By Seow Bei Yi
Critics say they may not be the best people to raise awareness
They have helped cafe owners to draw in the crowds by posting pictures of food on Instagram and have sold lipsticks and eyeshadows with videos of themselves using the make-up.
But are social media influencers the best people to help raise awareness of government policies and programmes? Not to the critics of a recent campaign by the Ministry of Finance (MOF), which tapped this new breed of marketers who endorse products and services on their social media channels.
The move to hire 50 or so influencers through marketing firm StarNgage to promote the Budget process has generated debate on whether the strategy is effective and if taxpayers’ money is well spent.
The ministry said this was part of its outreach efforts, adding that “given the significance of the Budget to all Singaporeans, MOF employs a mix of communication channels and platforms”, including holding dialogues and collecting feedback in high-traffic areas.
But people have lampooned some of the social media posts, such as one in which an influencer called the MOF the “Sg govt of finance”.
Others pointed out that the posts on the Budget are out of place among the influencers’ regular posts on, for instance, exercise routines, overseas holidays and pets. They asked if these influencers even knew anything about finance.
For the MOF campaign, the ministry worked with a group known as “micro-influencers”. A spokesman described them as “personable everyday individuals, with at least 1,000 followers on social media”.
Ms Evangeline Leong, director of influencer marketing technology platform Kobe, said micro-influencers typically have fewer than 100,000 followers.
Mr Dennis Toh, co-founder of public relations agency The Influencer Network, said they can command $100 to $800 a post.
According to an invite sent out by StarNgage for the MOF campaign, each influencer could be paid up to $100 at the end of the campaign.
This is affordable relative to what the ministry would have had to pay for a TV or print advertisement, said Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon of the National University of Singapore Business School.
The MOF said the Instagram campaign is part of its overall public communications for Budget 2018, adding that it wanted to “encourage youth participation in the overall Budget process”.
“It is important for us to continually update and refresh our approach, based on reach and effectiveness, and to try new channels and platforms,” said its spokesman.
Ms Cheryl Chan, an MP who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance and Trade and Industry, said it seemed the MOF was trying to use as many different avenues as possible to direct people to the Government’s feedback points.
“These individuals, being media influencers, have a following ,” she said. “Having them put up a post is better than us putting up an advertisement or banner in one location, as it may not reach as many people, and as many youth.”
The ministry, which has also worked with business and community groups to raise awareness of the Budget, among other things, expects to reach 225,000 Instagram users through the campaign.
While some have questioned if this is possible, with the micro-influencers having only 1,300 to 35,000 followers, StarNgage chief community officer Terrence Ngu said the campaign has exceeded the target, based on insights from Instagram.
The number of followers that micro-influencers have may be small, said Ms Leong, but they are typically first-or second-degree friends. This translates to higher engagement rates, meaning a follower is more likely to click on a link that was shared or post a comment, she said.
Prof Ang said others who have reached celebrity status may have been used in so many publicity campaigns that their following, though large, may not be as committed.