Jakarta. With the rise of social media, many young Indonesians are forging their career paths in an unusual way — by becoming influencers.
The job, which has flexible working hours and does not require office presence, is perfect for those who stand out in the internet world. They can leverage the power of their social media accounts to earn decent money.
Social Media Heaven
Indonesia is heaven for social media platform providers and for those who wish to earn from their virtual connections. In 2017, the country recorded 143.26 million internet users, a 7.9 percent increase from the year before.
About 90 percent of users needed the internet for chatting, 87 percent to access social media, 75 percent to use search engines, 73 percent to view images, and 70 percent to download videos — each person usually used several features.
With a population of 260 million and growing internet penetration, Indonesia is the fifth-biggest Twitter user and the fourth biggest Facebook user, after Brazil, the United States and India. Indonesians are also believed to be among the world's most active Instagrammers.
Brands nowadays take on social media seriously. According to a report by content marketplace GetCRAFT, social media have become the platforms of choice for brands doing native ads, with more of them planning to boost their spending on branded content and influencer marketing.
A Fun Thing to Do
The Jakarta Globe spoke to a popular Indonesian influencer Alexander Thian, who flies the flag of his personal blog Amrazing. Alex's unique approach to getting followers, through photographs, videos and personal notes from places he visits, has gained him a huge number of followers.
His Twitter account @aMrazing is followed by 618,742 people, his Instagram fan page @amrazing by 185,353, and his Google+ account by 263, 247.
"It started as a fun thing to do … then one day everything blew up," he said, remembering that one day in 2011 he suddenly had more than 20,000 followers.
"Being a social media influencer isn't easy, there is a lot of competition and branding yourself is very important. The hardest part is finding your own voice, for me the branding is 'a storyteller.' On platforms such as Instagram it is also important to be multifaceted. Many of the most popular Instagram stars are excellent photographers, many even hire social media strategists to help popularize their brand," he said.
He admitted that when one becomes popular on social media, it is likely that brands will offer collaboration.
"Brands will sponsor social media influencers, who in turn promote them on their profile [pages]. In the modern age, this can be a great source of income. You may even get a chance to travel, tourism boards invite people to visit their countries, and they provide everything," he said.
His advice to all influencer-wanna-bees: "In social media, content is king. When your content is great and unique, people will hear your voice and follow you."
Influencers, Buzzers, Content Creators
Social media personalities vary by the "services" they provide.
Buzzers are those who post information or promote brands and products — create buzz. They usually have a large following on social media and are popular among certain groups. At some point they can be approached by politicians, officials and corporations to distribute their messages.
Influencers usually have more clout than buzzers, they are able to influence people with what they say, do or show. Influencers typically have more than 100,000 followers and they are specialized in particular subjects.
Content creators need to create good content, and one of the best social media platforms for them is video-sharing platform Youtube. Unlike influencers from other social media platforms, who rely on brands to make money, Youtubers earn from advertisements in their videos.
One of Indonesia's successful Youtubers, Samuel Alexander Pieter, also known as Young Lex, says everything starts with fun.
"Now we can see there are many young people who became successful thanks to the digital industry. So, why not? We all do it simply for fun at first, because I never thought I'd become this famous. It turned out I could make a lot of money. The point is we need to do it with passion, the money is just a bonus," Samuel told Jakarta Globe's sister publication Suara Pembaruan in January.
Making Billions, for Real?
The same sentiment is shared by a family known as Gen Halilintar. Also on Youtube, they have quite some following with more than 2.4 million subscribers.
Gen Halilintar consists of six brothers, five sisters and their parents. The father, Halilintar Anofial Asmid, is a businessman.
The family's funny covers of latest hits have endeared them to fans, and each month bring billions of rupiah to the household budget.
A Show of Talent
Before they became big, singers Isyana Sarasvati and Raisa Andriana sang covers and uploaded them to Youtube. The platform allowed them to show their skills. In an interview with Suara Pembaruan in January, Isyana said that new technologies and social media platforms can and should be used to create and promote talent.
"I think technology is going in the right direction, so why should we shun it, or be confused ... We can use it in a positive way, like many singers do nowadays to showcase their talent," she said.
Bayu Randu, a producer at record label Greenland Indonesia, said that social media platforms become an important stage for upcoming singers.
"There numerous talented people who aren't picked up by record labels. But social media platforms allow them showcase their talent," he said, adding a projection that many well-established musicians who will not move to Youtube may eventually disappear.
Shift in Consumer Preference
Eko Listyanto, an economist at the Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance, said the creative industry is observing a significant growth and in the near future we will see social media creating significant shifts in consumer preference and behavior.
According to Donny Budi Utoyo, a digital literacy and internet governance expert at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, consumers start to trust social media influencers more than the government.
Due to the "diverse, yet personalized" aspect of social media, they feel more engagement with online content than with television or magazine coverage, he said.
"In the age of digitalization, it is uncertain what jobs will look like in 10 years. At this point, it seems certain that social media influencers will still be relevant to society. As will reporters, bloggers and storytellers. ... We live in an era of unprecedented technological advancements, where opportunities to earn high income through the internet are flourishing."
Additional reporting by Joy Muchtar.