Reaching consumers in Asia-Pacific can be difficult.

There are so many countries and cultures to consider that analysis paralysis quickly sets in.

Using a local influencer to carry your brand message could help, but there are a few things you need to know about the market first.

Asia-Pacific (APAC) has an influencer market which is growing in, well, influence. 

Influencers are loosely defined as anyone with a sizable social media following and they can play a significant role in an APAC marketing campaign.

The reason they are so useful is that influencers have a ready-made audience which can help a brand break into a new market.

If a brand is looking to reach a particular segment, then using an influencer may be a handy shortcut to today's media-saturated consumers.

According to recent reports, brand marketers agree.

More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents to a Econsultancy survey, The Rise of Influencers (2016), indicated that they were using influencers in their marketing campaigns (57%) or planning to do so in the next 12 months (21%).

Unfortunately it's not quite as simple as just finding someone with a large social media following in a target country and signing them up.

There are many potential issues which can arise when using influencers in APAC, so marketers need to be aware of a number of things before attempting to tackle this channel.

1. Each country has its own influencers and platform of choice

This seems obvious. The whole purpose of using influencers is to find someone who is well-connected in a particular country and so, almost by definition, the influencers are going to be different for each market.

Influencers may, however, also be on different platforms depending on the market.

In China, where influencers are typically called key opinion leaders (or more commonly, KOL), they are now most active on WeChat.

There are still KOLs who focus on blogging (or even their own app), but WeChat, with its enormous growth and more reliable follower counts, has become the platform of choice for marketers.

Thailand's influencers are mainly active on YouTube.

Some of Thailand's most-popular internet celebrities on the channel include itinerant videographer softpomz with over a million followers and makeup artist pearypie with around 250,000.

Instagram is the choice for Australians. Pia Muehlenbeck, model and blogger, has amassed 1.3m followers.  

This is quite an achievement in a country with a population of around 23m.  

Sara Donaldson, a fashion and beauty writer, still maintains a popular blog but has moved more than half a million of her fans to Instagram.

2. Due diligence is required

It's well known that followers on social media can be faked.  Search on Google for "Facebook likes" or "Twitter followers" and dozens of pages come up with ways of getting fake fans, for a fee.

Brands should be wary of influencers with high follower count but poor content and low engagement from their 'fans'.

In China, however, it is not so easy to distinguish real from fake.

According to Wechat consultant WalkTheChat, fake influencers (KOLs) in China both steal real content from other influencers and have a 'bot' network to boost engagement numbers.

These practices are possible in any country, though, so working with well-known influencers with a verifiable history of working with other brands is best practice

3. Influencer agencies are emerging

Alternatively, instead of trying to figure it out by themselves, marketers can use one of the many agencies which have sprung up.

APAC has a long tradition of influencer agencies. Nuffnang has offered brands advertising deals with blogger influencers in the region since 2006.  

It is now operating in seven countries and boasts a global community of nearly 1m blogs.

For those looking for more visually-based influencers, TRIBE in Australia and Gushcloud in Singapore offer marketplaces where influencers can sign up and marketers can search for one with the audience which suits their brand.

In China, there are countless digital marketing agencies to help brands enter a market with influencers as well as influencer agencies, such as ParkLu.

For marketers doing their own research, there are directories such as Popular Chips and Fashion Beauty Monitor which cover APAC and other international influencers.

4. The cost for an influencer still varies considerably

According to The Rise of Influencers most brands still make arrangements with the influencers directly.

Should you decide to do this, one of the first items to establish is the cost.

Unfortunately, there is not yet an industry standard for how much brands should pay for influencers.

Some have suggested linking the cost for an influencer to a typical advertising metric, say $5 to $10 cost-per-1000 views (CPM).  

This might work, though actual impression counts may be hard to get on some social networks so brands should probably agree a fixed rate before hand.

Another approach is for brands to use cost-per-engagement (CPE) or even cost-per-lead (CPL).  

Mavrck, a US-based marketing platform, has carried out research to identify what those costs are for US-based clients and these figures could be used as a benchmark for APAC.

TRIBE, the Australian influencer agency, suggests per-post rates based on the number of followers the influencer has.  

Again, useful for reference but an influencer with an affluent audience should certainly charge significantly more than one who is followed by bargain-hunters.

So, then, the cost per post will then typically be agreed directly between the brand and the influencer. 

According to industry feedback though, many influencers are inexperienced with negotiating and so brands should be ready to walk away should the price be unreasonable.

According to one brand executive, these negotiations can be difficult.

They’re all nuts. They say, “I want to take a car and pick it up in London and drive it around Europe, so give me $100,000.”  Nope, let’s totally never do it that ever. These people don’t understand budgets.

So...

Influencers can be a great way for a brand to tap into a market in APAC.

Using one means that you will not have to worry so much about how to find the right audience, the influencer will bring people to you.

Before simply booking one yourself, however, do some research and find a well-established influencer who has a track record of helping brands find the right audience in the target market.  

Influencer marketplaces and research publications can help, but simple due diligence should also be carried out as well.

As for negotiating a rate, it seems that you're on your own. The best approach is to have a budget in mind and negotiate hard.  

Because the market is so new, most influencers are relatively inexperienced too, and they may very well be open to striking a deal to develop a long-term relationship. 

Jeff Rajeck

Published 6 September, 2016 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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