Breaking into a new market is always harder when you do not have connections within the specific community. It is especially harder if you are an SME trying to enter international waters, for two main reasons:
- There is no awareness or following of your brand, especially if advertising and social media posts are in a different language from the country’s native tongue.
- People tend to deem large corporations more trustworthy and reliable. Hence, you are competing against monopoly brands in that particular country.
Nevertheless, there are many international companies such as Sephora, Alibaba and Shopee which have succeeded in crossing borders and infiltrating international markets. Their secret comes in the form of influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is a proven way to bridge the gap between brand and community, as it uses the help of a trusted community representative to expose a brand to the intended market. As a summary, the benefits of using this marketing tool builds trust faster, improves brand awareness, enriches your company’s content strategy, reaches your target audience effectively, adds value to the audience and builds winning partnerships.
How is influencer marketing relevant to me?
A hybrid of old and new marketing tools, influencer marketing reconstructs the idea of celebrity endorsement for a modern day content-driven marketing campaign. The main difference is that campaigns come in forms of collaboration between brands and influencers.
Influencers are not always celebrities. They can be normal people who post content online and may never consider themselves famous in an offline setting. Nevertheless, they are deemed influencers because they have:
- The power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his audience.
- A following in a distinct niche, with whom he actively engages. The size of the following depends on the size of his topic of the niche.
Many multinational companies and SMEs have recognised the benefits of influencer marketing and have employed it as part of their cross-border marketing strategies.
Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant, seeks to recruit over 100,000 international influencers this year and aims to increase its numbers to one million influencers by 2023. VPN companies and Audible have taken to collaborating with YouTubers to reach different niches of the YouTube community. From the big shots such as PewDiePie to smaller channels such as JonTronShow and BlimeyCow, these businesses understand that infiltrating different markets require collaboration with specific influencers from each community.
Reminder – it’s a collaboration
It is important to realise there is a difference between celebrities and online influencers. Influencers build a strong relationship with their audience through the content they produce and relatability to their followers. Hence, the audience follows the influencer and not the brand – the audience’s perception of your brand is determined by how the influencer markets your products.
One mistake brands make is thinking they can impose their rules and business practices on an influencer as is usually done for celebrities in traditional media. However, they fail to realise a collaboration means the brand and the influencer have equal roles to play. Here are some tips on how to properly create a successful win-win collaboration with influencers:
- Define goals: One marketing tool can be used in various ways to hit different goals. You will first have to decide if you want to improve brand recognition, gain leads, increase conversion rates or maintain brand loyalty, among others. Depending on the goal, the influencer can record a promotional video, product review, insert links into their social media posts and so on.
- Define target audiences: Before launching your influencer marketing campaign, you must first determine who your target audience is and collaborate with influencers based on that target. For instance, it is no use if you decide to promote a make-up brand to an influencer’s audience of a male majority.
- Research thoroughly: Many a time, you’ll hear of brands pulling their sponsorship from a celebrity or influencer because of controversial behaviour that could tarnish associated brand names. One prolific example is YouTube personality and blogger Logan Paul getting dropped from the Google preferred partner programme after posting a series of offensive videos online. It is crucial for businesses to carry out thorough research – public reputation, relevancy to the brand, niche audience, quality of following and motivation – on an influencer before signing them up for a brand deal.
- Give up some control: Contrary to traditional advertising where the brand determines every artistic decision to be spread to the masses, influencers know their audience better, and hence, are the better choice to decide how a certain product is marketed to their followers. Besides that, 77% of influencers said creative freedom is the No 1 factor for motivation to collaborate.
- Engage on social media: Relationships between brands and influencers need not be purely internal or transactional. Build your rapport with influencers by regularly engaging with their content – such as commenting on their posts, sharing their posts on your social media or tagging them on your own social media posts.
- Compensate them well: While some influencers may be satisfied with free products and experience, it is good practice to compensate them well. Not only does this motivate an influencer to be more committed to your campaign, it will also increase your trustworthiness among other influencers in his circle.
- Go beyond sponsored content: There is more to influencer marketing than sponsored content. Some brands are moving towards creating true and long-lasting partnerships with the influencers they work with. For example, the collaborative relationship between YouTuber PewDiePie and G Fuel – an energy drink formula brand – slowly grew into a partnership where a new lingonberry flavour named “Pewdiepie” was released. On a more local note, Malaysian influencer Jenn Chia collaborated with Samsung to create a special film entitled [email protected].
Take your pick of the right people
The beauty of influencer marketing is that unlike celebrities, influencers can be anyone and anywhere in the community. They can be a beauty guru on Instagram, a gaming streamer on Twitch, professional classical musicians on YouTube or even a well-respected chief operating officer on LinkedIn.
Depending on your target market and product type, the world is your oyster in choosing a suitable influencer for your campaign. It is important to remember that influencers may come in bigger and smaller follower sizes, but this does not take away their ability to influence their niche communities with their expertise and engaging content. They share the most relevant topics, make the most entertaining videos and understand their followers best with the relationships fostered online.