SINGAPORE: Engaging South East Asia's online influencers requires more strategic nuance and direct advertising strategies will not work, industry experts have said.

"Most brands try to do social media advertising with influencers and… they want to show their brand forcefully to the audience – this is not how it works," said Andrea Olivato, of influencer intelligence agency Popular Chips, speaking at the LEAD marketing conference in Singapore.

Unlike direct advertising, he said, brands need to understand that influencer marketing works best in the form of a personal, authentic recommendation from an influencer to his or her followers. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: Ten tips for influencer marketing in South East Asia

"If we remove this factor and just put the brand logo up there, it's not going to work," he added. "It's wasted."

Marketers should also do background research on the influencers with regard to their past collaborations, and also with regard to the rules governing their specific market. Some countries require a year of clearance between two advertisements in the same category, but others may not. Brands should be wary of engaging an influencer who has promoted a rival's products in the recent past as it may confuse the audience.

Smaller, more niche personalities may also offer better returns.

"Brands with the best influencer marketing techniques are the ones that deliver the content to the ones still in their amateur stage: the micro influencers," said Olivato.

Besides having a niche audience that allows targeted precision, they are relatively unknown and untapped by most brands – adding a strong sense of authenticity that can work favourably to drive a message to their audiences.

"The influencers that are the smallest ones don't promote everything. They stick to their authenticity. When they deliver your message, it comes across as the most authentic," he said.

Data sourced from Warc