The number and importance of internet influencers has grown exponentially as the COVID-19 pandemic resets buying habits and brand-marketing practices – and Cambodians are not immune.
As defined by Econsultancy, a London- and New York-based marketing-consultant site, influencers are loosely defined as anyone with a sizeable social media following who can play a significant role in a marketing campaign.
“The reason they are so useful is that influencers have a ready-made audience which can help a brand break into a new market. If a brand is looking to reach a particular segment, using an influencer is a handy shortcut to today’s media-saturated consumers.”
Pandemic aside, the global influencer-marketing platform was already projected to grow from $6 billion in 2020 to $24.1 billion by 2025, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32 percent, according to a Markets and Markets report.
“Various factors, such as consumers’ shift towards video-based content across the over-the-top space and an increase in the adoption of ad-blocking software are expected to drive the adoption of the influencer marketing platform market,” the report said.
As a result, brands are now increasingly turning to influencers to act as their spokespeople and execute their messaging in a trustworthy and human way.
“The effects of COVID-19 will be long-term and, as a result, marketing strategies must be revised to suit the new environment in which smaller and larger companies are currently surviving. Through the personal views and support of followers, influencers will continue to shape the conversations occurring in the post-lockdown world,” it said.
The report added that the Asia-Pacific Accreditation Cooperation region (APAC), which includes Cambodia, is specifically projected to grow at the highest CAGR over the forecast period because of its rising number of social media users.
“The APAC market increase is due to the growing population and the fact that it is a mobile-first region. With its youthful demos and an increase in the use of and speed of social platforms, Asia has become the perfect environment for influencer marketing,” it added.
On the ground, however, starlets are shying away from the influencer title, preferring to be known for their content.
Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Maream Brown has been creating online content for around a year and has racked up nearly 55,000 followers on her Instagram and another 146,000 on YouTube with her makeup and beauty pictures and videos.
Despite the fact she has two current sponsorship deals, with Fibroin masks and Zeno clinic, she says she doesn’t aim to be an influencer per se.
“The reason I started creating content was because I always want to try to help people to be braver, to believe in themselves and love what they already have. I wouldn’t call myself an influencer, more a YouTuber who gives fashion, makeup and beauty tips,” she said.
“During the pandemic, I have seen the number of my followers increase, but I don’t consider it as my career. I have my own business selling clothing online. The important thing for me is building and connecting with a community by sharing my knowledge and experience and helping people to be more confident.”
Cambodian Lay Bunleng, who has 189,000 followers on Instagram, more than 500,000 on YouTube and 705,000 on Facebook, is sponsored by local telecommunications company Cellcard and also prefers not to be known as an influencer.
“We don’t really call ourselves influencers. I call myself a YouTuber. I make money but it’s not based on YouTube revenue. I made my page because I wanted to share my everyday experiences with people,” he said
Indeed, most brands cut deals with influencers directly and discreetly. An industry standard for how much brands pay has yet to be formalised.
However, job site Cleverism says the general rule of thumb on Instagram is that influencers get $100 per 10,000 followers. It points out, though, that this depends on a range of factors, including the number of followers/subscribers they have, the offers they get, the engagement of people who follow them, their production costs, the campaign’s length and their previous work and results. “We estimate 5-10k followers costs interested brands between $100 and $500, whereas those with 100k-250k followers can cost between $2,000 and $6,000. Influencers with followings in excess of 1 million-plus can earn more than $10,000 per post,” the site points out.
“It’s important to mention that these are all estimates. Just like you can’t standardise how much in general a musician makes per show, you can’t determine a set standard on how much influencers can charge.”
It added: “The market dictates price and the influencer market rises day by day. It’s no wonder ,given that 800 million people actively use Instagram daily. As for how much money companies are willing to invest in influencers, we see those budgets being as big as they’ve ever been.”
Website Influence Marketing Hub, which created an Instagram earnings estimator for influencers, agrees.
“From a brand’s point of view, the niche makes a difference too. Fashion firms are far more likely to work with high-profile name influencers than firms selling bathroom fittings, for instance,” it stated.
However, one thing is consistent. Influencers get a premium for higher engagement rates.
“Brands have learned that you can easily buy followers who are of no practical value to anybody. Hence, they are far more interested in you having genuine followers who interact with your posts,” it said.
Sokim Heng, co-owner of Daily Fitness Community, which includes Bite Lab, a wholesome food-delivery service in Phnom Penh, is one such company and it has teamed up with an influencer to put out its message.
“Living a healthy habit is who we are. It’s not just about food, it’s about lifestyle and we provide a service that aids people achieve their fitness goals. Partnering with an influencer is fun and inspiring. It has allowed us to let the community know more about healthy lifestyles. Our 26-year-old Cambodian influencer, Soy Senghour, is a blogger and content creator with more than 60,000 likes on his Facebook fan page and nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram. He’s famous for his edgy comedy videos which are shared widely among Cambodian youth. He was introduced to us by his trainer because he wanted to gain weight to reach a certain physique,” he said.
“Working with Senghuor lets us reach out to the general public and let them know what Bite Lab is all about. The idea was to create a community where people understand more about healthy living and eating and the partnership with our influencer has allowed us to send out that information,” he added.
Cleverism says marketing and sales are all about having an effect on someone’s behaviour and choices and influencers are a way of doing that.
“We trust influencers more than we trust companies or actors because influencers are real people who have their own name, character and interests.”
Top influencers, such as Kylie Jenner from the US and Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, are paid up to $1.2 million per post. With the latter’s posts reaching more than 177 million followers, attaching a brand to them makes business sense.
Although that kind of money is currently far removed from the Kingdom’s influencers, the good news for Cambodians is that influencing is not only scalable but the platforms are universal. In other words, the sky is the limit for aspiring influencers. Indeed, as the population continues to increase its digital access, it’s only a matter of time before more budding influencers begin to look for the clicks that pay.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.