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From intern to shareholder: How I’ve watched Netccentric grow the influencer ecosystem

Dear Talents,

In two weeks’ time, Netccentric will be celebrating its 10th year Anniversary.

Almost ten years ago I started my internship with an obscure startup called Netccentric. While startups today have bean bags, Herman Miller chairs and a pantry that gives the M&M store in Times Square a run for its money, this startup had nothing of that sort. Instead of a glitzy office this startup was based in the backroom of a site office of a construction site with old wooden tables and plastic chairs that look like they were stolen from the nearby Roti Prata stall.

I soon understood why. The founding principle of Netccentric was to be a long term sustainable company and in order to do so it had to be profitable. In order to be profitable it had to live within its means so it was spending money it made rather than money it raised.

This long term view of Netccentric was grounded in the businesses that the company is in today. When it comes to talents be it in Nuffnang or ChurpChurp, Netccentric’s ambition isn’t to find influencers who are already popular and broker deals with them to make a quick buck. Instead the plan is to find hidden gems and talents that we can add value to and then grow with them to make them the social media stars they are today.

Looking back here’s what we have done to build the blogger and influencer ecosystem that exists all around Asia-Pacific today.

1. We built an industry that allowed for full-time bloggers or influencers

The emergence of social media brought the rise of an influential group of bloggers and influencers with reach that go from the thousands to millions. With their newfound followers and fame, influencers had a pain point. How do they earn enough money so that they could focus all their time on doing what they love?

In came Netccentric to help solve this pain point that influencers had. We educated the clients on why they should invest in influencers and who they should invest in. We went for thousands of meetings and planned and pitched strategies for social media campaigns. Our work doesn’t end at selling deals through. Our team handles everything from executing the campaigns, reporting and following up to ensure that we and our talents get paid. This machinery works in the background of every paid opportunity that you see on social media.

Today, many of our top talents earn enough money to quit their full-time jobs and focus on doing what they love be it blogging or vlogging. Yet our work is not yet done for our mission is to bring financial independence not just to the top influencers but the mid-size ones that we have today too.

2. We created opportunities for new experiences, adding to our influencers’ mix of content.

Apart from financial independence, Netccentric’s motivation is to add value to the content our bloggers and influencers created. One of the ways we did so was by opening the door to new experiences, be it a trip to Japan or to Hongkong. Many of these trips aren’t paid and Netccentric makes no money from it but we do it, because it’s part of our mission to help talents grow.

Today we’ve not only flown hundreds if not thousands of our talents to different locations but we also have active close relationships with tourism boards all over the world from Dubai to Fiji Island. On a recent sponsored trip to Croatia that Netccentric arranged, Xiaxue, Fourfeetnine, Rachel Wong and Peary Pie traveled the coast of Istria, hunted for truffles and made a splash in the local newspaper.

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3. We invested in a Talent program to groom and market our Talents

As I’ve talked about a few times earlier, a big part of our long term vision is not to just work with existing popular social media stars but to groom new ones. We are serious about creating the next social media star and have invested millions of dollars in doing so. Just last year, we engaged the services of acclaimed PR agency, Asia PR Werkz, to raise the profiles of our Talents regionally.

In Singapore, Qiuting (or popularly known as ‘Bong Qiu Qiu’) is the living proof of our efforts. Since she joined us 6 years ago, we’ve helped and watched proudly as her traffic grew more than ten times, and helped expand the portfolio of brands that have worked with her.

Following her pregnancy, we successfully clinched year-long ambassadorships such as Philips, Biolane, Merries, Expressions post-natal slimming, each snagging five-figures per ambassadorship and cementing her as one of our top earners. She’s evidence that blogging can be a comfortable and financially rewarding career.

On the PR front, more recently she had a feature published in The Straits Times, and graced the cover of Celebrating Life by Thomson Medical.

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Qiuting is a testament that our hard work and resources can go hand-in-hand in creating a success for our Talents.

4. Friendships were fostered, both locally and around the globe

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As it is with many other things in life, when it comes to the power of influencers there is strength in numbers. So another part of our vision is to connect influencers across different countries and continents. Having a presence in the 8 countries around the region has enabled us to do this effectively and the friendships fostered have led to collaborations between the influencers which have led to the expansion of their following.

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We’ve also seen foreign Talents visiting local offices during their holidays, supporting our local talent’s new clothing line launch and even marriage between influencers who met through our community!

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5. We’ve worked with industry partners to regulate the social media space

As the major players in the influencer industry, we understand the importance in working with industry partners to develop the guidelines in this increasingly crowded yet unregulated space.

Internally, we published a set of professional and ethical guidelines that guides the way we work on social media. This Handbook gets distributed and explained to our Talents whenever they join our program.

We have since partnered with ASAS (Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore) to finalize advertising guidelines in social media and engaged local tax man IRAS to further define bloggers and influencers’ taxable income.

We hope to expand our efforts regionally to help our local talents navigate their way to quality and ethical content.

The Future

Today, Netccentric is a company that has over 200 staff in 8 countries. Funds raised from our IPO on the Australian Securities Exchange last year has armed us with a war chest. We need to take this growth further and to do more to grow the blogger and influencer ecosystem in the countries we’re in. We are also opening in new markets namely Indonesia and Taiwan which will then expand the Netccentric network and create more opportunities for our talents.

Beyond that, we are also committed to our next mission to help people connect and influence others through their stories. It’s the reason we’ve created Dayre, and the viral content we’ve seen created has only affirmed us further on this track.

As for me, I’ve grown from an intern to a Regional Director of the company overseeing the 200 staff. I have also since become a shareholder of this valuable company.

I’m honored and humbled that you’ve stuck with us through this time, and I promise that in the decade ahead, Netccentric will work better and harder to continue to be on the forefront of social media.

Thank you for the great ten years. Here’s to the next ten years.

The best is yet to be.

Hui Wen Yang
Regional Director, Netccentric Ltd

Christina Lau
Nuffnang Community Team

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