Although Bangladesh was introduced to e-commerce or f-commerce several years ago, online businesses seem to be burgeoning only in the last one or two years. People seem to trust it now. And with that, online brand promoters enter the scene.
Brand promotion is perhaps one of the most popular professions in the world of the internet. Those who are heavily invested in online shopping - let's face it, that is most of us - will understand the profession well.
In Bangladesh, it was during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic when online businesses saw an uptick, which in turn, amplified the scope of work and growth for professional brand promoters or live presenters (also known as online brand promoters). At the time, many soared and captured a massive audience on social media.
In online live – Facebook or YouTube – the brand promoters present detailed information including the quality and price of various products for sale. Established personalities (this also includes celebrities) of multiple fields are using their popularity to indulge in the lucrativeness of this line of work.
Not too long ago, people knew brand promoters as employees hired by a particular company, who went directly to customers (even door-to-door) to promote the company's products. Their monthly income was generally very limited.
However, social media and the success of online businesses ushered in a radical change in this profession. Today's brand promoters reach their desired audience by going live online.
And now, brand promoters are not bound to be contracted with just one company, rather they can work with as many companies as they wish. In effect, many earn a handsome amount of money.
For instance, for a singular 45-60 minute live presentation, some earn from Tk20,000 up to Tk60,000.
But this profession does not come without problems.
Many believe and pose strong criticism online that brand promoters are 'robbers' because they charge so much money simply by "standing in front of the camera and jabbering about products for hours." Some also quipped that these brand promoters are nothing but "digital hawkers."
But despite these notions, several brand promoters are doing exceptionally well on social media, essentially due to the successful relationships, they have built with their audience, buyers and brand owners.
Four popular online brand promoters spoke to The Business Standard to share their dedication and effort in this work behind the scenes, and how that can earn them the trust of their millions of viewers.
The nine-member team catering to 1 million followers
Barisha Haque, popularly known as Barish Haque, is equally popular in both traditional and online media. She has been working in the media since 2008 when her media career started with participating in a school-level quiz competition on Bangladesh Television.
Later, she took dance training at Lalitkala Academy. Since then, she has been involved in dancing, modelling, acting and presenting in various stage shows.
With numerous followers on her Facebook and a multitudinous array of professional gigs in her career, she has been able to keep herself relevant in the media industry throughout the years. "I was trying to do something alternative when all kinds of work in the showbiz industry - including stage shows - came to a halt due to Covid-19 restrictions," said Barisha Haque, "I was looking for work opportunities in some other sector to maintain my earning source. Then I saw many people working in brand promotion very successfully."
Since the work could be done from home, Barisha dove in, head-first.
Currently, more than 1 million people follow her official Facebook page. Barisha has to do at least 3-4 live shows every day due to the high demand for online brand promoters.
If the work pressure is high on occasions like Eid, Puja, Pohela Baishakh or winter season, the number of daily lives stands at seven or eight. According to the type of product, the remuneration per live presentation is currently Tk 30-60,000.
Eight people are working in her team. They help in everything including managing her Facebook page, schedule, receiving and dispatching products, photography, make-up and more.
After graduating from North South University, Shamma Rushafy Abantee has worked in various job positions including IELTS trainer, hotel manager and e-commerce PR officer.
However, after marrying popular TV actor Siam Ahmed, she became a familiar face in the media. In 2021, with inspiration from her mother and husband, she started brand promoting for a friend's business page.
Though she did not start thinking of building a career out of it, she gradually settled in this niche out of love for the work.
Currently, Abantee's official Facebook page 'ShammaShadows' has more than 650,000 followers. She does about 2-3 promotional live shows daily. However, after becoming a new mother recently, she wants to limit the amount of work.
And she is not into charging too much money for a live show. She charges a maximum fee of Tk20,000 for a live performance from home. But if the job requires working outside for a well-known brand, she charges a little more.
Quality over quantity
Lamia Moktar Linda started making various videos on her page as soon as the live option was launched on Facebook. She is often called as one of the pioneers in brand promotion in the country. She has been doing brand promotion for about six years now.
"Out of love for makeup, I used to talk and compare different types of makeup [brands], how to do makeup, what are the good or bad sides etc," said Linda.
