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LAST_UPDATEMon, 21 May 2018 11pm

These Tips From Local Social Media Influencers Will Help You Avoid Being The Next Elle Darby

Does the name Elle Darby ring a bell? If your answer is yes, chances are you might have known her after she sparked a controversy last month, when she was harshly turned down by a hotel whose owner accused her of inappropriately requesting for a free stay, in what she deemed “a possible collaboration” in return for reviews due to her extensive following.

Although the UK-based lifestyle and beauty vlogger has since bounced back from the entire fiasco after being publicly shamed by the hotel owner on Facebook, there are evidently two separate camps; one siding social media influencers like Elle, while the other, agreeably expressing their disgust.

But it turns out that while social media influencers are constantly finding ways to market themselves as a brand, and even turning their accounts into a mega business, no one really has a guidebook on the do’s and don’ts that influencers should follow if they wish to make a living in this digital era.

Independent Influencers Share Their Approach

Zoey PhoonZoey Phoon

To understand more on how social media influencers who made a name for themselves independently approach businesses here, Malaysian Digest spoke with a few up and coming influencers with a sizeable following.

Zoey Phoon whose passion is blogging started her craft since she was 12 and has worked hard to create digital contents on her site zoeypky ever since. Along her journey in making a name for herself, the lifestyle blogger shared that she would sometimes cold call companies on possible collaborations, although at other times, companies have approached her instead.

“I have reached out to clients when I really like a certain brand and would like to try it for myself. In turn, brands have also approached me to review their products.

“Simply put, my standard operating procedure is to not work with brands I do not believe in so that I can always keep my reviews as genuine as possible,” she highlighted, adding there is no right or wrong approach but more of which businesses are willing to collaborate.

In light of Elle’s drama, Zoey, who does not think there is any harm in requesting for collaborations in exchange for reviews, questioned, “If brands can propose to social media influencers and request for free reviews, why can't we do the same?”

As for another local influencer who wishes to remain anonymous for this piece, she revealed, “I rarely approach companies for collaborations since they approach me for product seedings, paid reviews, or campaign shout outs,” and all of which come with terms and conditions that will be agreeable by both parties.

She further shared that while there are no proper guidelines for influencers to approach businesses, she advised for them to never forget “there will be labour cost involved when you request for free services,” hence, approach wisely.

Faiz DickieFaiz Dickie

Meanwhile, Faiz Dickie, who boasts over 620k followers on Instagram and is best known for his parody videos, admits seeking a collaboration with businesses is a nerve-wracking process for influencers who are working independently.

“When I first started, I remember there was this Instagram account who was selling gold and she requested for a shout out. Back then, I was very unfamiliar with this industry so she basically had to give me guideline on how this collaboration works.

“However, after years, I had finally approached a hotel in Boracay recently asking if they would like to collaborate with me. I have never considered myself powerful enough to use this method so it was nerve-wracking but thankfully, they agreed,” he said.

Faiz believes there is nothing wrong with influencers approaching businesses, however, before doing so, he suggests for influencers to do their homework thoroughly.

“If you find out the hotel isn’t so great, then at least you wouldn’t need to provide a bad review for them. You are in a way morally obligated to give a good review when you approach a company for a collaboration.

“If you are doing a review, keep it honest. You have to have your own filter for yourself,” he reminds.

Pointing out what influencers can learn from Elle’s case, he expressed how an influencer must know their worth before approaching businesses, and without asking for too much in return.

“Her credibility and testimonial to begin with wasn’t good enough so she should have realised that before approaching them,” he conveyed.

“Being an influencer is not about earning a title, but it as an actual job. And if it's your sole income, then you have to ensure there are guidelines to abide,” he warned.

Avoid Risks And Let An Agency Manage You

Khainina KhalilKhainina Khalil

For 24-year-old Khainina Khalil, she started becoming an influencer after posting shots of her outfit of the day (ootd). Soon after, a local clothing brand had approached for her to wear their outfits for free, in exchange for free publicity.

