Think big, go small: why influencer marketing isn’t about reach

Aaron Brooks, co-founder VAMP

Despite what many marketers and PR agencies in Asia still believe, influencer marketing is not a popularity contest.

The use of influencer campaigns continues to rise in Singapore and Hong Kong, but there is still a decent amount of misunderstanding – and misuse – of how to best utilise the power of these influencers. The assumption that an influencer with hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of ‘likes’ and a global following is going to be more beneficial to getting your message out is not only false, but it fails to take into consideration the needs and desires of the local consumer.

In fact, not understanding how to harness the local ‘Power Middle’ influencer effectively can lead to poor engagement results, conflicting brands and talent, and, frankly, a waste of your marketing dollar.

Brands that focus on one market face challenges in connecting with an increasingly globally connected audience, who look beyond borders for inspiration and even to purchase brands not available in their home market. This is especially prevalent in Asia, as regional shipping has become a customer expectation. And as more consumer options become available, share of voice in a highly fragmented market will continue to become more challenging.

Social media will increasingly impact the spread and adoption of brands, and leading the charge to determine which brands will be most coveted are key social media influencers (KOLs) or the Talent, as we call them. Just as in any real world social group, a brand can be made or broken by the experience key consumers have – and for local brands, or brands that focus on one market, finding the most relevant influencer is becoming harder and harder.

So, what’s a brand to do?

The key challenge in finding KOLs for local or single market brands is pinpointing creative influencer talent who have a locally relevant audience. This is especially true for fashion and beauty brands where there are strong local preferences, but an interest in regional or global trends. Quite simply, consumers want to know what the current global trends are, but they want to be spoken to about it in local colloquial terms and languages.

The first key to success is in the talent you recruit. For local brands, it’s important to focus on the market of origin, or where the influencers started growing their audience, and who they currently cater to. That’s where talent agencies and influencer content marketing firms become invaluable. In order to really get a feel for a KOL’s voice and the the market of origin for their audience, it’s important to dig deep into their feed to understand the foundation for their influence. Why did their audience follow them in the first place? What are their fans saying about their products? Most importantly, do they create the type of content that aligns with your brand?

The second key to success is clearly understanding what the brand’s objective is and having realistic goals for what influencer marketing can provide for a brand. The first mistake most brands make is treating influencers as a direct marketing sales channel.

Let’s be clear – influencers and influencer marketing should NOT be used as a primary direct sales channel.

While we have a number of case studies for brands in beauty (Nude By Nature, Waft ), fashion (New Balance) and consumer goods (Dex) categories successfully selling product through the influencer channel, influencers are typically responsible for about 20% of total sell-through in eCommerce channels.

However, in our experience, the content produced by influencer talent can outperform brand created content in paid social media channels (sponsored post or ads) by 2 to 1.

So, for local brands looking to leverage influencer talent, focus on these three key points to move forward effectively:

1. Recruit locally relevant talent: Get to know the content in their feed, not just what they tell you in your profile or how many people follow them. What type of content do they post? What’s their aggregated engagement rate across all posts? Where are their followers from? What languages are they communicating in?

2. Establish clear and achievable goals: Influencers or KOLs are best used to quickly and efficiently create authentic and relevant content. The best brands value the content over the influencer’s reach, and leverage that content in owned and paid media channels in addition to the influencer’s channel.

3. Craft a clear brief for the talent: This can’t be stressed enough. When brands are disappointed with the outcome of their influencer efforts it’s usually because they recruited the wrong talent, but it’s also because they didn’t provide a crystal clear brief. The brief must clearly articulate key brand elements required, while also allowing enough creative flexibility so the brand or product is creatively interpreted by the influencer. It’s a tricky balancing, act but it’s key to enabling the talent to create something authentic and relevant to the intended audience.

Aaron Brooks is Co-Founder of Visual Amplifiers (VAMP), a content and influencer marketing platform and talent collective headquartered in Sydney, Australia, and that has recently opened in Singapore and Hong Kong.

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