To learn more about the impact of influencer marketing in the region and how brands can benefit from the trend, we recently spoke with Antoine Gross, General Manager, SEA at impact.com, a partnership automation platform that streamlines how brands find the right influencer to work with.
In recent years influencer marketing has become an essential channel in the marketing mix. In Southeast Asia it continues to grow at a rapid pace – according to research from R3, the influencer marketing industry in the region is estimated to reach $2.59 billion by 2024.
Over the course of our conversation, Antoine talks about influencer trends, how brands can benefit from adding influencer marketing to the mix, the importance of maintaining authenticity, and more.
What are some influencer trends and how they will affect/boost sales for big retail brands?
One is the further boom of short-form content. In 2022, short-form video accounted for 80% of all mobile data traffic. Apart from Tiktok, platforms such as Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts have contributed to this trend by offering users the ability to create and share bite-sized videos that are easy to consume and share. This has led to changes in content creation strategies for brands and influencers.
Relatedly, this social phenomenon also gave birth to the rise in content creators. With the impact of these evolved social media platforms, any average Joe is able to become a content creator, build their brand and reach a wider audience in an authentic and creative manner. This resulted in opportunities for more brand collaborations, sponsorships and other forms of content monetization.
“The value of influencer marketing lies in its ability to harness authenticity aligned to the consumer’s interest. Consumers are getting more selective especially when it comes to sponsored content.”
Then there’s also the rise of empathic and human-focused content. Gone are the days when hard-sell and sales-y pitches are seen as the gold standard for consumers. Now, authenticity and transparency are what makes a brand effectively connect with their audience. As consumers’ social consciousness increases, they demand that brands make a constructive contribution to society. Hence, there is a growing emphasis on niche interests especially among the creator community.
For example, nano influencers have become more effective in recent times due to their ability to build more authentic and genuine relationships with their followers. Nano influencers typically have a smaller following compared to macro or mega influencers, but their followers tend to be more engaged and connected to them on a personal level.
Nano influencers also often have a more specific and niche audience, which allows them to provide more targeted and relevant content to their followers. As a result, they are able to build a close-knit relationship and sense of community among their followers based on trust, authenticity, and credibility.
How important is authenticity in influencer marketing? Do you think consumers are becoming more discerning when it comes to sponsored content?
The value of influencer marketing lies in its ability to harness authenticity aligned to the consumer’s interest. Consumers are getting more selective especially when it comes to sponsored content. They can quickly tell when an influencer isn’t being sincere or when they are just pushing it for the sake of sponsorship.
And as online consumers and trends continuously evolve, brands would need more “real people” and more “authenticity” for influencer marketing to really bite. That said, authenticity is essential in influencer marketing as it fosters a relationship of trust and credibility between the influencer and their audience.
“To create successful relationships and see results, it’s important to manage influencers throughout the full life cycle, similar to managing other partners like affiliates and media houses.”
Brands are able to build more lasting relationships and stronger resonance with their audience when influencers that represent them are honest about their affiliations and their personal interactions with the goods they advocate.
Case in point is how the rise of micro and nano-influencers have come to grow. Over the past few years, they were seen by various audiences as more trustworthy compared to celebrities and bigger personalities because of how personalised and tailor-fitted their content is.
What are some of the most effective influencer marketing campaigns that you’ve seen recently? What made them stand out?
In Singapore, homegrown brands such as Sterra and Prism+ are rolling out extensive influencer marketing campaigns which we can take as best practices in the market.
While Sterra is an air and water purifier brand, it mainly targets young Singaporeans. This makes it challenging for the brand to find the right channel points by which they can communicate with their target audience. To address this, Sterra heavily relied on influencer marketing for its top-funnel strategy.
“Regardless of budget, when it comes to identifying the right strategies, brands must first understand and decide the role of influencer marketing at par with their overall marketing mix.”
Through the help of celebrities and online influencers on TikTok and Instagram, Sterra was able to build strong awareness among their young consumers in just a short period of time. Through relatable and entertaining content pieces, this influencer strategy helped create ripples across social media that made Sterra be easily recognized and understood by any young Singaporean.
Similarly, consumer electronics company Prism+ harped on the power of influencers to create buzz among its young target audience. By leveraging these content creators with existing clout and varying interests – from eSports, fashion, to health and entertainment— Prism+ was able to effectively build a community and establish itself as a household brand used by every Singaporean.
How can smaller businesses with limited budgets still benefit from influencer marketing? Are there any strategies that you would recommend for them?
Regardless of budget, when it comes to identifying the right strategies, brands must first understand and decide the role of influencer marketing at par with their overall marketing mix. Is the goal to create awareness, drive conversions, or a combination of both? Once this has been identified, it is only then how brands can determine the right strategies to put in place within their working budget.
In general, there are several low-cost but high-yield strategies that brands can look into. But then again, this would still differ and depend on their overall marketing goal. Some of these include:
- Collaborating with peers/other brands for joint campaigns, which could help save costs, yet reaching larger audiences
- Implementing UGC (user-generated content) through social media and consumers
- Partnering with local content creators who have shown good presence in the market we target
- Utilising Micro-nano influencers as part of guerilla marketing which is more cost-efficient compared to working with bigger influencers/celebrities.
What advice would you give to brands who are just starting out with influencer marketing? What are some common mistakes that they should avoid?
As consumers’ habits and preferences evolve, influencer marketing equally changes at breakneck speed. Hence, it’s important to prioritise longevity when developing one’s influencer marketing strategy. As a primary rule of thumb, brands don’t need to treat influencer marketing as a one-time transaction.
To create successful relationships and see results, it’s important to manage influencers throughout the full life cycle, similar to managing other partners like affiliates and media houses. Adapting a life cycle management blueprint can help create mature partnerships and improve the quality, scalability, and effectiveness of an influencer program.
As budget is always a crucial factor, it is also imperative for brands to set measurable goals to make the most out of their influencer marketing program. Instead of paying a flat fee for influencer posts, it’s worth considering paying based on specific metrics like cost per engagement, cost per click (CPC), cost per lead, or cost per sale. This approach allows brands to better track influencer performance and adjust payment terms accordingly.
Lastly, brands need to find the right influencer profile and mix. The success of an influencer strategy depends on partnering with the right influencers who create the most resonant and authentic social media content on the channels one’s potential customers browse and take action on.
Similarly, it’s as important to diversify one’s pool of influencers to ensure that you can capture your diverse audience and their interests. You may love their work, but if their audience lives predominantly in a country where your brand doesn’t sell any merchandise, you may not get the ROI you are looking for. That is why brands need to be smart and objective when it comes to their influencer selection process.