Media & Marketing

Unveiling the world of influencer marketing in Southeast Asia: From follower trends to deinfluencers

Written on:
September 19, 2023
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Ah, the digital realm - a bustling world of memes, trends, and adorable cat and dog videos. In this vast expanse of online wonders, a tribe of charismatic beings reign supreme: the social media influencers. If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through your feed and stumbling upon a post or video from one of them, you’re not alone. In fact, a remarkable 56% of our fellow Southeast Asians follow these influencers like modern-day shamans.

These influencers, with their dedicated followers, have revolutionized marketing strategies, leading brands to embrace influencer partnerships as a major advertising tactic. Influencers wield their impact subtly, often incorporating product placements into their everyday content like makeup tutorials and get-ready-with-me videos or even their travel vlogs. Their seamless integration into your social media feed is a testament to their effectiveness.

To better understand this modern-day saga, we delved into the opinions and behaviors of individuals in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam (N=500 respondents each representative of age and gender).

More than 1 out of 2 of Southeast Asians follow influencers on social media.

Compared to the rest of the region, less Singaporeans (39%) follow influencers but more Filipinos (68%) and Vietnamese (71%) do so. The top three platforms where Southeast Asians follow influencers are YouTube (72%), Instagram (60%), and Facebook (60%). In Thailand and the Philippines, specifically, most follow influencers on YouTube. Such is the case for Instagram in Indonesia and Singapore and Facebook in Vietnam. More Gen Z follow influencers on Instagram (64%) and TikTok (58%) but Facebook is more popular among Millennials (69%) and Gen X (74%).

Do you follow any influencers on social media?

Despite these differences, it is notable that influencers Southeast Asians follow are mostly from their county. Across the region, only some international personalities were named as examples of influencers. When it comes to the content that influencers post, the top 5 topics that interest Southeast Asians are lifestyle (54%), entertainment and/or comedy (52%), food (48%), fashion (41%), and travel (40%). However, this differs among genders. Men primarily follow influencers whose content is about entertainment/comedy (52%), lifestyle (46%), and technology and gadgets (41%). While women also predominantly consume entertainment and comedy (61%) content, their other main interests are food (55%) and beauty (53%).

How popular does an influencer have to be to make an impact?

The influencers followed by Southeast Asians generally have more than a million followers (36%). This is consistent across the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. However, the rest of the population is generally impartial to the amount of followers an influencer has. There is an even spread among the number of micro, macro, and mega influencers that Southeast Asians follow.

Still, not everyone can be an influencer. It is important to Southeast Asians that an influencer is authentic (51%), has a sense of humor (49%), and displays expertise in their specific area (42%). Notably in Indonesia, consistency of recommendations is their top valued attribute. It is also shown that more Vietnamese value engagement with followers.

Often it is the truthfulness of their reviews and whether their personality is genuine or performative, that can make or break an influencer. Some who have lost followers are beauty influencer Mikayla Nogueira who used fake lashes in her mascara review and Quenlin Blackwell who cried over a fake “transaction gone wrong”

Enter the Deinfluencers

In response to criticism about influencers' role in consumerism, a new wave of social media figures has emerged: the deinfluencers. While there is no clear-cut definition of what they are, these individuals challenge our consumerist tendencies by offering alternative perspectives on products and trends. Instead of promoting the latest shiny gadgets, they encourage us to think before swiping our cards. No, they aren’t on anyone’s payroll; they’re our digital conscience, advocating for mindful consumption.

But curiously, the majority of Southeast Asians are impartial to both influencer culture and deinfluencers, despite the growing influencer landscape. Surprisingly, 40% claim to have never made a purchase based on influencer content, and 20% of Gen Z state their last influencer-based purchase was over half a year ago. As for awareness of deinfluencers, Vietnam is ahead of the game where an astonishing 62% has heard of the term.

Trust: The Unspoken Currency

Curious about what truly tickles the trust factor among Southeast Asian consumers? Our dive into the data revealed that user reviews and review sites carry more weight than influencer shout-outs. While 50% maintain a neutral stance on trusting sponsored content, an equal percentage insists on proper tagging of such content. However, 43% are indifferent to the use of #ad or similar tags for sponsored posts.

Yet, when the dust settles, the prevailing sentiment (55%) toward influencers in Southeast Asia is that of neutrality; with the exception of a positive impression being more common in Vietnam (60%). And still, 3 out of 10 Southeast Asians find influencers' sponsored content informative. 1 out of 5 even credits influencer tactics for introducing them to new brands/products.

There is still merit in investing in influencer marketing

While influencers’ sponsored content does not always directly translate to sales, their presence still aids with brand awareness. Having your product or service be promoted by influencers helps keep consumers familiar with your brand.This is still important since consumers will go through three stages of what is called the “buyer’s journey” before they make a purchase. Thus, it is important to have your brand accessible to consumers. Whether you are at the forefront or back of their mind, continuous presence pays off. 

Perhaps it is a matter of industry as well. Among those who have bought something based on influencers’ content, the top 3 areas of purchase are beauty (41%), fashion (38%), and food and beverage (37%). Across males, this is a slightly different case with tech/gadgets (41%), food and beverages (36%), and fashion (30%) as their most common products purchased.

All of this is to say that influencer marketing, just like any other advertising and/and marketing campaigns and executions, require a thought-out strategy. It is important to allocate time to do research about the influencers you are following and/or want to associate with. Deciding who to partner with takes time but the right match will pay off.

What types(s) of product did you buy because of an influencer's content?

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