Working in the influencer marketing space as a Client Success Manager, Debra Tong has had a front-seat view of how the creator economy has evolved in the past years and how it has helped numerous brands connect with their target consumers.
Tong has been guiding her clients and helping them use the affable.ai influencer management platform effectively to drive better influencer marketing outcomes.
In this Marketer Profile series, Tong talks about how an automated platform enhances influencer marketing strategies through valuable data. On top of that, she discusses the common influencer marketing myths, the popular social media platforms in the USA and APAC, and the expansion of D2C brands into affiliate creator marketing.
Let’s tune in!
Q. You have been working with affable.ai for the past two years as a Client Success Manager. Tell us about the scope of your work and your experience in the influencer marketing industry.
A. As a Client Success Manager, I handle client experience, happiness, and success, and ensure that our clients have all the support with the right resources and tools to maximize the affable.ai platform.
I always thought that the client success space was very fulfilling. Getting someone from not knowing much about a platform to being an ambassador for the platform and building relationships with them is why I joined the client success space.
At affable.ai, my role is multifaceted. We do a lot of onboarding, Q&A sessions, and sticking with clients to understand their feedback so that we can guide them and better equip the platform and We help clients by talking about their strategies or brainstorming ideas to ensure they're not missing out on any of affable.ai's features.
Q. In these past two years working with affable.ai, how have you seen influencer marketing evolve? Any significant influencer trend that you believe emerged in 2022 and is likely to last for a very long time?
A. We've noticed that influencer marketing has become very common amongst brands and agencies these days. They’ve realized if influencer marketing is not part of your growth strategy, you're missing out on a massive fraction of the pie since the world now lives on social media.
A number of D2C brands are capitalizing on the power of influencer marketing through an affiliate model - using trackable discount codes and affiliate links to track sales driven by influencers.
We work with a lot of D2C clients in the USA and APAC regions, who have begun to realize that finding the right influencer and running campaigns at scale can be easily managed using automated platforms like affable.ai. So I believe, adding a data-driven approach to the concept has truly emerged this year.
Read in detail: 8 Benefits of Influencer Marketing for D2C Brands
Q. Speaking of social media being used for content consumption, have you noticed a specific inclination among brands towards a particular social media channel, and why?
A. I would say TikTok has been picking up speed amongst different generations. It’s not just the GenZs anymore! People use the platform for different reasons, like the younger generation uses TikTok for content and entertainment. Whereas, people of a more mature generation like Millennials go to TikTok for advice or use it as a news outlet.
Also, people who are very into online shopping follow the TikTok shops to look for new products and brands. So there are different use cases for TikTok based on people's needs.
Talking about inclination towards one social media channel, I think Instagram is still a strong platform people use. TikTok is growing in popularity, of course, but I don't think it's more famous than Instagram. This also seems to be the trend among leading brands we work with.
Related: Is TikTok a New Tool to Discover Products?
Q. Talking about TikTok and Instagram, which social media platforms do the USA and APAC region companies use for influencer marketing?
A. I believe Instagram and TikTok are the two major social channels brands use worldwide and particularly in the USA and APAC to run influencer campaigns.
For Facebook and YouTube, it depends on the region you live in. For example, in the Philippines and Thailand, people use Facebook a lot, but it's not widely used in Singapore.
Q. You've talked about how influencer marketing has become a common strategy among companies, so what are some industry myths you have run into? And how do you educate clients about this?
A. One of the biggest myths brands and agencies believe about influencer marketing is that it is like a magic potion for sales and delivers results effortlessly. But in reality, influencer marketing is arduous. Building and nurturing relationships with influencers takes a lot of time and doesn't happen in one week. Brands need a lot of communication, effort, education, and consistency when it comes to running effective influencer campaigns.
If you've adopted influencer marketing and it's in the first stage, it may not seem like it's moving the needle much. But do not despair; it does take a lot of time and effort because I'm sure the leading brands weren't super successful when they first dove into influencer marketing.
Brands who want to see better results can approach influencer marketing through trial and error to understand what works for them. They can start by figuring out the unique selling proposition (USP) of the brand and communicate it to the influencers to convey the right brand message to customers. Having a clear campaign objective and finding the right influencers makes the whole outcome more efficient.
Q. Since you've mentioned that several brands and agencies are getting into the influencer marketing space, how different, in your opinion, is a brand's and an agency's use of influencer marketing?
A. In terms of how brands and agencies approach influencer marketing, I don't think there is a very stark difference. It depends on your end goal, which can be to drive sales or build brand awareness.
Q. To get deeper into this, is there a difference in how brands and agencies evaluate an influencer management platform? Do they now have higher expectations from these platforms than they did a few years ago?
A. I don't think there is a difference because brands and agencies both want to find the best influencers, manage these influences in an active campaign, and run post-campaign reporting. However, agencies that use influencer management platforms can access AI-backed reporting and show their clients concrete data, such as likes, comments and views.
Speaking of expectations from influencer management platforms, I think five years ago, it was easier to reach out to creators, given that influencer marketing was not as widespread as it is now. Back then, marketers selected influencers based on their follower count as they thought creators with more followers, say 100,000, meant they were reaching more people.
Today people are more educated and informed. Now when marketers choose creators, they go a step further and analyze suspicious followers because they don't want to invest money and receive incompetent output. They have realized that metrics beyond the follower count like engagement rates, audience demographics, content distribution, etc., play a major role in identifying the right creator. Marketers want to know as much detailed information about influencers as the demographic of people interacting with the influencer's post.
To get their hands on detailed insights, marketers rely on influencer management platforms. It is not only a good source of data but also backs up the effectiveness of an influencer campaign rather than telling how many followers a creator has.
Q. What level of assistance do businesses or agencies want from you in terms of managing influencers?
A. The Client Success team works closely with clients and handholds them through the onboarding session. We understand that someone who is very focused on running influencer campaigns can get overwhelmed using a platform.
So we communicate everything with clients during the onboarding session to understand what kind of influencers brands or agencies are looking for? What kind of campaigns do they want to run? What kind of reports do they want to produce? From there, we start building a relationship with the clients.
After the onboarding, we still reach out to our clients to ensure they are doing things correctly. We offer them support in finding and managing influencers and ensure they have enough resources to maximize the affable.ai platform. Post that when clients have their influencer content like posts and stories online, we ensure they're using the platform data like engagement, reach, impressions, etc., to churn out detailed reports, which can help them measure the ROI.
Q. Since you've worked closely with clients globally, what is the biggest difference between the USA and APAC region brands or agencies when working on influencer marketing campaigns?
A. Based on my observation, our USA and APAC clients have different expectations from influencer marketing and using a tool to run the campaigns.
For example, influencer campaign automation is very attractive to the USA market. Based on our clientele right now, the USA clients are more D2C brands who are using our creator portal to cut down manual work and time spent running the campaigns.
Whereas, in the APAC region, brands and agencies rely on influencer management platforms to run data-driven campaigns. They use platforms to track influencer content and pull out campaign reports. For example, the agencies in the APAC region manage multiple client campaigns at once, so they use affable.ai to reach out to numerous influencers, communicate with them, and run multiple campaigns at once.
Q. What does the future of influencer marketing look like to you?
A. Influencer marketing has already become a billion-dollar industry and it will definitely continue to grow. People will continue to pump in money into the influencer industry because creating content and persuading people is something not everyone can do. Brands need influencers to win the trust of their target audience.
Brands looking for ways to cash in on the growing influencer industry should stick to finding the right creators and continue to build a relationship with them. At the end of the day, if people see a creator as a voice of truth, it can really make a difference for brands.
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