Among the myriad marketing means and platforms, influencer engagement is quite the beast of its own. It can be dynamic, raw, highly interactive and engaging, and even to a certain degree unpredictable. Unlike one-way broadcast whether print or digital, or traditional celebrity endorsement, influencer engagement is inherently social. That means it often takes place on social media platforms like TikTok, Twitch, and Instagram.

Why influencers of all means of publicity?

Before delving into management, it is worth looking at why influencers matter to marketers and brands. Three components sum up the key benefits that influencer engagement offers:

  • Social proof: It’s evidence that a brand’s offering is worth a shot
  • Authority: Under the presumption that influencers are highly familiar with the brand, its industry, landscape, and competition, they may be regarded as figures of authority and expertise
  • Popularity: As people of influence, they already enjoy popularity, trust, and attention, from which brands can borrow


A successful and popular influencer is the result of key criteria below. Whoever achieves them would enjoy resonance, reach, and engagement.

  • Authenticity: In the age of curated feeds, it’s refreshing to see authenticity and helps increase relatability
  • Consistency: In the same vein as authenticity, when followers grow familiar with and subscribes to an influencer’s beliefs and values, it feeds into the authenticity factor
  • Aesthetics: Because we all like to indulge in visual pleasure

Quick SWOT analysis

Looking more closely at the influencing landscape, opportunities abound. Globally, from 2022 to 2030, according to projections, the influencer marketing platform market will grow from USD 10.54 billion to USD 94.24 billion at a CAGR of 31.5%. Instagram continues to be the platform of choice, with 56% of marketers expecting to use it for influencer marketing. YouTube comes in second. This is not surprising because influencer marketing has unique strengths that other marketing means don’t. Once they attain influencer status, their unique set of followers/fan regard them as reliable and relevant. When brands choose the right influencers, they open doors for brands to walk right into the lives of their target audience, while already enjoying some trust because of the assumed endorsement.


Because the collective term “influencers” cover a wide range from micro- ones to international celebrities who are to some extent unpredictable as mentioned earlier, there are risks to note. Key ones include cancel culture and misinformation. A stellar example of the former is Kanye West’s downward spiral from popularity that resulted in adidas dropping him as a collaborator and endorser. Misinformation on the part of the influencer can have great, negative impact too. The public took Kim Kardashian to court for allegedly misleading investors to purchase a new and unstable cryptocurrency Ethereum Max (EMAX). You might already have guessed it was because EMAX can be easily mistaken as second most valuable cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH).

Across influencers big and small, the problem of fake followers and bots persists. Unfortunately, followers can be bought (bot). It is vital to sniff out and avoid those who buy fake followers. Spend the marketing dollar on real reach and impact, not fake likes and engagement.


How do you wish to influence whom?

Distilling the key message, sifting out the target audience, and defining the desired behaviour post-interaction with influencers’ content will help sharpen the influencer engagement strategy. It determines the kinds of influencers to seek and pitch to. If your target audience dwells mostly on Twitch, it is only sensible to prioritise an influencer’s Twitch engagement rate over their Instagram stats. If the message is a sombre one, about suicide prevention for instance, the content format should be fitting too – it is much likelier to be a solemn talking head than a TikTok-style dance challenge.

Since it is a collaborative engagement, and influencers hold some authority in the space where they dwell most, agencies should consult influencers. After all they know their followers and their behaviours the best. It should go without saying that a professional person of influence shall make recommendations and ensure the content is as effective as possible in meeting the campaign objective.


Action for Aids (AFA)’s engagement of Singapore’s very brave, proudly vocal anti-racist and inclusivity advocate @preetipls is an instance of great influencer selection. The execution was effective reach and communication.


It is important too to remember that influencers are, no matter their “numbers”, mere mortals. They are multi-faceted – while they wear labels such as makeup gurus, and be avid readers, eczema sufferers, pet owners… at the same time. Pigeon-holing your pool of influencers then would be limiting their potential and how far your relationship with them can go. Looking through the same lens at brands you work with, there are often more angles to pitch a product or service than you had expected.


Fit with the brand

This nifty checklist will help when shortlisting influencers that would fit a brand. It is accompanied by questions and links that illustrate each point.

  • Values alignment: Could Xiaxue ever advocate for an organisation fighting for the welfare of migrant workers?
  • Tone of voice: Could Michelle Chong’s Ah Lian character ever be hired by Tiffany and Co.?
  • Messaging: Fitting of Walmart to work with @greyandmama on TikTok where young, hip parents and their child-free millennial counterparts dwell
  • Brand compatibility: Fitness, fashion, and beauty enthusiast @damndar on TikTok fit perfectly into Dyson AirWrap’s influencer engagement plan
  • Overall campaign coherence


Pitch/Brief writing

Influencers come from all walks of life. Hence, it is not safe to assume all of them would understand branding/marketing/communications jargon, including words like “copy”, “sfx”, “voxpop”, “fps”… Below is a checklist for pitch/brief writing:

  • Write plainly while effectively communicating:
    • Key words/phrases/messages to include
    • Deliverables
    • Mandatories, if any
    • No-go zones
    • Call to action
    • Tags: location, hashtags, relevant accounts…
  • Include images/screenshots/references where necessary
  • Leave as much room for creativity as the client is comfortable with!



Because not all influencers are celebrities and/or have a talent manager, correspondence can be informal, unstructured, piecemeal, and hence, messy. Keeping communication to one email thread may be uncommon, unlike other work correspondence. A general tip is to use threads for every different job/conversation.


