In the past few years, Southeast Asia’s influencer marketing industry has experienced rapid growth. Today, the industry boasts a worth of $638 million in Southeast Asia alone and is estimated to quadruple to reach $2.59 billion by 2024. For brands looking to capitalize on the region’s 402 million active social media users, it is important to understand the cultural forces and localized nuances impacting brands and people in the region’s marketing landscape.
Southeast Asia’s predominantly mobile-savvy consumer demographic paired with a fast growing internet economy provides a good environment for social media influencer marketing to flourish.
Exhibit 1: Southeast Asia’s Internet Demographics
Compared to other traditional forms of marketing, engaging in social media influencer marketing is highly suitable for Southeast Asia given its mobile-dominant user demographics [Exhibit 1]. The combination of high rates of internet adaptation, smartphone penetration, and mobile data usage in the region have pushed many consumers onto social media platforms. With the internet economy in Southeast Asia on track to hit $300 billion in 2025, redirecting marketing funds towards data-friendly social media platforms is an excellent strategy to drive brand awareness and conversion in Southeast Asia.
Authenticity, Trust, and Diversity
Southeast Asia’s influencer marketing industry is characterized by its diverse platforms, globalized consumer knowledge, and expectations of hyperlocalized trust and authenticity
Authenticity and Localized Trust
ASEAN consumers tend to prioritize trust and authenticity. Although Southeast Asian influencers use the same global platforms as their western counterparts, they tend to align themselves with their mainly local audiences by appealing to their shared cultural background, social codes, and language. Brands who wish to gain traction in Southeast Asia should leverage local influencers to execute campaigns and partnerships that are perceived as non-invasive and authentic.
Unfortunately, the process of crafting genuine marketing messages can be time-consuming and difficult to scale. As Katie Freiberg, the head of Growth Marketing at ThirdLove explains, scaling influencer marketing “is very hard, especially when you want a really authentic message...it’s certainly still a very manual process”.
Aside from global platforms such as Instagram and Youtube, Southeast Asia is home to a variety of popular native platforms such as LINE, Wechat, TikTok and Zalo. The challenge is that the audiences are spilt across multiple channels, languages and cultures, forcing brands to take a hyperlocal approach with their influencer marketing strategies. Brands can consider engaging local influencers or even forming social media partnerships to reach new audiences and establish awareness.
Microinfluencers and Macroinfluencers in Southeast Asia
While engaging influencers may bring large scale brand awareness, microinfluencers- who make up the majority of Southeast Asia’s influencer industry- are both cost effective and can better drive conversion.
Exhibit 2: Mains strategies of influencer marketing
There are definitely advantages of engaging in influencer marketing. A study from Oneproduction has claimed that influencer marketing can generate up to 11 times the return on investment of traditional advertising. However, the level of effectiveness will depend on the nature of the brand’s product, the influencers’ audience, as well as the form of influencer marketing employed.
Furthermore, the type of influencer- whether macro or mirco- will impact consumers on different parts of the customer purchase funnel. Macroinfluencers are individuals who command large followings of over 100k, and microinfluencers command smaller followings between 3k to 100k. While macroinfluencers are good for efficiently increasing brand visibility, microinfluencers can help to encourage user engagement. being mindful of the extensive time and resources required to implement influencer marketing campaigns.
Exhibit 3: Influencer Demographics in SEA and Global Market Worth
According to Mckinsey, two-thirds of touch points in the buying cycle now involve consumer-driven information like including online reviews. Hence, engaging macroinfluencers can be particularly useful for brands looking to significantly boost brand visibility and desire. The downside to hiring macroinfluencers is that it can be extremely costly, where a single sponsored post can cost upwards of $32k. Despite the guaranteed large exposure, macroinfluencers’ engagement rates are less than microinfluencers. According to InfluencerMatchmaker, when an individual’s following reaches the 100,000 mark, their engagement drops by 20%. This is in part due to the loss of the sense of community, authenticity, and genuinity that comes with larger audiences.
Microinfluencers constitutes the majority of influencers in Southeast Asia [Exhibit 3]. Perceived to be more like a friend than a celebrity, microinfluencers foster highly active communities, curating their feeds and selecting sponsorships based on their audience. As a result, miroinfluencers are generally known to bring higher engagement rates than macro-influencers, as users are more willing to participate and trust their recommendations as genuine [Exhibit 3]. For businesses who wish to push consumers along the purchase funnel, collaborating with microinfluencers can help in better achieving marketing goals in Southeast Asia. Particularly for brands with a smaller marketing budget, engaging microinfluencers can be a cost effective alternative with a guaranteed return on investment.
The Metrics of Influencer Marketing
In order to reel in tangible results from influencer marketing, brands should strategize comprehensive metrics to effectively monitor and track the effectiveness of the campaigns. While traditional vanity metrics such as likes, shares, comments, and followers are useful in gauging some level of impact, it does not encompass all of what influencers can provide.
To start, brands should start by understanding which KPIs are prioritized, and then track for progress and growth. Depending on the goals of the brand- whether it is increasing engagement, awareness, conversion rates, reach, or referral traffic- the best choice of measurement will differ accordingly:
For example, brands who want to focus on increasing reach and engagement should focus on tracking for impression data on all campaign related posts. This will help track the amount of new prospects acquired as well as how the campaign has reinforced pre-existing prospects. Such data can be found by ulitizing social media site analytics, influencers’ personal site analytics as well as the brand’s own google analytics.
In the case of increasing conversions, brands should focus on tracking the progress of sales throughout the campaign to identify the impact of the campaign as well as the traffic sources of newly converted customers. This can be achieved through affiliate links, UTM parameters, promotional codes, and campaign specific link tracking. In addition, non-sales related conversion rates can also be monitored. This includes things such as follower counts, newsletter sign-ups, and general relevant link click-rates.
While influencer marketing campaigns are an effective way to drive results, it is important to realize that successful online marketing cannot rely on influencers alone. While influencers may be effective in generating awareness or engagements, other marketing efforts should also be employed to solidify other aspects such as customer loyalty.
Written by Ruchel Phua. An avid learner who's passionate about telling stories through data insights and online trends.
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