"While the start was with YouTube, later I shifted to Facebook. From time to time some brands came to me to introduce their products to the mass audience. That's where the work started. But then promoting was not like what it is today, a [conventional] business. Now the job field is very wide. People can work as brand promoters quite easily if they want."
She is very selective about work, putting quality over quantity. Linda does not want to do more than one promotional live a day except for Eid or other special occasions.
Before any product promotion, she takes a lot of time and tries to know about the product herself. She feels comfortable working mainly with skincare brands and makeup products.
Linda's official page on Facebook has more than 250 thousand followers. In the professional work of brand promotion, Linda claims fees according to the size of the brand/business she is promoting. Moreover, she does not hesitate to work for free depending on the situation.
'Promoter of brand promoters'
Nusrat Akhtar Lopa is equally popular in the online and offline world with her clothing brand 'Hur Nusrat.' After starting her online business in 2015, she had not looked back. Besides being self-reliant, she has created many new jobs and constantly inspires the youth.
Although not involved in brand promotion professionally, she has often done the work of live videos (as a presenter) to meet the requests of small and large organisations. She often urged the newcomers to build a career in this profession.
She said about popular professional brand promoters: "They have come to this position by working hard day and night. They had to create a face value for themselves, which made them earn so much. It was not possible in a day. Nothing is achieved without hard work. Newcomers must prepare themselves with difficulty."
Nusrat has more than four lakh followers on her verified Facebook account. In front of them, she often promotes other brands besides her own brand.
On her page, she often introduces newcomers when she cannot give them her time due to her busy schedule. As a result, she has been called the promoter of brand promoters.
However, Nusrat Akhtar Lopa regrets the fact that their work is not properly appreciated in the industry. "Some people are taking a lot of money and some people are not getting any money. Many people are losing interest in work due to a lack of proper evaluation. Many businessmen offer only Tk2-3 thousand which is not appropriate at all," said Lopa.
Universe of online brand promoters: The prerequisites of success and challenges
According to these successful promoters, two things became evident. They said there is no alternative to hard work if you want to build a strong position in brand-promoting work and the most important skill in this profession is one's manner of speech. This we can understand as disposition, online presence, communicative skills and more.
According to them, being personable, self-confident, patient, articulate, polite, creative and well-groomed are important skills in the field. Before going live, it is imperative for the promoter to know the details about the product first. If one cannot answer the questions of the audience, it is not possible to hold their interest.
In addition, it's also important to be careful in choosing the brands.
According to Barish, in the beginning, one should find out how many years the brand has been in the market, what is its background and how are the reviews. One should not promote a product or brand that does not match the promoter's personality, said Linda.
In this industry, the more followers, the higher the remuneration. Responding to the criticism over the excessive fees, Barish said, "Established promoters can claim it because they deserve it. Today, if a new promoter comes and asks for Tk50,000 per live [video], they will definitely not be paid as such."
On the other hand, Lopa thinks that a limit should be set for maximum and minimum remuneration in brand promotion. Then everyone's standards are maintained. A respectful environment is also maintained for all. After spending a lot on live promotions, the traders have to keep an eye on whether the business will generate dividends or not.
However, Abantee advises avoiding the idea that only doing brand promotion online live will increase sales.
"People will not enter the store and buy the product just by seeing the celebrity's face on the poster. Seeing that face, people will know the brand, [and] the matter of buying comes later. The main thing in this work is to make the brand known. People confuse and mix the idea of promotion and selling. Promotion helps increase sales. But the products must have demands first," explained Abantee.
Presenters often become victims of cyberbullying while doing their job. The four promoters featured here think that it is important to have proper and effective laws against such crimes.
Recently, Barisha took legal action against one such cyberbully who made an offensive video about one of her brands that went viral on Facebook. Later, the cyber unit of the police got involved and brought in the culprit.
Nusrat feels that harassment while working online has become a national problem. In this regard, strong and effective cyber legislation is essential. Moreover, she said that if someone wants to survive in this line of work, she has to ignore the negative comments and be patient.
Linda said that it is important to get the support of one's family members before starting work. Because without a supportive environment, it is impossible to continue working in the face of the adversities of this job.
Nowadays many brands are giving job opportunities to new brand promoters.
Online brand promotion seems to have the potential to be the perfect job; lucrative in an unsaturated market. And those with good presentation skills and social media presence seem like the perfect contenders.