Balancing local with global: Singaporean YouTube network Clicknetwork reveals secrets of success

Clicknetwork hits the 1m subscriber mark

Singaporean YouTube network Clicknetwork has tipped over the 1m subscriber network, earning a coveted Gold Play Button from YouTube. In a country with under 6m in population, Clicknetwork has had to look outside its home turf of Singapore, while still maintaining relevance with its loyal local audiences.

Gillian Tan, founder of Clicknetwork, said: “It’s tough. We would never want to do something that would alienate local viewers but we also don’t want to do something where international viewers just don’t get it. The topics that we cover are often universal topics, such as the beauty show. For that we would want to make sure the products we pick are of interest to anyone but would also include some products that are uniquely Asian or Singaporean as that gives us an edge over channels in the West. International viewers are interested in that, for example maybe we’d show a Korean beauty product that’s not been seen before in the US.”

Being local in Asia is important for brands, even if they want to reach scale, according to YouTube. The business revealed the top ads of the second half of 2016 recently, finding that localisation can actually be a route to significant numbers in Singapore.

Something that makes this easier for Clicknetwork is the fact that it’s adopted a channel mentality, hosting a variety of different shows on wide range of topics. Tan also says that this means some shows are inherently more local than others and the proportion of audience differs from show to show.

She says some of the eight shows are local and you’d find anywhere from 60-70% Singaporean audiences but for more international content, that dips towards 35-40% as a proportion of the total audience.

For even the Singaporean-led shows, that’s still a significant international audience but Tan says that’s where being smart about not assuming dialect is understood plays a part. “In the shows about Singapore we make sure when the host presents we don’t assume viewers understand local lingo, such as using Singlish or using too many colloquial terms. We also explain it, so we make sure we always keep people feeling included,” she explained.

In the ten years since the channel first launched, she says the scene for YouTubers in Singapore is now “exciting at this point in time”. Indeed Clicknetwork itself draws on other local YouTube and influencer talent that has broken out globally, such as Xiaxue, Don Richmond, Oon Shu An and Rozz Lee. The channel also helped boost the careers of influencers such as Jemma Wei, Rosalind Pho, and Rebecca Tan.

Another change, she notes, is in how brands in Singapore and Asia Pacific are now working with online makers.

“At the start it was impossible, there wasn’t any brand to put any money into our videos. I think the first was a driving school which wanted us to make a mention of a website. That was almost a decade ago and now so many want to get into this space. It’s because they know they have to go where the eyeballs are and particularly if you are after a younger demographic. Young people are watching everything online, so for brand it’s an easy choice. Where consumers are is where they want to be,” she said.

Tan says some brands are so comfortable with it that they don’t even turn up to shoots anymore. But, she added, there are still certain brands that have mostly older target customers that are new to approaching a younger crowd that aren’t as savvy. However, she said these brands are the ones that ask the “interesting questions”, which she enjoys because you get to start from scratch.

As many brands battle the issue of gaining relevance at scale, perhaps it’s the makers that are breaking through geographical barriers without forgetting their roots that should be looked on for inspiration.

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Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte