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How creators are remaking business in Asia Pacific

The creator economy has reportedly seen $1.3 billion in investment funding in 2021 so far, nearly three times the funding it received in all of 2020. To learn more from creators themselves, this past week, Dan Neary, Vice President, Asia Pacific, Meta, spoke with Australia-based Marion Grasby, the owner and creator of Marion’s Kitchen Media with a 6 million+ strong global community, Indonesian content creator Thariq (Thor) Halilintar of the Gen Halilintar family with parents and 11 children - all of whom are content creators and Suzie Shaw who manages We Are Social, Australia.

These conversations were part of Ideas That Matter, a new video content series brought to you by Meta where we discuss how social trends are intersecting with business to create new opportunities. The pandemic has transformed digital discovery, purchase habits and continues to shape how we live, work, shop and play. In our inaugural episode, we look at the creator economy in Asia Pacific and how both creators and brands can navigate this dynamic space thoughtfully.

As the pandemic raged, people had to stay home and find ways to entertain themselves over long periods of time. Naturally, home-based content surged across a range of topics and formats: cooking tutorials, family entertainment fitness hacks and yes, even business and finance creators. According to AnyMind research, the numbers of macro-influencers (100,000 to 1 million followers) across the region grew by 66 per cent over 2021 – particularly in Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

We focused on three areas: how creators build communities, how they earn an income and how brands and creators can best work together. Here are some of the lessons I took away from my conversation. The full episode will go live on November 10 at 11am SGT.

Creators are a new and more diverse form of media

So, why do creators matter so much? Marion said that content creators have become the voice of so many different audiences all around the world. She loves being able to share her Thai-Australian heritage with millions of people and engage them. “To be a creator is not a passive, behind-the-screen experience. We ask ourselves what our audience wants to ‘engage’ with, not what they want to ‘watch.’ Creators spark conversations and build communities,” she said.

The aspect of building and nurturing a community is also apparent in Thor’s content. As the fourth child in a big family of 11 children - each with unique qualities - creating content is the family’s quality time. During the pandemic, it turned into a consultative process, where the family would engage with their audience through weekly Facebook Live to ask fans what they wanted to see. Acting quickly on requests from fans meant the family could connect more deeply with their community.

It is this connective tissue that makes creators such a powerful new force in publishing and media. For Suzie, one of the most interesting aspects of this new economy is that creators have come up through non-traditional means. They are not dependent on companies that would tightly control the kind of faces that get to speak to the public. So new faces are emerging, there is a lot more diversity and audiences are really seeing themselves in these creators. “They are building bonds that just didn’t exist before in the more intermediate form of media,” she said.

Creators are the new brands

From speaking to Marion and Thor, it is evident that their personality is also their brand. They work incredibly hard to make content that is authentic and engaging, which then attracts a growing audience. Marion shared that her strategy has always been to invest in getting better, whether that’s reinvesting her revenue back into the content through hiring more skilled people or building a new studio or purchasing more equipment. “I’m always striving to create better quality content or to try new formats or to create a better studio or have better equipment,” she said.

Thor shared how surprised he was when the family’s music video Ziggy Zagga amassed millions of views. It struck him then that the Halilintar family’s strength was in conveying positive values with each family member bringing something different to the table. Creating content as a family was a way for them to spend quality time together, it made them happy and they shared this with their audience. “I realised that the warmth of our togetherness attracts people,” he said.

Suzie said that creator channels are far more engaged than traditional ones and creators are driving higher levels of engagement than brands can do themselves. “They’ve defined a content proposition and built an audience around it, and in many cases, built really big channels. This gives brands an opportunity to reach the audiences that follow those channels,” she said.

Creators are the new retail channel

Marion’s community gave her the courage to attempt what she calls “the scariest thing ever: self-publish.” She had written a new cookbook - the first time in seven years - and decided to sell exclusively through her website, relying only on digital promotion. “We launched it on Facebook Live. That was a little while ago and we are on track to sell far more books than I've ever sold,” Marion said.

For Thor too, being real with their audience is key. They stick to brands they really use, the food they really eat and products they are genuinely fond of. This authenticity helps build mutual trust between the brands they work with and the audience that tunes into the Halilintar family’s content. “We only sell what we utilize,” Thor said.

Suzie said that the growth of social commerce means that creators are not only media channels, but they’re also actually becoming retail channels. So, they’re moving beyond brand sponsorships and becoming affiliates for brands to distribute their products. Another interesting development is brands co-creating products or sub-brands with creators. “When a creator has so much equity with their audiences, it’s a great opportunity for a brand to reach a new audience or create more affinity with that audience by really partnering in such a deep way with the creator,” Suzie said.

It is incredibly inspiring to see these new business models take flight. This is also why Meta is investing over $1 billion in programs that give creators new ways to earn money for the content they create on Facebook and Instagram. We hope these investments will help creators find sustainable, long-term success and fuel a diverse new media ecosystem in the region.

Dan Neary is vice president, Asia Pacific at Meta.

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