comparisons, there will be a lot of judgments. People will judge you and give advice that nobody asked for. These can really impact your mental health. People with low self confidence can become more anxious and depressed over what others seem to have and they don’t.
How do you deal with constant need for online validation?
Sisan: Now this has been a problem especially with the lockdown happening right now. We are so used to being there on social media uploading videos, travelling, creating content and in these hard times, it’s next to impossible to be as creative. To be honest, I am learning how to live a life away from my online identity. Just living, trying to understand life, cherishing the small moments with the people that matter most. I think that’s why this time exists for all of us: to be grateful.
Niti: Number of followings, followers is all temporary. It’s Instagram and TikTok for now. Five years later some other app will replace these. Rather creating good content on social media and showing your real self is the best way to use social media.
Also using social media 24/7 does no good so it’s best to use it wisely.
Norchen: I would be lying if I say I never craved validation. I definitely did. But over the years the feeling has faded. Especially now, I’m trying to sit down, chill and connect with my audience more, listen to them and tell them my story. I have been blessed by a set of amazing active viewers and because of them I don’t look for validation as much. I definitely want my socials to get more exposure and reach heights but I’m not head over heels desperate for it. The growth is very organic and I am very happy with it.
Elena: In today’s world you are judged according to how many likes and followers you have on your social media and it takes toll on you as well. Validation is not a bad thing if it’s in a good amount but if you start seeking validation for the smallest things one will never be happy. The person will not be able to take the slight criticism on work, and will always be seeking validation for everything. Without you second guessing yourself, being in the social media field you need to able to take constructive criticism. That is why I don’t seek validation because I am who I am and I am satisfied and happy with what I am.
Siddhartha: I became a food blogger in an unplanned way. I was a high school kid who happened to also work at an education institute where I used to earn decent money. I happily spent that on food. That is what kept me going. I visited restaurants every day. Therefore, I am not into being famous or needing online validation. Today if I am off on a trek for a month, I would happily go without blogging for that time period. I enjoy what I do. So, I don’t necessarily need constant attention.
Gitanjali: Pressure to be socially accepted and celebrated can be too much to handle, and can adversely affect the self-esteem of many social media users. Validation is something I have never focused on.
What are the rewards and setbacks?
Sisan: I am no influencer, never asked for it. I am just a normal person with a lot of flaws so I definitely don’t encourage anyone to be “influenced”. Being famous however on the other hand has its pros and cons. You get special attention and treatment most places you go which can be overwhelming at times. But mostly, the way our audience treats us feels like family.
Niti: Rewards are my voice is heard and shared. It’s a great feeling but definitely comes with a responsibility and great opportunities. Setbacks are personal life becomes public. There’s a space for people to criticise or leave a bad remark which might create doubt, sadness and anger. It’s best to ignore this.
Norchen: You get to know so many people, learn to be more confident, love and understand yourself more, learn something new every day, make new friends, appreciate family and free products of course. These are some of the rewards.
Setbacks are dark circles from late night editing sessions, productivity anxiety, disconnects me from everyday life andpeople, and is mind draining sometimes. Majority of my viewers are from Nepal so the time difference can be stressful at times.
Elena: “You reap what you sow”. Hard work is always paid back to you with a lot of things. Rewards are uncountable at this point. Talking about setbacks, sometimes it is very difficult to be consistent, it is not as easy as it looks. A lot goes on behind the scenes. I wish to show it someday in the future.
Siddhartha: Oh, the rewards are many. I get so many invitations for food tasting, menu designing, restaurant consulting, travel for food, explore authentic food outside the valley and more. Believe me I was born for this. I have many things to do in future, bringing a cultured food scenario. Zero setbacks till date.
Gitanjali: Some of the rewards are that it quickly builds relationships and trust, provides amazing value to audiences, more brand awareness, effectively reaches target audiences and builds winning partnerships.
Maintaining integrity is difficult but vital, building following is an online headache. This is the setback.