Visual storytelling is here to stay. With consumers today spending more time than ever before on digital devices, and mobile screen usage at an all-time high, Instagram found itself in an envious position last year – with more than a billion global users to solidify its position as a medium that’s here to stay.
Today, the Facebook-owned platform has created an ecosystem of consumers, creators and brands, and according to studies by Smartly.io, 29% of marketers spend the majority of their ad dollars on Instagram. According to data from Socialbakers, micro influencers – those with less than 100,000 followers – make up an average of 93.9% of all brand cooperations in the regions Socialbakers analysed globally. With the tightening of marketing spend, it comes as no surprise that brands are turning their attention towards a less costly partnership for their campaigns.
In this second part of our two-part “Micro moments matter” series created in collaboration with Adobe and Socialbakers, we speak to Christoffer Cheng, otherwise known as @CuriousChristoffer, on his social habits and his side hustle on the platform.
Recently, we interviewed micro influencer Wendy Tseng (@wendeats), and coincidentally, Cheng is also a practising dentist who works four days a week, but spends the rest of his time building up content for his profile. Residing in Hong Kong, the micro influencer says his claim to fame was “largely coincidental”.
“When I was modelling part-time, Instagram was in its early days and many of my friends were adopting the platform and creating content, which is what led me to start. Throughout time, my community just built up to what it is today. It was fun,” Cheng said, adding he specifically enjoyed sharing content around travel in his early days.
“When you visit beautiful places, you want to capture the memory. So I took a lot of photos and built a lot of content around it. I thought, why not just show it on my Instagram for my friends and family to enjoy. So that’s why I initially posted the content. And the rest, as they say, is just history.”
Today, what started out as a hobby, has turned into a side career and the Instagram star now has more than 58,000 followers.
Moreover, pre-COVID-19, the travel industry was one which banked heavily on influencer marketing. Instagram, in particular, was one medium travel marketers used heavily to reach out to audiences. Marketers worked with influencers on posts, stories, Live and IGTV features to provide a diverse range of content to entertain audiences.
“But the growth is not instant,” he said.
For his own account, Cheng spent nearly six years to grow his following and become popular. After which, it was much easier to attract followers with similar interests. He also credits the initial Instagram algorithm to his growth and says the tweaks made over the years have made it harder for new content creators to be noticed.
Cheng also added that despite having a huge following on his post, the way social media platforms curate their feed leaves him with possibly only half of his followers noticing his posts. To counter the increase in competition on Instagram, he parks a small amount of ad spend for his posts to reach a wider audience.
“I would place a small amount on an ad on my post, targeting the right amount of people. For example, if I am wearing a certain brand, I’d target people who also love that brand so I can get a bit more exposure and potentially increase my following as well. That’s what I am doing to cope with the algorithm changes,” he said.
Luckily for Cheng, he has also pivoted his content to cover more than just travel – which came in handy last year as global tourism came to a standstill. Not only did the pivot help sustain his following during a tough time, it also helped in growing and acquiring new followers, he explained.
Currently, a bulk of his followers are from Hong Kong, given it is his home market, but a large number of followers are also streaming in from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. He says that a majority of them are from their teens to mid-40s and are interested in luxury and travel products.
To watch the full interview, click here.
When asked why he chose to keep his content versatile, sharing content on bags, luxury products, travel and many others, rather than niche, he said authenticity to the human existence where individuals have different sides to them was a key reason.
“I want to keep it genuine where I show what I enjoy as a whole person rather than one side alone. I like travelling, luxury bags, and stylish outfit of the day looks. This is who I normally am and I just want to portray my whole self to my followers,” he said.
Cheng said that while keeping his followers engaged is important to him, he doesn’t go out of his way to intentionally lure them in.”
“I am just who I am, and I post things I like and show my personal aesthetics,” he said.
“The engagement comes naturally when you connect with people [who are similar], and I make friends by replying to their DMs mostly.
“Even if I don’t know [the followers], I connect with them if they share things that I also love. I also reply to comments so it’s more personal and retains the engagement of close followers.”
When it comes to brand partnerships, he says he generally prefers working with brands that he knows and trusts.
“Most of the brands I work with in HK are international and well known. There are also many up and coming brands, but they aren’t usually my clients. Mostly my clients are international ones and I will usually work with a brand that I am already a customer of, or I trust,” he said.
Some of the notable brands Cheng has worked with include Mr Porter, Dior, and LV, which naturally fit with his lifestyle. Currently, while he charges clients per post, there are also customised packages that many clients choose to ensure amplification.
“My fulfilment comes from actual appreciation from followers and I get happy when people give me feedback and appreciate my work,” he said.
“That level of engagement is what I want to achieve. With algorithms changing all the time, numbers can fluctuate quite a bit so we can’t just focus on statistics and numbers alone. At the end of the day, it is also a human to human connection.”
“Micro moments matter” series takeaway:
1. Create value
Building a relationship, be it online or offline, is vital. When you are selling on social media, instead of snapping photos of your products, share with your audience content that would enrich their lives. Share with them ideas of how your products can come in handy to their lives and pay attention to what they are actually concerned about. You have to know what your customers’ concerns are, and find a way to address these through your posts in an authentic manner.
2. Respond quickly
One key aspect to social selling is also responding. As micro influencer Wendy Tseng said, having a conversation or responding to your consumer will help them feel seen and heard by your brand. Of course, having a quick response time is also crucial to building relationships. Should you embark on influencer marketing, and a query comes in to your influencer, have a representative on standby to address the query either directly or through your influencer.
3. Find the right micro influencer
At the end of the day, who you choose to tell your brand story with matters. Always keep your audience in mind when choosing the right influencer for your marketing plans. The micro influencer’s personal brand should appeal to your customer, and remember to take into consideration their values and interests. Having a clear objective will also go a long way in ensuring the partnership is a successful one. As such, brands have to be clear on whether the focus is on brand building or on driving online conversion. This will help you decide on a niche versus versatile micro influencer.
To watch the full interview, click here.