Below are some notes on using the different channels:

  • Via Instagram Direct Message (IG DM)
    • Keep it short and sweet with all the key what, who, when, where, why, and how
    • After initial contact, move on to texting or email, whichever the influencer prefers, for clarity and documentation
  • Via text message
    • Going through the minute details is acceptable
    • Reminders, urgent instructions, and guidance may come through too
  • Via email
    • State all details and requirements
    • Attach any assets required


Tracking and reporting

  • As-and-when updates: Informally, probably over WhatsApp
  • Regular updates (probably weekly/fortnightly): Formally, over email
  • End-of campaign updates: Formally, over email with montage comprising snapshots/screengrabs of coverage indicating KOLs etc.
  • Bonus: If client often reports to their colleagues/higher-ups, consider drafting an accompanying note for when they share the end-of-campaign report internally, drumming up the agency’s efforts and good work


Tip for relationship building

  • Pre-outreach: Dig a little to find out if the influencer is available or already bound to a competitor
  • Pitching for unpaid jobs: Even if the client doesn’t plan to pay, accept rate cards if offered to express interest in future opportunities
  • Package deal: Employing one influencer for a few accounts usually stretches the marketing dollar, even if slightly. They’re more likely to deliver more than required
  • Gifting: Whether from the client or agency, it makes the recipient feel remembered, appreciated, and valued

It’s been fifty-odd years since economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman posited the wildly controversial shareholder theory. The shareholder theory holds the view that the sole responsibility and function of a corporation is to maximise profits. If the business executive acts in ways that does not maximise returns for shareholders, they do so at the expense of customers, employees, and ultimately, the shareholders. That is quite the opposite of today’s ESG, of which “S” recognises the presence of social gaps.

traditional business
How far can businesses move beyond pure profit?


Friedman’s shareholder theory has been criticised for granting corporations too much room to shirk social responsibility. While marketing used to focus on increasing sales and profit, marketing in the age of ESG sees significant communications about filling social gaps through philanthropy and community service.

Standing for environmental, social, and corporate governance, ESG is a framework that helps corporations and their stakeholders evaluate risks and opportunities around sustainability. These concern the environment and the potential longevity and effectiveness of the business. While it seems the media and public are quickest to jump on stories of corporations choosing to commit to environment conservation, it is worth paying attention to the social fronts.


The S in ESG

“S” represents the social gaps of ESG. Broadly, it refers to matters like a company’s labour practices, talent management, product safety, data security, and efforts of giving back to the community. Accounting for social gaps of ESG goes beyond affecting a company’s financial performance short- or long-term. Its value also lies in nurturing talent, protecting rights, and taking care of human needs to create a safe, productive, and inclusive work environment for both employer and employee. Even further, where the consumer and other stakeholders such as suppliers and society at large are concerned, the value of “S” is putting humans at the heart of business.

people at heart of business
People are at the heart of business


Around the world, who cares about what?

Walmart in 2019, following two deadly shootings at two of its stores, moved to stop the sale of certain guns and ammunition. This appeased consumers and employees after both groups had pushed for the retail giant to take a stance. The potential monetary gain for making its stores and larger society a safer place for all is also that investor sentiment will likely improve among those seeking to invest in more socially responsible ways.

Companies also look within to fill social gaps; Nike is one of them working on Diversity & Inclusion. In 2020, Nike introduced a Juneteenth learning initiative, and an Unconscious Bias Awareness training programme. These were done in hope of achieving greater understanding of racial equality. Besides declaring 19th June i.e. Juneteenth a paid company holiday, the 40-billion-in-revenue company also held a fortnight-long programme. The aim was to have employees learn about black history and culture, putting into practice their support for Black Lives Matter. Nike also put in place a five-year plan as part of efforts to commit to a more diverse workforce. Targets include 50% representation of women, and 35% representation of racial and ethnic minorities in their corporate workforce by 2025.

woman travellers
Empowerment of women in business and at the workplace


In Asia, who has set an example?

Closer to home, in China, we learnt that Fosun International, has fared brilliantly under the ESG framework. It was first a pharma titan and now a conglomerate pulling its weight in myriad industries. They include healthcare, finance, travel and leisure, tech, manufacturing, and real estate. Its subsidiary company for instance, Peak Reinsurance, operates based on the ethos of protecting human interests. It constantly seeks to effectively close social gaps typically neglected by the industry. It meets the needs of customers and communities through meticulously designed products. In emerging markets, Peak with agricultural insurance solutions protects farmers from loss of income when disaster strikes. At the same time, Peak’s solutions ensure food safety for communities that these farmers serve.

Fosun, through its subsidiaries like Peak, continues to leverage its large business ecosystem and sprawling networks. It contributes to social gaps and develops the community. Its other welfare efforts include tackling the pandemic, flood relief, the Rural Doctors Programme, and fostering education, culture and entrepreneurship.


S deserves more airtime in the news

Without downplaying the severity of the climate crisis, social gaps do deserve media and public attention. It is ultimately people who drive businesses and set rules of governance. While those who put “solutions” to social gaps under the microscope examining which social risks are measured, investors typically focus on the ones that can jeopardise a company’s financial performance. Heartening to learn is that in Europe, regulators have been pressuring for companies to disclose their impact on society too, beyond the P&L.

toddler playing
Every step we now take has an effect on those who come after us


Whether for investment or revenue, the effect of filling social gaps is the betterment of real people’s lives. We ought to get to work. And double up.