Shu Fen Goh
May 10, 2024

How to optimise your investments in Asia’s complex influencer ecosystem

Even as marketers in Asia tap into the vast reach and clout of social media influencers, R3’s Shufen Goh has a few guidelines to make the most of these relationships.

How to optimise your investments in Asia’s complex influencer ecosystem
Social is taking a big bite out of brand marketing budgets, surpassing paid search globally as the leading media channel by ad investment (WARC Global Ad Trends, 2024). What started as an uncoordinated and opportunistic approach to marketing has now become strategic, data-driven, and irreplaceable. 
Even as Asian marketers find ways to leverage influencers, they have to contend with the social ecosystem being dramatically shaped in new directions by content creators, regulators, consumers, and platforms. The most visible manifestation is in the increasing number of niche and diverse influencer genres that have started to trend online. A spectrum of categories exists for almost every type of interest; from mushroom foragers to “gran-fluencers.”
The paradox of Asia’s social media landscape is that it is both large in user-base, deep in engagement (i.e. number of hours spent on social), and yet also niche by market. Since marketers are constantly trying to track and optimise spends, how can they navigate the complexities within influencer marketing in the region? 
Find a match between resonance and performance
Marketers can engage agencies to manage their roster of influencers, hire through creator platforms, or even have in-house teams in charge of these relationships. However, with nano-to-mega influencers providing almost too many options for potential collaborations there is a greater need for due diligence to ensure an alignment of brand and sales objectives.
Best practice: Establish key performance indicators (KPI) and success metrics to track the influencers’ actual delivery against their earlier commitments. Baking this into the contractual agreement will provide marketers a clear picture of the compensation model that they wish to implement. 
Ensure that you get what you paid for
The goods received process is one of the highest areas of risk in the influencer engagement funnel. Inconsistencies between commitments, and the actual buy are commonplace. To allow for better evaluation and future auditing, brands ought to set up the right contractual provisions for partnerships. Clear expectations for transparency in fees and allowing tracking via process management checks, should be an essential part of these agreements. 
Since influencer content is not always reviewed or vetted by the brand before release, marketers must proactively work to ensure inclusive and responsible use of new technologies such as generative AI by their partners.
Best Practice: Clauses, audit rights, deliverables fulfilment, penalties for lapses, and itemised billings with an unambiguous breakdown of costs should be mandatory additions while reviewing influencer marketing contracts. In the interest of transparency, influencers should submit their invoices and ensure that they document their contracts as part of the billing process.
Keeping influencer marketing in line with the law
Regulators in several Asian countries are updating their frameworks to ensure that income generated by sponsored content and brand partnerships is accounted for. Sensitive industries such as finance and insurance have also enacted requirements for influencers to make upfront declarations that identify paid engagements to protect consumers. 
A recent example is Indonesia banning social media operators from facilitating payments in their systems, to separate social commerce from e-commerce and shield micro, small and medium enterprises from predatory pricing.
Best practice: Due to variations in legal requirements and practice, marketers should conduct landscape assessments for individual markets within Asia to better understand safe parameters for influencer engagement.  
While by no means definitive, putting these steps in place are an essential part to running an effective results-oriented influencer marketing campaign. 
The author is co-founder and principal at R3
Campaign Asia

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