Q&A with Ms Yeah: how to cook up content strategies

We all have that moment when we really want to eat yakitori as work lunch, but there’s one girl who wanted it so badly she turned a drawer in the office into an oven with the help of an electric warming fan.

Named “Ms Yeah” (辦公室小野), the Chinese internet star had been releasing videos weekly of her cooking elaborate dishes with everyday office supplies since February 2017. In seven month’s time, she amassed an impressive number of followers across online platforms, with around 1.4m followers on MeiPai (美拍), 131k followers on Tencent, and 579k followers on YouTube.

Her videos, which are filmed at her office in Chengdu, China, shows how Ms Yeah grills steak using an iron, cooks ramen over a Bunsen burner, and roasts a chicken in a heated flower pot. Her determination to eat has made her a very popular influencer in not only Asia Pacific, but also in Europe and the US.

In an interview with Marketing, Ms Yeah disclosed her journey with brands, her transitioning from a creative, behavioural similarities she has noticed across regions, as well as what she does to maintain an online presence to connect with her followers.

While Ms Yeah refused to disclose how much companies need to pay for a native ad (paid content that is “in-feed” and inherently non-disruptive), Marketing has learnt from other sources that the number has passed RMB$500,000 per video.

According to CBN Data, business generated by internet celebrities, including viewership revenues, advertising and sales of product, have reached RMB$58 billion in 2016, which is far higher than China’s box office in 2015.

Marketing: How did you start out as an influencer?

I spotted my male colleague ironing his shirt, and wished I could iron some beef slides as lunch, so I did it. We filmed the process and I posted it on the internet. I am working in a creative company (洋蔥視頻) and we occasionally do weird things like that.

After around three or four episodes, the company decided to have four to five people as a team, and turn the office joke into a proper weekly project.

Marketing: What role does your boss play in the project?

Unlike other traditional companies, our boss is at the bottom of the food chain. Sometimes we’ll ask him to leave his room so we can shot footage there. Our boss usually let us explore the things we want to do content-wise.

Marketing: What has made your videos so successful?

Be aware of the language – It was not an intended strategy, but I never speak in videos. Since there’s no language barrier when it comes to watching our footage, it’s easier for us to get into other markets. Our videos are now very popular in the Vietnam and Singapore market, and we are seeing US viewers joining in.

Evoke a sense of resonance – Eating and working in the office are two very relevant experiences across age groups, so the combination has attracted both young and more senior viewers.

Be creative yet simple – You really need some very explosive ideas to stand out from a very crowded marketplace of options in the Chinese influencer market. What me and my team do every week, is we would think less about strategies or what, but brainstorm ideas in a casual way. When there’s one idea that make us say, “oh that could work!”, that’s it. We’ll do it.

Marketing: What has led your team to the decision to upload your videos on YouTube?

We’ve seen people overseas sharing our videos and I wish to make an officer channel for them. (YouTube is still blocked in China?) It is, and we wish that in the future, YouTube will be accessible in China so we can share more of our content to the world.

Marketing: Have you spotted any behavioural differences between Chinese and overseas audiences, and how are they impacting your content strategies?

To be frank, there’s not much difference. It’s all about being creative if you want to stand out from the other international influencers.

Right now, we are focusing on our ideas in production instead of chasing trends, and it’s proven to be a good move. Netizens usually love the ideas we have.

Marketing: What about the commercial requests, are they any different between China and other regions?

We’ve collaborated with around seven to eight clients so far and they are all Chinese companies. We are open to connecting with clients of other markets.

The Chinese clients we met have so far been very open, giving us room to develop native ads. It’s very important for clients to show their understanding so we can actualise our creativity at max.

Marketing: What’s next for you? How would you stay relevant on the internet?

It’s a challenging task. We all understand that in the world of internet, one day you’re in, next day you might be out. I’m looking to explore more content-wise and format-wise. For instance, can we try filming something other than food? Or, can we do more live-streaming? We are still experimenting ideas, so please stay tuned on our channel.

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