poisepolish.: On the current Indonesian 'endorsement' phenomenon

March 22, 2015

On the current Indonesian 'endorsement' phenomenon

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Last year, 2014, and late 2013 was probably the biggest Instagram 'boom' in Indonesia. As I currently live in Indonesia and at the same time, being a blogger whose blog is still based in Singapore, I have experienced the different approach and goals of businesses who wanted to work with me.

Disclaimer: This article does not mean to offend any particular business/person.

I have been blogging for about 5 years now, and I have been offered by hundreds of brands from small ones to big international brands. Of course at first I was always tempted to take the 'job' because of the money, especially I started when I was very young and saving up for.. you know. Expensive footwear. However, my blogger friends, especially the 'full time bloggers', matured ones, advise me to choose brands very carefully. Only to choose whatever I want to represent and be associate with, for the long term effect. And I applied the theory for the rest of the time.

It was the year 2012 when I came back to Indonesia, bought an Android, and created an Instagram profile. I was always a twitter girl, who only uses a Blackberry back then (that doesn't have Instagram). Surprisingly, I have quite a huge following on Instagram (over 50,000 and counting) compared to twitter (only about 4000+), and then I started to feel like the rest of the population moved away from twitter to Instagram.

When I had about 5000 followers 2,5 years ago, local brands wanted to send me products for free. I received way too many phone accessories and cases, umm..which were my weakness. So I managed to group a few together and posted them on my Instagram for free. I thought, it was just Instagram post, snap a photo and add a one sentence caption kind of thing, not like I had to create a 3 paragraph article on my blog. Why not?

Then there were offers from online shops that sells parody tees, food, hair products, bag charms, things I don't even like or use and that aren't my style at all, and the list were endless. Then I started to wonder, what are these people doing here? I probably have worked with about 3-4 Instagram based businesses for free, and the rest for a fee. A lot of them don't want to pay at all, so I turned down almost 80% of the offer, because I don't like their products anyway. I did help a lot of my friends who start their businesses on Instagram because I had to. So most of the time when you see me tagging a brand that you're not already familiar with, I was doing it for a friend.

That moment, I began to notice that a lot people actually only use Instagram to sell products here in Indonesia. They actually rely on Instagram only to display their products and answer to customers. Because there are so many accounts, selling the same products, I guess the sellers don't have any other choice than to 'endorse' their products to as many people as possible (I will explain the perceived term 'endorse' later).

What once for celebrities, is also for online personalities, bloggers. Then it was no longer only to bloggers, but to just merely anyone with 3000+ followers. In my social circle, for example, almost everyone seems to be some sort of influencers, they get endorsement deals (no they are not bloggers, but they are pretty girls and they take good pictures) - a lot of them on daily basis. It is not a rare sight that their Instagram is made of only for endorsement posts.

I always knew that our followers know when it's a sponsored post, so the posts will get lower likes. The idea is to make the post as real as possible, and strategically place it as something that is part of our life. But nowadays, everyone gets too comfortable with receiving product endorsements that this theory doesn't fit anymore in the society. It is all about receiving free goods and maybe getting paid a little. It's no longer about creating hype, discussing a strategy with the brands, but simply posting photos and tagging the seller, not filtering products they want to receive. It's about the business of 'endorse' - what they call it, perhaps for an extra income.

Then it was the complete misconception about the word 'endorse'. In Indonesia, online shops email me and ask 'can I endorse you'? At first I was a little confused, do they really know what it means? In the supposedly correct theory, it's the celebrity/public figure who endorse brands/products, which was the other way around. But then I started to feel that these online sellers don't really know what they're doing, they just do what other brands are doing without knowing who their endorsers were.

According to this site: 58% of people in Indonesia feel that celebrity endorsements doesn't affect their desire to shop. It was celebrities they're talking about. But here we are talking about non-celebrities, only people with a couple thousand followers, which I don't even know for sure is real. I wonder, how much effect do these Indonesian online shops actually get from it? Do they even care about the reach, how to measure their social media engagement, their actual sales, product image, or are they only copying what their competitor is doing?

Again, this is just an observation from someone who's not doing anything at 11pm on a Saturday night. I guess a girl can ramble a little.

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