The author Yuhwen Foong was a struggling artist for three years before she decided to welcome the opportunity to introduce content creators like herself to digital platforms with her brand new startup SushiVID.

From the original Silicon Valley to Asia’s Silicon Valley (Singapore), from the Silicon Roundabout to the Silicon Cape, and all the digital cities in between, startups continue to lure the converse-and-hoodie set to their largely hipster offices (or more realistically, their favourite coffee haunts!).

The ever increasing number of startups is largely down to technological advancements, chief among them being that tech makes it easier for entrepreneurs to connect with angel investors and crowdfunding. It is ironic then that the current wave of startups is focussing on making connections between brands and influencers — influencers who may not be able to sustain their video careers without some injection of cash. Much like startups in their initial phase…

A quick search of AngelList shows that there are currently 109 influencer marketplaces listed, with 936 investors at an average valuation of US$6.1 million. These ‘marketplaces’ are predominantly based in the US though there is a scattering of European startups in the mix.

The common goal of all these startups is to allow influencers an opportunity to connect with brands looking to boost their presence on social media. Generally, the product placements and/or mentions are subtle, with the influencer simply incorporating the product into their usual style of content. It is claimed that this adds a level of authenticity that traditional advertising sometimes lacks.

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The YouTube generation

One of the most well-known of these marketplaces is FameBit which claims to have “21,000 creators in its influencer network which reach over 1 billion people all over the world.” That’s one billion people that may not have been reached through more traditional advertising methods, as audiences move from television to YouTube. Marketers have been quick to jump on board this trend, with social media marketing spending tipped to have doubled in 2015.

The larger impact of this change in viewing habits is that the new generation no longer fawns over television and movie stars, but aligns itself with YouTube favourites. Variety put this down to the fact that current YouTube stars are ‘genuine and relatable’, though additionally there is the fact that audiences can often engage and communicate directly with the influencers through their YouTube pages.

As Hubspot stresses, brands that wish to improve their communication strategy should aspire to be authentic to show their personality and to converse with their fan base… just as influencers do!

In practice, it has been observed by Lewis Shields of N2N and Fuel Communications that:

“Influencers generate an even higher rate of conversion, directly driving 30 per cent or more of the overall ‘end-action’ on a brand’s website by recommending it to their engaged network. Digital and social analytics mean that the impact of influencers is entirely measurable, and we’ve seen the ROI be significantly higher than traditional digital channels.”

Influencers need sushi on their dining tables

For the system to work properly though, it is essential that influencers receive something in return. And it is for this reason that in developing SushiVid, I have ensured that payments to our YouTube influencers are guaranteed. There will be no brands absconding with pay cheques on our watch.

Beyond ensuring that our community of influencers will always have sushi on the table, I believe that this will help to ensure that a high quality of Asian content will find its way to YouTube, so we can continue to enjoy what our influencers produce.

Also Read: How to create an iconic brand in the digital era

Given that influencers are uniquely poised to promote brands in an authentic and organic way, we need to ensure their longevity. And, with their positive impact on conversion and sales, it’s hardly surprising that influencer marketplaces have become the latest startup trend.

This article first appeared on Medium.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at elaine[at]e27[dot]co

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