International Influencer Marketing: How To Find Success in Emerging Markets
As if we haven’t emphasized it enough, influencer marketing isn’t some fad – it’s big business, and more notably, it’s an industry that is only continuing to grow. According to Business Insider, the influencer marketing industry is expected to be a $15 billion dollar industry by 2022, and organizations around the world have been employing the strategy in rapidly growing numbers over the past half-decade. But understanding how influencer marketing differs from country to country is essential to the overall success of your marketing campaign. There a number of nuances to consider when it comes to influencer marketing in different countries, and not just in terms of engagement and brand perception. Aspects like campaign cost and regional restrictions need to be understood before embarking on this journey.
Brands need to understand how each country differs, not only in terms of industry differences but also in terms of culture. It’s not as easy as simply isolating the target audience within a specific locale and marketing towards them. It’s also about the influencers themselves and how ready they are to partner up with your brand that you need to take into consideration.
The rapid rise of influencer marketing in recent years has enabled companies to recruit influencers to market their products and services to both home-grown U.S. audiences and audiences overseas alike. But inserting your brand into the world of international influencer marketing can be a complex matter. Marketing managers need to know how effective the use of influencer marketing will be in the specific country that they are targeting when investing in an international marketing campaign.
Why Is Influencer Marketing Important?
During these times of social unrest and economic uncertainty, it’s understandable to wonder how brands can use influencer marketing. The concept of using an influential public figure to promote products has been in practice for decades (if not centuries). However, in the past, the promotion itself was relatively transparent. While advertisements may have corresponded to the patterns of authority and sympathy, they were obvious – paid promotions from influential people that were perceived to be inauthentic by most.
But those days are slowly coming to an end. There is a multitude of studies and data sets that prove that millennials do not trust traditional advertising methods. Yet this isn’t necessarily specific to millennials, though they are often front and center in the focus of brand marketing efforts, being that they are often the most difficult to access by traditional means. There is just as much evidence that, in fact, most demographic groups do not trust traditional advertising messages.
We aren’t trying to pick on TV commercials or billboards, by any means. This trend has affected not only print and television advertising but also traditional online advertising formats. Now mind you, we are not inferring that all advertising has become useless. But the reality is that a combination of banner blindness, a wave of consumer mistrust, and an increase in competitive advertising costs have led to a decrease in the effectiveness of traditional marketing campaigns.
With the loss of trust in advertising and the growing usage of social networks, influencer marketing has emerged as one of the great vessels of brand advertising in the current business landscape. While influencer marketing is sometimes less transparent in motives, it is far more authentic. This is what makes influencer marketing so important. In an age where authenticity and influence have seemingly converged, the need for adaptation and adoption is no longer a “down the road” conversation. Modern marketing is only effective when it’s highly-targeted and authentic, and influencers represent the ideal partners in achieving both of those objectives.
Influencer marketing is an industry that is not only booming, it’s a market that is growing in maturity seemingly by the day. North America is expected to continue to be the largest market as it pertains to the global influencer marketing sector. But other markets are rapidly growing and nipping at the heels of the world’s largest influencer market. The Asia Pacific market is expected to grow at the highest CAGR (compound annual growth rate) during 2021 due to the increasing adoption of advanced technologies across countries like China, India, and Japan. The rising number of social media users in the Asia Pacific market is expected to boost the adoption of influencer marketing in the region. Additionally, the growing implementation of ad-blocking solutions by users across both the Asia Pacific and Europe is further accelerating the growth of the market.
Alibaba is a shining example of the growth of the influencer market overseas. As one of the pioneers of shoppable videos in China, the e-comm giant has big plans to attract and train international influencers with the goal of selling more products around the world. AliExpress plans to recruit as many as 100,000 “promoters,” to help brands and merchants on AliExpress promote their products through the major social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc.). Outside of popular influencers, the company is also looking to partner with talented content creators behind the camera and experienced marketers who have access to customer acquisition channels that brands like AliExpress desire.
Market maturity is a point of contention for many brands that are perhaps apprehensive about dipping their toes into the waters of influencer marketing. But as mentioned early, the industry is expected to be worth $15 billion dollars by 2022, so if your brand is wary of the “unknown”, what we do know is that influencer marketing is a global initiative. If your brand isn’t already engaging in influencer marketing, you may be a bit behind the eight ball.
