More than one-third of advertisers in Hong Kong shared that the quality of influencers is one of their major challenges in marketing this year. The quality of influencers is a challenge for many advertisers and saw a spike in 2022 in comparison to 2021  where only 17% of them said it was a major challenge. However, advertisers remain steadfast in looking for more content collaboration opportunities. Moreover, many also have an increased ad budget this year for such collaborations.

According to the Advertising Spending Projections 2022 co-created by the Hong Kong Advertisers Association and Nielsen, advertisers highlighted some key challenges in marketing as their top concerns. This includes ROI (50%), cross-platform effectiveness (43%), data management (36%), the quality of influencers (35%) and lack of funding (32%).

"There are several challenges when working with influencers," said Ivy Wong founder and CEO of VS Media. First, most of the time influencers fail to understand what marketers want as they don’t have a marketing background," said Ivy Wong founder and CEO of VS Media. Secondly, influencers have to create authentic content in their own way or use presentation methods that their audiences like, but marketers tend to use hard-sell methods to promote their products' features, which may dictate influencers’ content.

Desmond Ku, founder and director of The Bridge Agency, said that influencers in Hong Kong vary in quality, and brands tend to work with a small batch of influencers with calibre or popularity. "That's why some notable influencers are working with many brands simultaneously but brands may lose brand differentiation as the audiences normally recognise the influencers instead of the products."

The right way to working with influencers

The report recommended that advertisers need to strategically leverage influencers in 2022 with several strategies. First, they need to have a clear identification between influencers and their brand, as well as be authentic and natural to resonate with the audience. After that, they can leverage a good mix of social media platforms to actively engage the target audience. Advertisers are also advised to optimise the relationship with influencers by measuring and monitoring consumers' engagement to drive the highest ROI.

"Looking ahead, influencer marketing will be more niche with more precise audience targeting. For example, a home decor influencer may not have a huge fanbase, but his or her audiences are more focused and specific. Influencers will also play a bigger role in driving sales with their expertise and authentic comments," Wong said.

Ku added, "Brands need to use the right influencer to help convey their brand messages. When it comes to collaboration, brands not only need influencers to publish a photo with their faces and the products, but also integrate the products into the influencers' daily lives, showing the strong relationship between the brand and the influencer."

In a previous study , Instagram was the most-used social media platform by influencers in Hong Kong with many nano-influencers (1,000 to 10,000) and micro-influencers (10,000 to 50,000) leveraging it to create content. Fashion and beauty, entertainment and travel were the top three most popular categories for Hong Kong influencers in 2021, according to a study conducted by AnyMind Group. The report examined several areas, including the most popular influencer categories, the most-favoured platforms by influencers and median engagement rates by platforms. 

Instagram remained the most-used social media platform by influencers in Hong Kong with a share of 53.77%, followed by Facebook (24.58%) and YouTube (20.72%). Only less than 1% of influencers leveraged Twitter to engage the audience. Instagram was mainly used by nano-influencers and micro-influencers due to its ability to cater to those starting out and aiding them in growing their influence. Moreover, plenty of nano-influencers also leveraged Facebook to curate content, but only a handful of micro-influencers use it.

The report also studied advertisers' willingness to spend with 47% of advertisers in Hong Kong will increase their ad budget this year, up from only 18% in 2021. One-third of them said the increase in ad budget will even reach double digits. Around 58% of their ad budget will go to digital platforms, including social (15%), display (10%), video (9%), content collaboration (9%) and search (8%). On the other hand, 42% of the ad budget will be spent on non-digital platforms, including TV (13%), OOH (11%), event marketing (7%), print (6%), and radio (2%).

Although advertisers in Hong Kong are willing to increase their budget this year, the city's adspend had a slow start this year. In January and February, adspend increased by only 3% year on year, with mobile and social advertising recording impressive growth in the first month of the year, according to a study conducted by admango. As the market was also suffering from the pandemic in the first two months of last year, there was still a 15% year-on-year increase in January. But in February, adspend in Hong Kong decreased by 10% year-on-year.

The report also studied the correlation between the monthly adspend in the city and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Data showed that as the number of confirmed cases began to decline, adspend rebounded within a month after the pandemic stabilised and continued to grow throughout the year. The report said most advertisers had merely chosen to delay their campaigns instead of reducing their budgets. In another report. admango also uncovered Hong Kong's adspend growth last year. Local adspend in 2021 recorded a 29% year-on-year increase, amounting to HK$29.4 billion (US$3.77 billion).

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