“I remember feeling very excited. All I had to do was take pictures and post about it. Over time, I received lots of responses and bigger brands started approaching me,” she revealed.

Now, Khainina is tied to a Kuala Lumpur-based talent management agency called Sevenvault that specialises in connecting brands and influencers for digital marketing.

According to her, the team or manager would propose to her jobs or reviews that she can either accept or decline.

“The brands will approach Sevenvault to find suitable talents that fits the job description and the talent management team will then make a list and the brand companies will decide who they like best. Other arrangements will be managed between them only.

TziaaaTziaaa

“I do consider this as a real job and with real responsibilities as people rely on me to know about a certain product or brand. It has been an exciting and humbling journey so far when brands put their faith in me to help them expand their businesses,” she relayed.

Similarly, Tzia who boasts over 160k followers on her Instagram and has a large following on her blog tziaaa.com is managed by Sevenvault.

As a lifestyle, beauty, travel and food blogger, some of the major brands she has worked with include Connors, Sony, and Estee Lauder.

According to her, while there a lot of clients that approach influencers like her, she suggests for influencers to only give reviews for brands they truly believe in instead of simply “doing it for the money.”

But more importantly, she believes, “If you really want to become an influencer, I would suggest for you to get a manager or work under an agency to assure no such cases like Elle Darby’s would occur.

“Plus, you can avoid hard sell and the agency would probably know what’s best for you,” she advised.

Finally, speaking with the director and founder of Sevenvault and Sevenpie, Adele Chow, who has ran the company for almost two years now, she shared how agencies would help influencers better curate their social media accounts.

Adele ChowAdele Chow

“You can be someone with 300k followers but your content is just a feed of selfies, then it becomes invalid. So our influencers are categorised from beauty to lifestyle, travel, and many more,” she enlightened.

As a seasoned PR/media practitioner, Adele reveals that she has incorporated what she has learnt into practice – like planning strategic content marketing where her company helps a client identify their target audience and the objective of their campaign before getting influencers on board.

“We curate the campaign idea, find influencers that are feasible to the idea, and based on our internal SOPs, we would then contact our influencers and start strategising contents, discuss payments, and guide them through it all,” she conveyed.

For independent influencers who wish to collaborate with businesses however, Adele shared her two cents.

“You should make an effort to first know who you are approaching and their characteristics before requesting for sponsorship. Likewise, businesses too should do the same when approaching influencers,” she concludes.

Influencers Taking Over The Internet

Even though Malaysia has yet to witness a case between a social media influencer and a business that is as controversial as Elle’s, this episode does serve as an eye-opener for both parties moving forward – as the social media influencer landscape is slowly but surely growing here.

According to Star Gage, that enables brands to connect with influencers to endorse their products, the term “influencer marketing” on Google Trends is showing a steady upward trajectory.

And in Malaysia, the last five years has shown a steady increase in the demand for digital marketing and digital transformation, despite influencer marketing being relatively new to the Malaysian market.

On its website, Star Gage’s breakdown on the social media and influencer marketing landscape in Malaysia also reveals that Facebook and Instagram are the fastest growing social media platform between the years 2015 to 2017.

Among other statistics revealed were 57% beauty and fashion companies are using influencers as part of their marketing strategies, 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference and 86% of women turn to social networks before making a purchase.

Also not surprising that social media is used as a medium to reach the younger audience in Malaysia, especially, helping them with their decision making, seeing as 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers trust influencer opinions over traditional celebrities.

These numbers clearly show that Malaysians are slowly getting used to the digital marketing sphere being dominated by social media influencers who are changing the landscape, and without a doubt businesses are slowly turning to influencers to make an impact on their brands and convince the masses.

But having said that, with businesses having the upper hand in providing their services, influencers must know where to draw the line when it comes to persuading businesses for free goods in return for publicity and praise. And if they do find themselves in a similar predicament like Elle, they may need to toughen up, accept rejection and simply move on.

-Malaysian Digest