Finding Success With Influencers In Emerging International Markets
Brands that are looking to expand into foreign markets need to focus on many things, but gaining the trust of local business partners and prospective customers is near the top of the list. Traditionally, the way you went about this was to send your companies executives to build personal relationships with international business partners. Additionally, you could hire local distribution partners to represent your products or services overseas.
However, both of these approaches are quite time-intensive. At times, this may require executives to spend weeks (or even months) in foreign markets, which can be both exhausting and expensive. In addition to overseas business travel and accommodations, relationships with local distribution partners often require a significant up-front investment to get started and manage effectively. With the pandemic still in full swing and hampering international travel, while simultaneously disrupting the global economy, traditional methods are not only outdated – they are all but impossible to engage in with the current state of the world.
But the surge in social media usage and the rapid rise of influencer marketing has created a brand new type of local partner: influencers.
These online creators are local thought leaders on social media with loyal and engaged followings. They spend their days developing new content — videos, photos, even podcasts — and engaging their followers, building active communities both on and offline. They occupy seemingly any topic or interest you can possibly imagine – from fashion to eSports to the stock market. Their audience turns to them for industry insights, new product information, and recommendations. Over a period of months or years, they have established the trust of thousands, if not millions, of your target customers. With this in mind, why not weave your brand into their story, rather than rack your brain trying to tell yours from scratch?
Traditionally, B2C brands in industries like fashion, beauty, and consumer electronics have spent the most on influencer marketing, partnering with a litany of different influencers across various campaigns. But B2B firms are also increasingly turning to international influencers to engage their target customers who reside in international markets.
Brands have 3 options when deciding how to develop their influencer marketing programs:
- Local strategy & local implementation: Local marketing teams determine how their local organization will work with influencers in their country and clearly define parameters, and then the local marketing team will put the plan into action.
- Global strategy & local implementation: Global marketing teams create the framework and establish standards for working with influencers, but local teams in each country have the green light to localize the approach to their specific market.
- Global strategy & global implementation: The same as the approach above, but applied consistently in all countries where the influencer programs are being deployed.
Regardless of which option your brand is planning to move forward with, there are online creators who can reach your target demographic and speak to them in a way they can relate to, and perhaps in a way that your internal resources simply aren’t capable of. These influencers know both their audience and their locale, so engaging with your potential customers is not only authentic and hyper-targeted, but it’s also tailored for the specific market.
How To Find An Influencer Abroad
The best way to find influencers – assuming that you don’t use the services of an award-winning influencer agency or platform – is to build relationships with them yourself. Brands should look to target creators who are currently posting content about your industry and have relevancy to your business and international target market. A simple starting point is to reach out to those influencers who are already commenting on or using your products, or you can get creative by arranging to meet them at an international conference or event.
International Influencer Marketing Is About Relationships
Like we said in the introduction, influencer marketing is big business. And to be successful, brands must first understand that each influencer also wants to be recognized and grow their profile. This is paramount in strengthening their personal brand, and their goal is often to gain more followers and enhance their credibility through their efforts. If your partnership is conducive to supporting these goals, you are likely to create a fruitful and lasting relationship.
But ‘relationship’ is the key word here. Brands should look to avoid paying for a couple of posts in an ad-hoc fashion, as this is not the best method in creating a strong partnership with influencers. This is particularly true when it comes to international influencers, as relationship development is even more crucial when you are looking to partner with creators from other countries.
Marketers need to invest the time in building genuine relationships with an influencer if they wish to get the best results. Make a plan to start well in advance of an international launch, and create the strong relationship that is necessary to build trust and rapport with international creators.
It is widely agreed that local creators in international markets are an essential component of establishing brand trust in foreign markets. What needs to be updated, however, is our understanding of who these local insiders are. The rapid growth of social media across the globe has created a burgeoning pool of local digital influencers – online thought leaders with subject matter expertise and a loyal, engaged audience. International influencers can open new doors for foreign businesses by leveraging their existing relationships in their market and using their authentic voices to win over new overseas customers and put your brand in front of their audience.
With influencer marketing only growing in popularity and effectiveness, what’s your brand’s game plan? If you’re ready to engage in influencer marketing, be sure to reach out to us below!