In the past few years, newspapers got thinner, TV ads got cheaper, and radio is getting quieter. This is disruption. Why does this happen? The internet has given us so much access to information and options that we no longer consume content the way we used to anymore. Today, we “google” for information or we watch YouTube to figure out how to do something. Be it “how to fix a car seat” or “how to set up your e-commerce website”, people are more independent today to make decisions online.
Communication too has become less difficult. I’m sure we miss the days when we receive handwritten letters by mail? We no longer wait for days for the postman to arrive at our door, we “email”. We no longer need to call and talk to one person at a time, we broadcast messages on WhatsApp or WeChat, and we listen to pieces of advice from online coaches and influencers.
The abundance of information is key. Word-of mouth content, reviews from people we can trust. In essence Influencer management.
When we first started this platform in 2015, we were the only player in the industry in Malaysia. 3 years in, there are now at least half a dozen influencer marketplaces.
Take a look at the staggering numbers reported in the Influencer Management Hub 2017 Study and it will show you how popular social media influencers have become.
Influencer marketing search trend of 3 years (2015,2016 & 2017)
Ms Yeah from The Onion Group and Jenna Marbles in Southeast Asia, RISE HK
This year at the largest tech event in Southeast Asia, RISE HK, there were numerous talks on artificial intelligence, blockchain, and fintech. To our surprise, there was also an entire track on influencer management. They invited influencers to share the stage on the first day of the event including Ms Yeah from The Onion Group and Jenna Marbles, an American YouTuber.
On top of the existing social media platforms, a new platform named Tiktok owned by Bytedance Co. Ltd. has raised US$2B to US$3B from the market. Other platforms dying for attention are Kwai, Zhihu, Bigo Live, Miaupai, Twitch...etc. So, is influencer management here to stay? We say Yes!
Currently, in Malaysia alone, we’re seeing a flat growth in the number of YouTubers. Influencers are opting for more convenient, easy-to-use, mobile-based platforms such as TikTok and Instagram where you can just tap and release to post a story.
Difficulty of using YouTube is a known fact. If you want to post a video on YouTube, you would have to go through a lot of hassle. You will have to shoot the video and edit it. While uploading it to YouTube, you will be required to fill in the title, create a thumbnail and add a description for your video. As YouTube is hurting, the decline in viewers and creators could also be the early indications of the platform’s slow death.
In fact, we are seeing less than 1,000 YouTubers with subscribers between 10,000 and 50,000 in Malaysia. This includes niche contents such as bike enthusiasts and anime artists. Although the number of YouTubers is falling at an alarming rate, there is still a huge demand for YouTubers. This is because of the longevity of the content. Contents on YouTube last forever. (relatively).
But if this trend continues, agencies and platforms like SushiVid will no longer be selling YouTubers. This is very upsetting for us as we started SushiVid for YouTubers! As a platform, we love YouTube because it provides data to its users. The same campaign done on YouTube can be so much more targeted because of the access to data as compared to Instagram. We just hope that YouTube and Google will do something about this.
SushiVid founder, Yuh Wen Foong on YouTube Creator Day sharing about Influencer Management from a Brand’s Perspective
Final point. Due to the lack of supply, the existing YouTubers have been becoming increasingly demanding, making it more painful to work with in general. Over time, brands either drop YouTubers from their marketing stack altogether or do influencer management campaigns with YouTubers rather grudgingly. We predict YouTuber demand to decrease and the market for YouTubers altogether will disappear if this continues.
From left (Yi Theng and Yuh Wen Foong (from SushiVid), Gaston Pong, Jeii Pong, Allyna Wong (YouTubers), Firdaus (from SushiVid) and Ray Mak (YouTuber) At YouTube Creator Day
The demand for Instagram is HUGE, especially for highly-visual products such as cafes, travel and lifestyle products, fashion, festivals, and apps. This year, a staggering 70% of our payouts were made to Instagram influencers.
Sample of our influencers’ posts for FavePay
We believe Influencers on Instagram will continue to prosper. However, as brands become more and more educated about influencer management on Instagram, the influencers’ work quality would have to improve in order for the influencers to stay competitive. Due to the relatively low barrier to entry for Instagram, the supply of Instagram influencers will be abundant and they have to bring their best work to stay in the game.
In terms of content type, brands are choosing to do more Instagram videos rather than pictures. Instagram videos are long-form contents and are able to describe the brand’s message and product in greater detail compared to a picture post.
Sample of Instagram Story
We were expecting Instagram Stories to fall off the face of the earth like Snapchat - because brands in Asia are more conservative, preferring contents that live more than 24 hours - but we were dead wrong. Instagram Stories has been working for us so far.
As for IGTV, we have yet to see the impact from it. Even as a team of millennials, nobody we know is aggressively producing content on IGTV. We are definitely not seeing the adoption.
Influencer management on Facebook is unfortunately sunsetting. Recent demand for Facebook influencers has been low. When we do get the demand, most of the time, it is a share from Instagram.
Some of the Instagram influencers we have worked with do not even have a Facebook account. Influencers, especially the younger generation, aged between 15 - 21 are mostly not on Facebook.
We were not excited about Facebook in 2018 and this will likely remain the same for the year 2019. With or without Facebook Live or Facebook Stories, we do not see the impact of Facebook influencer management.
