According to Mediakix, 75% of global brands have decided to invest in influencer marketing. By 2022, the scale of the entire industry will be up to USD 15 billion. What are the influencer marketing trends to watch in 2021? How can enterprises and creators create a win-win situation in the industry? Let's hear from Keynes Cheng, iKala's Co-founder and COO, and JJ Lu, Managing Director of Carat Media.
What do you think is the reason for the rise of the influencer economy? Do you see any difference when it comes to the positioning of KOLs?
JJ: There is a popular saying on the Internet a long time ago: I would rather believe in netizens than in friends. When making purchase decisions, the first thing one must do is go online, take a look at the product review, and refer to the opinions of influencers. Adding to the fact that during the pandemic, there is a growing awareness of fake news, so there is a serious crisis of confidence on the Internet. We all know that it is easy for us to know a person, but understanding what is behind an organization or a media is difficult, so no wonder consumers would rather believe in influencers and the social responsibility of influencers is increasing.
Keynes: I think influencer marketing is a marketing channel born with the development of media. Everyone knows that in advertising, the placement shifts with people's attention. According to the 20-80 rule, most of the content on social media is created by influencers. When everyone is following the content, these influencers become the focus of people. How to take advantage of this and match it with the brand, or even boost the conversion of e-commerce is what people around the world care about the most, and it is considered a big trend to come.
What are the current phenomena or future trends worth paying attention to?
Keynes: The rise of YouTubers has caused the entire TV marketing budget to be shifted to the online platform and even traditional artists are opening their YouTube channels. Second, with more and more people becoming slashies, you can see micro-influencers or KOCs popping out. The number of influencers with less than 10,000 followers is growing. It means that we can not ignore the effect of word of mouth anymore because these micro-influencers have their very own audience segmentation. Third, according to Facebook and Google, people are spending more time on digital platforms, so we can see a paradigm shift. That is to say, you can find that social media are seeking e-commerce opportunities.
JJ: Since Carat is a media agency that provides integrated solutions, we can find that our enterprise customers are allocating more and more budget to influencer marketing. Nowadays, influencers can not only be brand ambassadors but carve out new product channels.
How can enterprises find the right influencer?
Keynes: KOL Radar is one of iKala AI-powered products. We use AI crawlers to collect data from influencers with more than one thousand fans on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. After that, we will perform semantic analysis and divide the influencers into 27 categories. Next, we collect the data of their posts, including the number of likes, engagements, comments and views. So brands find a suitable influencer on our platform with a data-based and systematic method. The first step is that advertisers should define the keywords according to their products, and we can retrieve the data from our system. In the second step, we will take a closer look at this influencer's engagement rate and view rate. This is a more systematic way to assist our brand customers to focus on the right influencers and find the most effective ones.
JJ: About two years ago, Carat did research at its London headquarters. Two years ago, there were two very popular influencers, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. The social media metrics of the two looked similar, but if you really dig into the content of the fans' reaction, you will find that those following Gordon Ramsay two years ago are who like his image in Hell's Kitchen, while those who really care about recipes will go to Jamie Oliver's. That is why I think the content of engagement is also very important for brands. Two years later, we all know the current trend of key opinion consumers, so there is no way to only rely on a few big influencers. We may have to find 20-30, or even hundreds of influencers when we want to reach different audience segmentations. Since information nowadays is fragmented, we must use a more systematic way to find the right influencer, and AI will become very important on this.
What are the differences between KOL and KOC? How can we leverage their characteristics to maximize the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns?
Keynes: What we mean by KOL is that his group of fans is relatively large, so his impact is more obvious. Let's say KOLs in Taiwan, you may think of Tsai A-Ga, the impact of who is just like traditional artists and celebrities. On the other hand, for those with no more than 10,000 followers, we call them KOCs. If a brand is launching new products, it may need someone with more credibility to recommend it, then KOL may be a better option. However, if the brand wants to boost sales, or expect a high engagement rate, then it may want to find some people closer to the people to do these things, and it would be more appropriate to invite a KOC to create a word-of-mouth effect.
iKala is certified as the YouTube MCN partner this year. We also launched the RiStar project with Carat, hoping to invest some resources to cultivate more rising influencers. What is the value that the RiStar project can bring to creators?
Keynes: We hope to create a "sandbox" in our RiStar project. Creators won't be restricted after joining the project, because we won't sign any agency contracts with them. They can still be free on creating content, but at the same time enjoy the resources in our sandbox. For courses, we have already introduced TeSA resources to our project. And for brand cooperation, we can organize matchmaking meetings between creators and brand owners, so that creators can quickly understand what the brand's needs are. Moreover, for those who would like to have more connections with other creators, we will host offline gatherings.
One thing I should clarify here is the reason why iKala and Carat initiate the RiStar project. We really hope to cultivate qualified creators who understand the brands' needs through our multi-channel network. After we collect the data of these creators, we can recommend them to enterprise customers.
JJ: There must be a lag phase before a creator can become famous. After a period of exploring, one day, he will find the right content and reach the right person. We hope to shorten the time every creator spends in this sandbox, guide them in the right direction, and finally create a win-win situation for platforms, influencers and customers.