As Influencer Marketing Grows in Asia, So Does Local Focus


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When influencer marketing first hit it big, some commentators felt that it would remain a relatively local phenomenon that didn’t grow much beyond the boundaries of a few people in relatively isolated technical areas. The rapid international growth of this way to get out a message has proven all of these estimates woefully wrong, however. There are influencers in almost every community that has some way to connect to the web.

This is especially true in emerging markets, where a majority of the biggest gains are. According to one Thai study, mass media marketing fell from 80 to 57 percent, which seems to suggest that influencers are quickly proving to be far more effective in that marketplace than traditional marketing techniques ever have been. In many cases, companies have partnered with existing social media icons to attract younger consumers who wouldn’t otherwise connect with a traditional message. Nowhere has this change been more apparent than among Korean mobile web users.

The Korean Micro-local Approach

While marketers in some nations have been able to use the same brand image they’ve developed in their home country abroad, this might not work in the Republic of Korea. Since the 1990s, Korean pop culture has exploded onto the world stage in an ever-increasing display of popularity. As a result, Korean media consumers are able to devour a healthy diet of local material that’s hard for external companies to compete with. Those who really want to make a splash in the local scene will have to master local marketing trends, which often involves working with so-called micro influencers.

Unlike the big time influencers that typify online sales in India and North America, Korean micro influencers that have less than 10,000 followers can see engagement rates of around 25-50 percent consistently. These numbers are far better than some of the most followed social media sensations in the Hindi, Bengali and English languages. As a result, it’s become clear that any foreign brand that wants to start a social media campaign in South Korea will need to work with one or more of these individuals.

On the other hand, Korean netizens have proven themselves to be quite savvy when it comes to spotting inorganic campaigns and sudden bursts of popularity in certain markets that would have to be the result of outside meddling. Some of the most important influencer marketing trends in South Korea are directly related to the fact that consumers have been shown to be rather risk-averse and would much rather get several opinions from multiple individuals before they buy into a product or service. Once again, this is making brand managers completely rethink their strategies since it’s more difficult for them to connect with consumers using the same tired practices that they might normally rely on.

Working with Local Influencers

Technology companies from India, Pakistan and a number of western countries have successfully been able to reach out to local influencers directly and get them to casually review their products, which has helped these firms to enter the Korean market to at least some degree. This approach hasn’t worked quite as well for those in other spaces, though. Considering that South Korea’s extremely fast 5G mobile connections have allowed over 90 of those aged 20-50 to stay connected, it’s obvious that consumers are going to be increasingly well educated regarding the market situation of nearly anything that they might be interested in purchasing.

Perhaps the best approach for businesses who are just entering the Korean market is to work with upstart social media influencers who are just beginning their own journeys. This will help to dramatically reduce the risk that someone might view their actions as those of someone attempting to game the system. While it’s likely that the Korean model won’t necessarily extend to other countries, it is clear that consumer habits in neighboring nations have changed as well. This is largely being spearheaded by those who promote themselves effectively on social media networks that are popular within their target countries even if they aren’t as popular abroad.

National vs International Network Promotion

Many larger international brands continue to promote themselves on the most popular major worldwide networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Considering that many marketing experts stress engagement over data, it’s clear that this plan can’t work in certain societies. Consumers in the People’s Republic of China are far more likely to use WeChat, which enjoys a much greater level of penetration than anything else in that country. A company that continued to focus on the Chinese-language editions of Facebook and Twitter would reach far fewer tech-savvy consumers and be unable to branch out to younger buyers.

Since WeChat is primarily a peer-to-peer communications platform, it can be more of a challenge to influence buyers on it. However, companies will need to try a number of new experimental techniques if they’d like to reach customers in this kind of environment. Of those who use traditional campaigns worldwide, one study suggested only around 20 percent are effective anyway. With those kinds of numbers, there’s really no reason not to experiment.

To an extent, a similar situation has impacted those who find themselves attempting to attract a younger Japanese clientele. Line is among Japan’s most popular social apps, but it more closely resembles the original YIM or AIM than it does Facebook and Twitter. That’s stumped some businesses, who find it hard to translate their campaigns into something that works with these platforms.

Some organizations have gone so far as to create custom emoji and icons, which have actually been quite popular with local consumers. Line and WeChat users are far more likely to download these than many people in western countries. Others have reached out to popular chat room operators, who are able to get a message across to many people at once. Framing the conversation might seem like a throwback to some marketers, but it’s far more natural looking than many slick marketing programs.

Either way, it’s becoming obvious that companies will need to focus their campaigns locally if they hope to compete with those who already have.

Philip Piletic
I have several years of experience in marketing and startups, and regularly contribute to a number of online platforms related to technology, marketing and small business. I closely follow how Big Data, Internet of Things, Cloud and other rising technologies grew to shape our everyday lives. Currently working as managing editor for a UK tech site.


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