You know that feeling when everyone’s talking about SnapChat and you have no idea how it works? It feels the same with TikTok doesn’t it? SushiVid is very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with TikTok for their influencer campaigns and learned quite a bit on how the app works. We were very fascinated by the app that we actually went to China to check out DouYin. (The full version of the app).
Sample of TikTok videos
This is the gist of it. TikTok is an entertainment platform. It is able to capture the attention of the younger generation. A lot of kids are making contents on TikTok and they are doing their best to also capture the slightly mature audience to the platform. So far, it has been successful.
How do they monetize? They will monetize like Google AdSense, where they play a 5-second video before you get to browse. They will have an e-commerce portion, should you see something you like, you can click to buy directly from TikTok. They will also have influencer management campaigns directly from TikTok so the users can engage with the influencers on the app.
Will they stay? Absolutely yes! They are like Instagram on steroids. Just recently, they are seeking to raise another US$3 billion in its latest funding round to expand into Southeast Asia and beyond. So, yes! They have the funds to dominate and people are becoming more accepting of China brands these days.
Sample of TikTok videos
So far the coast is clear, with not many brand campaigns on TikTok. This is where the opportunity lies - to make an arbitrage because it is still undersaturated. For influencers, this is their opportunity to get more recognition and popularity on the platform. Since there are not many content creators are on TikTok, they have higher chances of getting featured on the trending page. Furthermore, thanks to the platform's user friendly interface, we are seeing a surge in the number of content creators preferring this platform as compared to other platforms such as YouTube.
To be honest, all of these platforms deserve their own section. Due to our lack of knowledge in these platforms, we’re lumping them into one.
At this point, Influencers on Twitch are far too few in Malaysia. However, we are sourcing as many of them as we possibly can. eSports is definitely here to stay and because of that, we are positive gamers will prevail. But the question is - Will Twitch be the one? We certainly hope so. In the near future, we hope Twitch will consider entering the Malaysia market more aggressively as there hasn’t been much happening for our eSports athletes.
A screenshot of Bigo Live webpage
Bigo Live is a Singapore-based platform that has quite a following. Personally, we have explored the app and we find their beautifying function flattering but the users so far are less urban which we feel will be really good for FMCG and consumer goods. Less for lifestyle brands.
Similar to Bigo Live, there hasn’t been mass adoption for KWAI, although they both have deep pockets to fight TikTok for more market share. We believe these platforms can still be used by brands as long as they are alive.
Screenshot of Kwai app
We have yet to discover what niches would work in Bigo Live or Kwai but we are sure that if we put in some effort, we’ll be able to find pockets of opportunities for brands to get attention from the people using these apps.
When SnapChat was popular, all the brands in the United States were quick to advertise on it but here in Southeast Asia or specifically Malaysia, it was difficult for agencies to propose SnapChat to clients as videos will disappear after 24 hours. Something clients were not used to in Malaysia.
On the contrary, when Instagram launched Insta Stories, they were able to capture what SnapChat had missed here in Malaysia. Instagram created a feature called “highlights” where users can pin Insta Stories on their profile keeping the Insta Story viewable until the user decides to remove it.
We are also seeing Insta Stories sold as it is, even without highlights. Insta Stories has a swipe-up function that enables users to direct their audience to a site or page through a link. This swipe-up function complements a campaign’s ROI as users can measure click through rates even though the Insta Story only lasts 24 hours.
TikTok being a new and aggressively growing platform, has not been fully understood by most brands yet. With over 500 million users as of June 2018 and 150 million daily active users, TikTok definitely has the amount of traffic and attention brands would want.
TikTok, however, was facing a bit of a backlash as it was banned by the Indonesian government at some point in time. You can read about it here.
China platforms like Kuaipai, Miaopai, Sina & Meipai are on the rise and penetrating into other Southeast Asian countries like the TikTok app. Majority of the users on these platforms are the younger millennials. These platforms work like SnapChat/Insta Story where a video is not more than 15 seconds.
If these platforms do venture into our shores, we believe they will be popular among the younger millennials of our country.
In 2018, we have noticed a trend where brands have started engaging influencers en masse, numbering up to 100 or more micro influencers in a single campaign.
Undeniably, the reach of micro-influencers is lower than Macro/Alpha influencers or celebrities but what if you engage 100 of them collectively? That is 100 unique contents! People often believe an influencer must have over a hundred thousand followers to be valuable to a brand; the reality is most macro/alpha influencers have lower engagement rates compared to micro influencers.
Let me give you an example, would you purchase a product because one Alpha influencer posted about said product or purchase another product that has posts by many people? We would choose the latter. Alpha influencers post too many sponsored contents. As a result, their channel are good for awareness and less for trust building.
In the past, when demand was high and influencers were still in low supply, influencers tend to quote ridiculous prices as there was no real industry standard. It was difficult to grasp a balanced price. Recently, as the supply-demand gap is coming closer to equilibrium, there has been a price correction. The influencers are becoming more aware of the competition in the market. One less problem for brands!
Corporate companies are adapting to the new normal too --- by hiring a Social Media team! We’re seeing more corporate companies hiring Head of Influencers, and influencer teams instead of just hiring someone for PR or Communications. Social Media teams are hired in preparation for recurring Influencer Management Campaigns for the brands. This means that corporates are seeing influencer management as a long-term advertising method.