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Nafisa Dahodwala

Published on

June 14, 2021


influencer marketing

In the past year, if you have taken to making dalgona coffee or found yourself posing against mystical backgrounds to the tunes of Aurora Runway - congratulations! You have officially been baptized by influencer culture.

While the pandemic has led to several debates about the effectiveness of influencer marketing, with 3.96 billion people using social media worldwide and half a million active influencers, this is one marketing strategy that is here to stay. In fact, according to Business Insider, the influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth USD 15 billion by next year which is a significant spike over the past years.

That said, influencer marketing as we know it, is rapidly changing. Consumers are no longer entertained by pretty faces and hipster backgrounds, and influencers are not necessarily eager to work with brands with the biggest budgets.

Purpose and perspective are gradually finding their way into today’s influencer culture and that stands true even in Malaysia where influencer campaigns were once pre-dominantly product based.

The faux pas that cost followers

This can be further justified in light of recent events where once much-loved Malaysian fashion influencer Neelofa lost 100,000 followers in a single day after claims surfaced that she had violated SOPs while the country was in state of  restricted movement. A repeat of events was once again seen when celebrity singer and social media influencer Siti Nurhaliza hosted a family event to celebrate the birth of her second child amid rising COVID-19 cases in the country. Both these events cost the popular KOLs not just their followers but also their reputation, as angry netizens took to twitter to question their morals amidst dire circumstances.

Incidents similar to these are getting increasingly common in Malaysia where netizens are not holding back on their sentiments regarding what influencers choose to talk about on their social feed, spelling volumes about where the influencer culture in Malaysia is headed.

For marketers and brands, this means creating campaigns with a deeper understanding of the influencers they choose to work with and the value they would bring to their brands, in order to maximise returns from influencer run campaigns.

Push for advocacy vs promotion

Gone are the days when influencer marketing comprised of sending products to your selected KOLs and having your product pictures spam the social feed of consumers. Online ads and catalogues are good enough to tick those boxes. In the post pandemic era however, brands need to leverage KOLs to tell their story. Are you a local enterprise? Are you a wholly women led business? Does your business support sustainability efforts? How can you showcase these efforts instead of just your products?

Businesses can engage their communities and work with influencers who share the same mindset in sustainability, through strategic campaigns, bringing to light their business values, and consumers are more willing to consider your brand when they advocate for the same issues. Take for example, sustainable business, The Hive – It teamed up with vegan influencer, Davina Goh.



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A post shared by Davina Goh (@imdavinagoh)


Engage for Impact

When Malaysia faced its first wave of COVID-19 infections, the Kita jaga Kita (we take care of ourselves) initiative was in part founded by a local author Hanna Alkaf to provide help to NGOs (non-government organisations) in need. Within a few days, the hashtag was trending across all social platforms, including Instagram and Twitter and #kitajagakita eventually found place in several campaigns of public interest. Celebrities like Harith Iskander, took to their social feed sharing their own #kitajagakita efforts to support the community at large.



The biggest takeaway from this entire campaign indicates, that as a brand, if you are championing a corporate social responsibility project with the potential to create a positive impact, there is no better place to do so than with the influencer market. Accelerated by the pandemic, influencers in Malaysia are keen to go the extra mile to support brands who are socially conscious and work for local causes. As such, brands should look at weaving in an element of impact to their influencer campaigns to drive further engagement across social channels.

Influencer = Instagram? Not Really.

With 11,488,000 Instagram users in Malaysia accounting for nearly 34.3% of its entire population, Instagram is arguably the most common platform of choice when it comes to managing influencer campaigns. That said, with growing numbers of active social media users, other platforms like Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Linkedin are not too far behind. Over the last years, Tiktok amassed 4 million users in Malaysia and LinkedIn alone has close to 6 million active users.  

As the use of social media in Malaysia continues to diversify through generations, consumer interests and even content style, audiences expect brands to deliver content that matches their preferences. Whether it is through branded content or influencers.

In conclusion

Brands needs to take a step back and evaluate the value influencers can bring across these channels. For instance, Gen Zers gravitate toward video content and their top choice for social is TikTok. This makes the viral video content platform best suited for lifestyle brands looking to attract a younger demographic as recently demonstrated by Pepsi’s Bold TikTok Challenge.

On the other hand, if you are looking to start a conversation surrounding a new piece of data or research unearthed by your brand, engaging with influencers on Twitter and LinkedIn, could very well shape the future of that conversation.

That said, influencer culture in Malaysia has undergone a dynamic shift. Brands need to keep a close watch on these changes, both in audience preferences and influencer operations, to make the most of their influencer marketing campaigns.

Looking to build an influencer campaign in Malaysia? Get in touch with our team here.

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