MONETISING market influence 

Tech April 02, 2017 06:30


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ARE YOU a social media influencer? If so, you now can monetise your influence. 

If you have at least 3,000 followers on your social-media platform - Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or SnapChat - you will be considered an influencer by Withfluence. 

Influence marketing is now important as many people do not trust advertisements. People trust people, their friends. People trust whom they follow. This is why brands understand they must express their message to consumers, not directly but through influencers who get the brands' message to consumers efficiently. 

That is why influencer marketing is getting more popular in the United States and Europe. But it is quite new in Asia. 

The concept of Withfluence is to provide a platform to connect brands and influencers to do influencer marketing. 

Helping international brands

Hiro Okamoto, founder and president of Withfluence, said the company was a technology platform that helped international brands reach Asian millennials to promote and sell their products and services local markets. 

"Our vision is to diversify the Asian influencer economy worldwide. We empower Asia's social-media influencers to create an opportunity to work with international brands and online," he said. 

"We help advertising agencies touch local Asian consumers. We focus on developing technology to solve fundamental problems of influencer marketing. We understand how challenging and how tough [it is] to measure performance, [and that] is why we developed this platform, to solve this problem in this emerging market." 

He said Thailand was a leading country for social media, in fact three years ahead of Japan. For example, Instagram just started in Japan, whereas it has been popular in Thailand for many years. 

"When talking about influence marketing here, people might think about 'Net idols, [but that] is not truly[totally] true. Some part is true. 

"The mission for us is to help influencers work with international brands. They [are good at using] social media but they [are] not good in technology, [and] that's why we help them to meet and collaborate with international brands to create their opportunities," Okamoto said.

On the other side, the brand and advertising-agency side, they want to tap into new markets, especially Japanese companies that want to expand their business, since the Japanese market is in decline. It is not easy for them to do influence marketing outside Japan.

Even though people eventually will know influencer marketing is a part of an advertising campaign, the key word is "ambassador" to make it different.

Okamoto said the brand ambassador would help the brand express its message to consumers. 

Once a brand asks someone to convey its messages, the ultimate goal is to help brands build sustainable relationships with influencers, then the influencers will become ambassadors of the brand. Consumers will trust the ambassadors of the brands. Finally, the brand can build sustainable relationships with consumers directly. 

He explained that Withfluence's platform was meant to make everything simple. Brands can easily find influencers in each category, and communicate with them about their campaign, and finally brands can see the performance of each influencer, including the number of engagements, in one place. 

This platform can help brands and ad agencies successfully exercise an influencer marketing campaign. 

Meanwhile, the platform plays the role of facilitator. The content is the important factor in influencer marketing, so it needs influencers to create the content themselves. 

"Engagement is very important. That's why we do not accept brands' messages, we only accept their requirements. Then we communicate with influencers. Influencers create the content that touch consumers," Okamoto said.

The system is an end-to-end platform for influencer marketing. Currently, its team has strong relationships with influencers, while it develops exclusive features for True Music's influencers.

Phiphatphong Sumranphun, influencer marketing specialist at Withfluence, explained that the performance of influencers was not only the number of fans or followers, but also about engagement rates, including the number of "likes", comments and shares on each post on social media. Tools can measure each influencer, both the number of followers and how much engagement they create. 

The average influencer's engagement rate is 7-9 per cent. 

Each social medium has its own algorithms to measure the engagement rate. 

Withfluence does as well, along with an algorithm to measure the performance of each influencer, Phiphatphong said.

Currently, Withfluence has 1,200 influencers in Asia. The company has been set up for one year. It provides influencer marketing platforms for many international brands such as SK-II, Minon, and Mia magazine. 

Okamoto said: "We have learned that the relationship with influencers is very important. Our team contacts every single influencer, and we get them to sign on to our platform. 

"We do not focus on the Japanese market, we want to be more international [in] Asia.

"We are here because of brands' request. Thailand is the primary market for us: 35 per cent of our influencers are Thais. Singapore and Hong Kong influencers are very active, while [for] Thai influencers, we are new for them. We have to [educate them on] what our platform is and what benefits they will get." 

He said Procter & Gamble and Unilever had influencer-marketing teams in Singapore who demonstrate what they do, how to find influencers, and how to implement the campaign. 

"We [are] open for everyone, not only independent influencers but also influencers working with [an] agency," Okamoto said.

Withfluence has two models of revenue streams. One is a subscription fee, starting from US$1,000 (Bt36,000) per month, and the other is a platform fee, 15 per cent of influence price, while agency charge 50 per cent. Price of influencers in Thailand is more expensive than others in Asia. And there is no standard for the change rate.

"Our machine cleverly hand-picks Asia's influencers from [places] including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan [and] Hong Kong based on demographics, expected performance and audiences, to connect you with the right influencer for your campaign," Okamoto said. 

"Search and browse our database for over thousands of content creators in Asia by channel, category, location and number of followings to match your desired niche. We are committed to bringing a human touch back into advertising." 

Helping True Group

Withfluence has been helping to expand True Group's digital and entertainment business across Asia.

"We see the opportunities, we see True Music's artists increase opportunities to work with international brands; this is the bringing [goal] of the collaboration. It is also to sign agreements with True and IBM to co-develop a cognitive computing technology development centre in Bangkok. They have 150 engineers here. 

"Cognitive computing technology is to become the next-generation influencer marketing platform. We will start to connecting Watson to the platform to allow the brands and influencers the best matching, using machine learning technology and natural language-recognition technology," Okamoto said.

The collaboration between Withfluence and True Incube is a result of the effort of the Japanese Embassy, which organised a pitch to connect Japanese start-ups with large Thai companies, and Thai start-ups with large Japanese companies. 

True Incube's executive business development manager, Damien Durand, said this memorandum of understanding was like the first step, to be able to track not only performance and but also relationships between influencers and consumers. 

"We see that this collaboration is going on, we will consider investing [in Withfluence]. This MoU is for at least one year, but it is renewable," he said.

Under the collaboration, he said, they set up some key performance indicators such as the number of clients a brand wants, and each influencer's engagement and impact. If they do not have many followers and they do not create good content, they cannot make an impact.

True Music expects Withfluence to help it expand into the Japanese market.