A creative at heart, Jemimah James Wei is not your average photo-ready influencer. Currently a full time graduate student, Wei is also a host and the face behind her blog, jemmawei.com, which was launched in 2007.
Wei is also not new to the advertising and marketing industry, having worked as a copywriter and social media strategist for Havas Media from 2011 to 2013. She was also a social media community manager for AirAsia Expedia’s Backick in 2012, according to her blog.
Over the years, she has also written for multiple international and local brands, such as Volkswagen Singapore, Clarks, DBS, AirFrance, Singtel, and Coca Cola, amongst others. Meanwhile, some of Wei’s favourite long term clients include Starbucks, Airbnb, Changi Airport and PayPal.
In Marketing’s “Now following” column, she talks about how her experience as an influencer has been so far, and some of the challenges in getting to where she was today.
Read also: Now following: Xiaxue
Marketing: When and how did you start out as an influencer?
By accident, I think. I always had a blog simply because it was my generation’s “thing”. Everyone had a Livejournal, Xanga, or Blogspot, where they talked about what they had for lunch, what they did after school. And I suppose it all grew from there.
I’ve always been a storyteller, and I’ve grown up writing my whole life. I think my online snippets – Instagram, website, Twitter – function a little as fragments of a story that people read over time.
My readership and numbers definitely boomed after I started hosting a talk show with Clicknetwork TV. My current show is called Hype Hunt and it is a lot of fun, so if you haven’t already checked it out…
Marketing: How do you source for most of your jobs?
Generally the feedback I’ve gotten from clients is that someone on their team read/reads my blog. This works really well for me because they come to me already knowing what my style is like. This sets the kind of expectations we both should have, instead of starting from ground zero with a generic brief.
Marketing: What are some of the challenges of being an influencer in Singapore?
You know, it’s always tough when someone asks me this question because truth be told, every job is challenging. And the perks of mine are very public, and very much a form of privilege.
That doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s tough and has its challenges, but I’m always concerned with the need not to trivialise the fact that at the end of the day, it’s a great problem to have because I love how it’s given me so many opportunities to try new and wonderful things.
I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is managing the lack of/invasion of privacy and personal space. And while it almost always comes from a good place, the fact that I can be randomly touched or pulled into a hug without warning, or taken candid photos of in public is still a bit of a shock.
So I think privacy and personal space is something you sacrifice a bit when you enter this industry – though in a perfect world, it shouldn’t be.
Marketing: What are some of the outrageous demands you have gotten from clients?
Outrageous demands… I think it’s not so much one particular outrageous demand, but just problems that stem from a lack of understanding regarding the industry in general. For one thing – many brands still don’t understand that an influencer’s personal page is their personal page.
Copy-pasting a press release with a hundred facts on why your product is the best is never going to be effective.
Brands need to understand that the influencer is best positioned to come up with content that appeals to their specific audience. Influencers also need to be responsible enough to take each campaign seriously and thoughtfully as well, to be fair to both ends.
Marketing: What are some things you feel clients should take note of when it comes to working with influencers?
Because of the nature of the industry, each influencer is different.
So you shouldn’t expect one generic brief to work well for many different influencers!
It’s very much like working with a portfolio of different brand clients in advertising – you wouldn’t use the same campaign idea for seven different clients, would you?
Marketing: How can marketers make the influencer-client relationship sweeter?
Have a conversation with your influencer and client to figure out what you all agree will work best for the interests of the campaign.
I’ve found that my best campaigns all have one thing in common – the mechanics, execution, and direction were crafted by me and the client.
It’s more work, but it makes for better content.
Marketing: How would you describe your followers and how do you engage with them?
It’s hard for any social influencer to answer this question properly. The main reason being, the vocal minority is all we have contact with! I would say given online culture, especially in Singapore, only about five to ten percent would dare leave a comment past the regular emoji responses.
Part of this is shyness, but I think a larger part is, people are content just observing and don’t feel the need to participate in the conversation. The percentage of my followers who do, regardless, are great. They’re always responding to my posts with questions and challenging opinions – which I totally welcome.
I’ve had some really great public conversations with followers on issues that resonate strongly with us – problematic themes in pop culture, the aesthetic vs pragmatic value of art, so on and so forth.
Recently, the conversations have been preoccupied mainly with feminism in a first world country, and the idea of privilege. It’s an ongoing conversation which continually shapes the way I think and respond, and I hope they would say the same.
I wouldn’t say I do anything special. But I do think that the topics I talk about tend to invite conversation, which is where all the above comes in.
Marketing: Which social media platform is your favourite?
My blog isn’t really a social media platform since it’s just my own writing, but it’s definitely my favorite. And I like twitter as well, although it’s totally unfashionable now! Haha.
Marketing: What about the platform which gives you the highest engagement?
Tough to say. I think they’re quite evenly spread out. But I’m seeing a definite rise in Instagram Stories engagement of late. It’s raw, intimate, and immediate. And pragmatically – probably because Facebook, which bought IG over, is pushing IGS as a platform very heavily now.
Facebook has always done this with new initiatives – FB Photo Albums, FB Videos, and Instagram Videos. Now the new kid on the block is Instagram Stories, I suppose. It’ll drop later, when Facebook has found a new toy to play with, but for now it’s very hot. It’s just the way it is.
Marketing: Who is an influencer you look up to? Any fellow local influencers you look up to?
Internationally, I grew up loving Shini Park of Park and Cube. Possibly this is down to representation – seeing a prolific Asian on the international scene – and also down to the fact that I adore her writing!
Locally, it’s tough for me to say if there are local influencers I admire because the industry is so small that we’re all kind of friends, you know? But I have a lot of respect for older women in not just the influencer scene, but the media scene in general.
My producer, Gillian Tan of Munkysuperstar, inspires me a lot with both her work ethic and drive. I can quite confidently say that I would be nowhere near what I am today without her influence and guidance, both work wise and life wise!
Marketing: What are some of your views on the influencer landscape locally and globally?
Still growing. People are still trying to find their footing in this ever changing scene, and I think the boom will continue for a couple of years more, at least.
It’s an industry with a lot of potential, and it’s definitely disrupted the traditional modes of how we consume culture and influence, so that’s something I find fascinating on a personal level.
Marketing: How has the influencer landscape changed since you first entered?
Well brands are a lot more willing to see the influencer model as a feasible marketing avenue now. When I first started out, everyone was so suspicious! But of course it’s the risk-takers that ended up benefiting from the leap of faith, so to speak.
And now, all brands want to use influencers, whether or not it makes sense for their marketing efforts.
I guess it’s good for business in a way, but I do think the next step for the industry requires agencies and brands to be a lot more discerning, instead of blindly hopping on the influencer trend just because there are numbers there.
Marketing: What’s next for you?
I’m currently doing my Masters in Creative Writing at NTU as well as teaching a class there, so once that wraps I might take a bit of a break from my academic life before going on to pursue my Ph.D. In the meanwhile, I’ll be working on expanding a few campaign ideas I’ve been in talks with brands about.
I think I’ve reached a stage where I’m kind of using the numbers I have online to push my own personal interests, and one way this has worked out for me was collaborating with Times Bookstores and Changi Airport to curate a shelf of reading recommendations in their storefront.
That was really amazing for me – and the response so far has been great too! So forcing people to read in 2017 – seems like a pretty good resolution for the year to me.