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Influencer Marketing in Korea – trends and best practices

Influencer marketing is a relatively new aspect of digital marketing, but it is rapidly becoming an important part of any digital marketing strategy. Korea is not any different. You could even argue that Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are even more important in Korea, because the Naver algorithm strongly favors User Generated Content (UGC). This blog post covers the following subjects:

  • What are the current trends in influencer marketing in Korea?
  • Which industries and markets in Korea tend to use influencer marketing the most?
  • Are there specific platforms (e.g. Instagram) that are popular now?
  • How are Korean influencers and content creators innovating differently?

What are the current trends in influencer marketing in Korea?

Micro influencers have more engagements

According to a recent research by KB Finance, micro influencers who have less than 10,000 followers have more engagements with their followers than regular influencers. The engagement rate is about 25~50% for micro influencers. On the contrary, mega influencers who have more than 1 million followers only have a 2~5% engagement rate.  

CJ ENM (a South Korean entertainment and retail company) announced that they will help companies to be connected with micro influencers for the company’s marketing campaigns.  

Commercial programs or shopping malls work with influencers 

  • 위메프 (Wemakeprice)
    • Wemakeprice is a popular online shopping mall in Korea. They started a new TV program called “How much did you sell?(어디까지 팔아봤니?)” from Oct 23 to Dec 4. On this program 7 influencers introduced innovative products from small and middle sized companies. They could sell more than 100,000 items by Dec 3, 2019 by this program. Please refer to the image from their website below about the program.  
  • CJ ENM 
    • CJ ENM also worked with influencers to sell products of small and middle sized companies with the Ministry of SMEs. They will continue this program by Feb, 2020. 

Stronger rules

The Fair Trade Commission (http://www.ftc.go.kr) is the governmental watchdog for fair trade in Korea. They recently fined 7 Korean and international companies for violating related Acts because these companies paid 11 billion won to influencers on Instagram to write about their products. The problem was that these influencers hid that these posts were paid advertisements. 

As of September 2020, companies have to say clearly if reviews were sponsored or not.

Naver’s Influencer Platform Beta Service 

Naver, the most popular online platform & search engine in Korea, started a closed beta service which is called “Influencer search service”. For this new platform, they are accepting applications by Beauty or Traveling influencers or people who want to be future influencers by using their platform from Nov 4 to 12 in 2019. 

Naver’s BeauStart Market

If beauty influencers have video content about certain products, they could apply to Naver’s service. Then Naver shows such contents on their online Beauty platform. Influencers also could ask Naver to connect them with beauty product manufacturers. 

Which industries and markets in Korea tend to use influencer marketing the most?

Many companies in distribution, e-commerce, department stores, online shopping or TV shopping malls are using influencer marketing campaigns more actively than other industries as you can see from current trends above. App services that connect influencers with customers are also getting more popular:

  1. ABLY: introduces shopping items by famous and popular Youtubers and they also show what popular celebrities wore in public or on TV programs. Customers can buy the exact items that their most preferred Youtuber or celebrities already used. The app is currently in 3rd place for most popular apps on the Apple App store on Dec 10, 2019.  
  2. LABEL STORE: The platform enables micro influencers to open online group purchase pages, so their followers can buy products that influencers recommend. 
  3. 0.8L: The app provides an online shopping platform where customers or micro influencers could get new products for free or discounted prices. These people should write about products with certain tags on their Facebook or Instagram. 

Are there specific platforms (e.g. Instagram) that are popular now?

  1. Naver’s VIEW: Korean people use Naver to search for any kind of information right now. Naver introduced the VIEW service that shows Blogs, image based posts, articles from a popular online community which is called “Naver Cafe”. Bloggers on Naver always get the most views, and comments. 
  2. Daum’s Brunch : Daum was the first online search engine service in Korea. For many years, Naver took most customers from them. However, Daum’s Brunch platform (https://brunch.co.kr/) is getting popular recently. Brunch is a kind of advanced blog service and online book store. People write articles on Brunch and Daum put good articles on their main page for free. Many influencers are easily publishing their articles into a real book. So that’s why it is getting popular. 
  3. Instagram: Instagram is one of the fast rising and popular platforms for commercial usages other than Facebook. Even almost all ministries and governmental organizations now have their official Instagram pages to promote their policies online. 

How are Korean influencers and content creators innovating differently?

Influencer market size is getting bigger rapidly 

According to KOTRA (Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency), the domestic influencer marketing market size is getting bigger rapidly. They estimated the market will reach 2 trillion won by 2020. KOTRA analyzed the market is getting bigger because of the Millennial and Z generations who are spending huge amounts for (online) shopping amplified by influencer marketing. That’s why IT companies are expanding their creator or influencer supporting platforms or services. This market trend is creating a lot of competitiveness among influencers. More influencers are trying to attract more people by innovating content because of that. 

Influencers are making more income

According to Korea Labor Institute, famous Youtubers’ average monthly salary was 5.36 million won. It means that Korean Youtubers are making more income than normal salarymen. Such facts also attract more people to be influencers. 

Such social trends could be found by different surveys also. According to a recent survey by one education company, the most popular future dream by Korean elementary students was becoming a popular Youtuber in 2018. For example, BoramTube channel’s owner who is only 6 years old bought a 950 million won building in the Gangnam area in July, 2019. That’s why more people want to be influencers. And it also makes Korean influencers to be innovative for their contents more than before. 

Korean people are learning from popular influencers 

In July 2019, Cafe24 held a seminar about how to become a 2nd generation influencer. 1,500 people came to listen to famous influencers’ lectures. Such seminars are becoming more popular so even governmental organizations invite popular influencers to attract local people for their cultural centers’ lectures. 

Popular Youtubers such as 대도서관 (Daedoseogwan) also published a book on how to become a popular Youtuber. 

Authors: Hyeonsuk Lim and JK Song

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