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Viewpoints: Under the influence

Today, practically every marketing strategy includes influencer relations. Once a buzzword, ‘influencer’ is now a familiar term amongst consumers and the media at large, with publications like Hong Kong Tatler and #legend publishing stories of the hottest social stars in town, while the magazine 100most actively builds its journalists as influencers themselves.

Since 2015, there’s been a whopping 88% increase in internet usage here in Hong Kong. This ever-growing user group is exposed to seeing the same type of paid-for content repeatedly, from brands who take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. With increasing regulations requiring partnership transparency, consumers are now more than ever empowered to think twice about the samey #sponsored posts popping up on their feeds.

As marketers, the problem we face is how to get the best possible value from these digital voices, amidst the constant changes and noise. To truly benefit from influencer relations, brands need to plot out the right influencer and the most relevant story against the core objectives –results against those objectives will define success. In doing so, they’ll reach consumers in a way that earns attention and doesn’t get lost in the sea of irrelevant content that simply screams a key message. Sounds easy, but getting it right can be tough.

Be the smartest, not just the loudest: Whilst a brand can technically reach more people by working with an influencer who boasts the most followers, there is a richness in partnering with alternative individuals, who are able to share compelling, credible stories. Fashion e-tailer Grana, for example, has been working with a collective of both ambassadors and micro-influencers on its pursue quality campaign, encouraging conversations around ‘quality’ from a physical and personal standpoint. In the process, they are showcasing their brand vision, all through building a solid, trusted influencer community.

Co-create relevant content: This sounds an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many marketers don’t adhere. Hong Kong is the only market where practical yet funny content is preferred. Here at Golin, we paired Amazon Book Depository with Uncle Siu – who uses witty humour to teach Hongkongers English – to orchestrate the first ever English Reading Week. The videos attained 1.6+ million impressions, but more importantly, drove 150% year-on-year growth in website traffic from Hong Kong. This fusion of entertaining and practical storytelling worked in Hong Kong due to its relevance. Overarching global statistics, however, indicate funny content as a lesser priority and so this approach may not have been so successful in other markets.

Use influencers to gain insights: Through dashboards and data, influencers have access to a wealth of insights; from preferences of posting styles, to what time of day their followers are most active, to products that incite reaction. Rather than treating influencers as static platforms, brands can discover real value by working with them to gain access to tangible take-outs. For example, travel influencer Jerry C tells us: “I can see exactly the type of content my followers are responsive to, and am able to share that information. This means that, right from the planning process, we can develop a content approach that directly appeals to my followers’ style, while benefiting the brand I choose to partner with.” We should be agile in using those learnings. If the audience is responding to a particular type of content, don’t stick to your plan rigidly, adapt, change to suit their needs.

Having a continually evolving outlook with relevant characters and narrative will unlock scroll-stopping value, that is measured not only in eyeballs but impact.

Lottie Longford is senior manager at Golin Hong Kong, a member of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong.

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