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How to Build a Successful KOL Strategy in Southeast Asia

Rapidly increasing internet users, a soaring digital economy, and a massively untapped demographic — these are just some of the advantages that make Southeast Asia an emerging hot spot for mobile marketing and coveted by countless developers and brands.

To harness the growth potential of this high-potential hotspot, marketers should turn toward a KOL strategy that gets their products in front of users. But what do you mean? What is a KOL? If you want to know more about key-opinion leaders, check out our KOL marketing primer first before coming back to read on.

Southeast Asia: Rapid Growth Without Limits

Southeast Asia (SEA) is one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world, with over 527 million active internet users, representing more than 76% of the region’s population. And the tech space is booming. eCommerce in Southeast Asia is growing at a fast pace with fintech, healthcare, and education also making strides.

As many now know, a local presence is a major key to success. A brand or app’s ability to provide localized marketing channels and strategies will lead to higher levels of client satisfaction, engagement, and retention.

A notable change in online marketing in SEA particularly is the shift away from hard-sell in-feed ads toward more content-focused soft-sell ads. This is why Nativex has been focusing on providing KOL strategy, advanced creatives, and more integrated marketing approaches to help our advertisers grow.

KOL Strategy Is a Must in SEA

In SEA, the cultural inclination towards valuing peer recommendations has made KOLs an increasingly effective marketing strategy. In fact, ad spending on KOL marketing is predicted to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8% in five years, with a projected volume of $977 million by 2027. This rapid expansion of Southeast Asia’s KOL market signals a significant opportunity for businesses.

However, unlike the Western markets, Southeast Asia has a fragmented media ecosystem. While platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube enjoy widespread popularity, SEA also carries a variety of local media networks.

This fragmentation presents both challenges and opportunities: a diverse range of platforms gives rise to more nano and micro KOLs, but it also requires brands to be more discerning and strategic in choosing channels for their campaigns. KOL marketing is also a strategic move, ensuring messages can reach audiences unobstructed and resonate more authentically.

A Country-by-Country Breakdown of KOLs in Southeast Asia

Every KOL in each Southeast Asian country can offer a different opportunity for brands. It’s vital to understand these nuances to craft successful marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at what sets each country apart, and how each region generally produces and enjoys user-generated content (UGC) from KOLs.

Singaporean KOLs: Sophisticated and Mature

  • Platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
  • Domains: Gaming, fashion & beauty, home & living.
  • Content Creation: Strong content creation skills and a keen awareness of copyright.
  • Collaboration Standards: High standards. KOLs here expect excellent support from partners.

Indonesian KOLs: Relaxed and Approachable

  • Platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and X (formally known as Twitter)
  • Domains: Varied, open to diverse products and collaborations.
  • Content Creation: Often use reference videos; clear communication and planning are key.
  • Collaboration Standards: Approachable with longer production cycles, requiring patience and multiple follow-ups.

Vietnamese KOLs: Energetic and Creative

  • Platforms: Faceook, TikTok, Zalo, and Instagram.
  • Domains: Varied, with a strong presence in gaming. Not picky over brands.
  • Content Creation: Highly original and creative.
  • Collaboration Standards: Energetic and engaging, and usually command higher rates in gaming.

Philippine KOLs: Mobile-Savvy and Efficient

  • Platforms: Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.
  • Domains: Varied, many of them are pan-entertainment.
  • Content Creation: Vlog-style videos and embedded ads are the most effective content types.
  • Collaboration Standards: Highly communicative, efficient, and open to ideas, with a unique creative touch.

Malaysian KOLs: Few but Influential

  • Platforms: YouTube and Instagram.
  • Domains: Arts, entertainment, fashion.
  • Collaboration Standards: Influential with a smaller pool, impacting neighboring regions (mainly Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore). High integrity and strong copyright awareness

Thai KOLs: Simple and Credible

  • Platforms: YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
  • Domains: Fashion, beauty, lifestyle, travel, gaming, and automobile.
  • Content Creation: Prefer direct, straightforward collaborations with upfront preparatory materials and demos.
  • Collaboration Standards: High integrity, values brand strength and credibility.

What Do Southeast Asian Consumers Like to See?

The most favored form of KOL content among Southeast Asian consumers revolves around product and service reviews. Consumers frequently turn to social media for transparent evaluations before making purchasing decisions. They do this to seek authentic reviews that discuss both the positives and the negatives of a product. In fact, the overly positive, sponsored reviews can potentially damage the brand’s credibility in the eyes of the consumer.

Tutorials are also popular forms of UGC content. Whether it’s doing weights in the gym or putting on makeup for a party, these how-to videos can receive high viewership.

The next best is unboxing videos. Whether it’s personal shopping or items sent by the brands, the unboxing is much like a ‘blind box’ experience, making these reveals particularly appealing. The format works well even when viewers are aware of brand sponsorships, as it provides a comprehensive showcase of products and can often lead to immediate consumer interest and conversion.

Consumers in the region enjoy content that allows them to stay updated with friends, trends, or simply watch entertainment videos to relax. This is ideal for soft selling, and brands can consider partnering with micro and nano KOLs to weave their messaging into everyday social browsing.

Making It Work on TikTok

With the right marketing strategy, user-generated content is extremely valuable and a major reason that KOL marketing has been so effective for brands. UGC lends itself to an organic aesthetic which TikTok exemplifies. However, UGC is something new advertisers to the platform sometimes misread by promoting hard-sell ads that are highly commercialized.

At Nativex, we suggest tailoring creatives to local culture, preserving a KOL’s own UGC styling. For example, there’s a big difference between organically-styled content for Vietnamese users and narrative-driven, sentimental content for Thai users.

If you’re looking to leverage KOL marketing in Southeast Asia, Nativex is your partner to go to. Our team specializes in KOL management, and we have helped clients across all verticals.

As an official TikTok marketing partner, we can help you not only to find the right KOL to collaborate with and build an engaged community but also to create customized KOL marketing strategy that prioritizes conversions. Contact us today to kickstart your next successful KOL campaign.

Looking for more content? Then make sure to check the Nativex Ebooks section for more in-depth, quality content designed to help your marketing strategies generate visible returns. Also, read up on our latest influencer primer to give you more details on KOL marketing.

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