Exclusive: Nuffnang shares industry secrets on how to become a successful influencer, KOL

Social media is big business on the marketing front these days with savvy brands and businesses constantly collaborating with influencers to create online buzz.

This fast-growing trend stems from the reality that influencer marketing empowers brands to attract more customers, scale up to get more visibility while providing higher return-on-investment (ROI) over other traditional marketing channels.

The numbers support today’s marketing reality: A Nielsen-Rakuten 2022 study shows 80% of consumers following influencers are more likely to purchase products recommended by influencers.

Toward this end, numerous people these days aspire to become successful social media influencers, or otherwise known as key opinion leaders (KOL) and content creators.

Typically, these terms can be used interchangeably and just means people who have a platform for creating and posting content that has the ability to influence or shape public opinion.

If you aspire to become an influencer or KOL, read on as Marketing Magazine recently caught up with Jo-yee Lee, Assistant Country Manager of Nuffnang Malaysia, to share insights on what it takes to be successful in this field.

Marketing Magazine: Statista forecast analysis shows ad spending for the Influencer advertising segment in Malaysia is projected to reach US$59.40m in 2023. How, then, do influencers and KOLs ensure sustainability & longevity for brand endorsements?

Jo-yee Lee: There are 4 main points on how KOLs can ensure sustainability and longevity for brand endorsements.

  • Remain authentic and honest.

Firstly, it is super important that influencers (or KOLs/content creators) remain authentic and honest. They should only promote products that they truly believe in and have tried before. Hence, both brands and influencer marketing agencies should always do all the pre-work needed to ensure this, especially for a new product launch.

For example, brands should provide product samples for the influencers to test out, and influencer marketing agencies need to perform interest checks on the influencer’s opinions of the products involved before deciding to engage them.

  • Remember why your followers follow you.

Next, when working on branded content, influencers need to bear in mind the reason why their followers follow them in the first place. Is it because of their creativity?

Their strong opinion in any particular space? Or even just the way they present themselves?

These are all very important factors to note as ultimately, their content, both branded and unbranded, must be able to resonate and speak to their followers to avoid coming off too strongly as planted ads or hard-sell product placements, which might put followers off.

  • Think long-term!

At Nuffnang, we also always advise influencers to be opportunistic in building long-term relationships with the brands they endorse.

The longer an influencer works with a brand, the more reliable they become, because the influencer is ultimately building rapport with the brand’s users as well as establishing their genuine interest and endorsement of the brand and products. So, if you’re an influencer, try to approach social media jobs with this mindset!

  • Always improve your results.

Finally, influencers will have to constantly be very aware of the results of their social media content as well. Especially when everything is measurable on social media, influencers need to be truthful and constantly look into ways to outperform their current performance for the brand they are endorsing.

Brands always prefer to work with influencers who are more likely to deliver results in their social media content, as it is in line with their marketing objectives too.

Marketing Magazine: How can nano and micro influencers avoid pitfalls of promoting brands/items which are unsafe/fraudulent? What regulations are available for promoted items and how does the tax element for influencers income work?

Jo-yee Lee: For the first part of your question, our most straightforward advice to minimise this risk is for influencers to only take on social media jobs from well-known and reliable influencer marketing agencies, like Nuffnang.

Unless the influencer is familiar with the law, knows how to do due diligence on companies, or has connections with a team of influencer marketing experts, we highly advise against influencers working directly with brands, as there have been too many instances where we see unethical brands failing these groups of influencers with smaller followings.

As for regulations for promoted items, it really depends on the industry that each product falls under. For example, alcohol may have very different regulations and rules from regular household items.

We would recommend influencers, brands and influencer marketing agencies to do their best to refer to and adhere to the relevant industry’s guidelines, MCMC guidelines and other marketing and advertising guidelines (like the CMCF [Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia]’s Content Code) for these items.

In terms of influencers and income tax, it works the same way as any self-employed individual and the taxable amount depends on their income bracket.

So, make sure to save your payment receipts wherever applicable as proof of your employment and income, since influencers will need to declare their earnings to LHDN just like the rest of us!

Marketing Magazine: The social media landscape is constantly evolving – influencer and content marketing today doesn’t only involve an extravagant lifestyle. Any thoughts on the new trend of POVVO (pauper/poor person) TikTok & Instagram, popularised by personalities like @Shabazsays, who gained his first 1 million followers in 3 months – and also sells POVVO Merchandise?

Jo-yee Lee: I don’t think the POVVO trend is well known just because it is showing content that directly opposes an extravagant lifestyle. But the fact that it has become popular is because the social media scene has matured by quite a bit already.

Thus, POVVO content gives social media users a closer sense of realism and relatability, which is what instantaneous content functions such as IG stories and TikTok videos can portray.

Nobody wakes up in a yacht every day or has a myriad of Birkin bags to match their outfits with, and social media users are smart enough to see through it.

Marketing Magazine: What are some other influencer marketing trends for the rest of 2023? Fashion & Beauty, Arts & Entertainment, F&B meanwhile seem to be the 3 most popular (and crowded) verticals for Malaysian influencers. 

Jo-yee Lee: One of the most interesting things we discovered was the theme of finding joy when it comes to Malaysians and trends.

  • To find joy, travelling seems to be the current trend since Malaysians are looking for accessible and worthy experiences to bring them happiness. And the content on social media definitely reflects that.
  • Plus, it’s not just consumers who are on revenge-travelling mode, but companies like airlines, hotels, experience, travelling accessories and credit card companies who have been doing poorly during the pandemic are optimizing their marketing spends with mediums like influencers, native content and more.

In terms of social media content itself, informative, descriptive, listicle-based and easy-to-navigate types of content are doing really well right now.

Think of the Reels, Carousels, or TikToks you’ve seen sharing useful tips, inspirations and step-by-step guides! In line with that, platforms like Lemon8 by Bytedance and Xiao Hong Shu (aka Little Red Book) are also upcoming and trending for hosting such content too.

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The APPIES is an annual event that presents a rare opportunity for creative, media, digital and marketing agencies or brands to present their best campaigns to the industry.

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