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Buzz Extraordinaire

November is a festive month before the quiet of December tiptoes on us. Ahead of the Cherry Blossom Festival, Aparmita Das explores the impact of the Social Bee Campaign, and the role of the influencer-follower community in getting people to attend the festival in Ri Bhoi this year.

By Aparmita Das

In a world where influencers often make you go “hmmm”, there is a radical (or ‘rad’) shift going down in Shillong. Meet the “Social Bee Community”, a term that has got the Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 buzzing!

These digital dynamos are giving the whole influencer game a major glow-up, and nowhere is their impact more lit than at this mega festival. Say goodbye to your typical influencer drama, because the “Social Bees” are all about spreading the good vibes and making things pop. They are flipping the script on how we see the power of influence and the influencer scene in general. It is not just about followers, likes, or sipping that detox tea anymore.

From epic Instagram stories that teleport you straight into the festival’s heart to informative reels that make you want to attend the festival, the “Social Bees” of the Cherry Blossom Festival are all in, working with their heart and soul. As a result, they’re turning the tide on how we perceive the power of influence and influencer culture.

The organisers of the Cherry Blossom Festival acknowledged the role of these influencers in enhancing their presence, but emphasised that the festival’s reputation and rich music history already make it a beloved event. That said, influencers play a crucial role in expanding that reputation and engaging a wider audience.

The team, therefore, have taken a commendable approach in experimenting, aiming to have a diverse set of influencers, especially from the Northeast, to help their regional audience better understand and appreciate the festival. The selection criteria focused on individuals passionate about their fields and making meaningful impacts, creating a community of influencers dedicated to a shared cause.

Rockski has developed its own ticketing platform in response to the increasing stringency of major platforms regarding data and their imposition of substantial commissions. Jason Manners, the founder and proprietor of Rockski, explained, “We aim to take control of our festival data and redirect the commission funds. Instead of contributing to large multinational corporations, we prefer to channel these resources to our social bees within the community. By doing so, we believe we can make a significant impact on social enterprises.”

Manners emphasised the community-centric approach, stating, “We are not just managing our festival; we are nurturing a sustainable ecosystem. This initiative allows us to enhance the value of our festival, creating additional revenue streams for our community members engaged in social media ventures.”

One of the “Social Bees”, Dawan Kharkongor, shed light on the substantial impact of their campaign. He astutely observed that their efforts have not only created a buzz but also strengthened personal connections with his followers. This, in turn, has boosted their confidence in attending the festival. He said, “Since the launch of the Social Bee campaign, my followers have been actively engaging and continuously purchasing tickets.”

Yet, the influence of the “Social Bees” does not stop at mere awareness. He revealed that his followers are not just passive observers. They are enthusiastic ticket buyers, eager to book using his unique code. Kharkongor added, “Before booking, many of them reached out to inform me, saying, ‘Dawan, we have booked using your name. We did not want to use any other code. We wanted to book through you.’”

In the digital age, they are playing a pivotal role in amplifying the festival’s excitement. Kharkongor highlighted one of the most engaging posts by the festival organisers, featuring the festival flyer with a mysterious question mark in the middle, hinting at a surprise artiste. This enigmatic revelation sparked a buzz, speculations, and discussions. “I overheard people discussing it in shops, restaurants, on the streets…practically everywhere, speculating whether it might be Akon, Sean Kingston, or even Daddy Yankee. The eventual revelation that it was Ne-Yo generated a substantial amount of excitement and engagement, contributing to the festival’s intrigue.”

A notable aspect of the Cherry Blossom Festival’s approach is inclusivity. One must praise the festival for not solely focusing on influencers with massive followings. Instead, they’ve embraced individuals who are well-known on a grassroots level, even if they do not have a substantial online presence. The festival has also welcomed those who are just starting their journey, whether it’s in music, YouTube, or any other area.

The scope of the “Social Bee” influencer tag, therefore, is much broader this year, creating a sense of community and diversity that is truly refreshing.

Donald Khumlo, known by his stage name Zacky D, brings a unique niche to the festival – cosplay. He noted the immense excitement among his followers regarding the K-pop artistes performing at the festival. Yet, he acknowledged that there are concerns about the festival venue being a bit far – the commute back home might hold some people back from making last-minute purchases.

His role as a curator of the cosplay event adds an extra layer of anticipation, as he eagerly shares information with his followers, stoking their enthusiasm.

Elizer Bareh’s experience highlights the power of influencers in creating a direct and powerful connection between artists and their fans. He stated, “From the start of the campaign, the response from the people is absolutely top-notch.”

Similar to Kharkongor, he pointed out how the revelation of Ne-Yo as the headliner led to a surge in enthusiasm among his followers, eager to see their childhood favourite R&B artiste.

Ibawanpynhun Wriang emphasised the festival’s significance in bridging generations through music, saying, “…bringing such artistes loved by this new generation as well as by our parents’ generations at least of the 90s puts the festival on another level.”

She mentioned receiving inquiries and calls from various acquaintances, including school teachers and friends from Assam, showing how this festival transcends generations.

Daniella Lyngdoh Lawai recognises the invaluable role of Social Bees, saying, “I think the social bees are the backbone of the festival. They have made a huge impact on responses from followers as they have used and shared our codes with other people.”

Visibly excitedly, she noted that her recent reel about the Cherry Blossom Festival has received an impressive 64 shares, a significant increase compared to her usual reels. Additionally, she mentioned that the video has positively impacted her algorithm and engagement.

The primary goal of the Social Bee campaign is to create awareness about the festival, and it has undoubtedly succeeded in doing just that. According to the festival team, data on ticket sales and attendance are still being collected, but the engagement and anticipation generated are undeniable.

The festival organisers are committed to recognising and supporting content creators who often go unnoticed. They strive to create a platform of parity for these individuals, offering opportunities to deserving content creators. The campaign provides certain privileges to the influencers, including influencer access equivalent to VIP access.

While the specific benefits are yet to be revealed, the inclusion of influencers undoubtedly brings recognition and prestige to these individuals and celebrates the community as a whole.

The Cherry Blossom Festival’s collaboration with influencers further showcases the evolving role of influencers in the digital realm, demonstrating their power to generate interest, enhance engagement, and create a sense of excitement. They are not here just for the ’gram; they are here to make it meaningful, and they are doing it with a flair that deserves applause.

The Social Bees are the secret sauce, prepared to make the Cherry Blossom Festival unforgettable. They are proving that influencers can reshape the cultural landscape and elevate the whole atmosphere.

As the festival unfolds on November 17, 18, and 19, the full impact of the Social Bees in terms of ticket sales and attendance may become even more evident.

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