How to spot a hidden gem influencer in Malaysia?

Posted on March 21, 2024

Written by Yuhwen Foong

What is your definition of a great influencer? To me, a great influencer is someone who engages her followers and does her job well. If an influencer creates funny videos, she has to be really consistently funny. If this same influencer proclaims herself to be a dancer, she is a really gifted dancer. A specialised influencer who is a subject matter expert in the field of his/her choice, to me, is a great influencer. That coupled with professionalism, humility and tenacity can take a creator from good to great. 

(Instead of going through the entire article referring to he/she/they/it, I will just be using the pronoun she as reference for all influencers)


Influencers are not expensive if you know where to look. Over the past 7 years, we have had some of the best moments in influencer marketing and a really awesome one was when we discovered Sterk Production. Back then, one YouTube video was only USD2,000 and the views were crazy good in large because they were not yet “discovered” or in other words, overly sponsored. They were affordable then (still quite a good rate today). This usually happens when an influencer is in the budding stage. It’s like discovering a hidden star and turning them into the next Asia’s Top Model. It feels a little like that for us whenever we find a hidden gem amongst our influencers and for our clients, it’s awesome! They love SushiVid for that. 

What makes a good influencer marketing company? When you can replicate that success again and again, finding the hidden gems again and again but that’s not always easy. Sometimes you catch a quick glimpse of them and 2 months later, they are signed to a manager. 

As I reflect on my strategy for Q2 of 2022, I ponder again on how we might find our next batch of great influencers and these are some of the key things we look out for when discovering influencers:

1. They are not usually living in urban areas

To find a great hidden gem, you must look beyond your comfort zone. All of us agency folks are based in Klang Valley. The people we know, the influencers we follow, and the friends we meet at events also end up within 50 km of Kuala Lumpur. If we all know the same bunch of creators, how are they going to be hidden gems? Urban influencers are more expensive, in part, because of their urban cost of living which is higher than their less urban friends. Their exposure to more agencies also creates “demand” for them and therefore increases their prices further.

In my past experience, the influencers we have found whom we felt were well priced were non-urban influencers such as SyazaYusof and AqilZulkiflee who are based in Melaka, and AishaLiyana who was once based in Penang. ChazyNash, AminEmo, Farhan Kapor, and the bunch are from Perlis. While they are probably affluent and studied abroad, their price has always been tiered slightly lower than urbanites. This is when we first discovered them some years ago, today their price is comparable (no longer hidden gems). 

2. The content is highly engaging but the quality may not be great

A lot of agency people are particular about content quality. It’s probably because they are trained to have a keen eye on errors. They can spot even the smallest “mistakes”. To me, these little mistakes are marginally small compared to the reach such an influencer could bring to a client. As a long term social media user, I attest to this as well. Don’t we all prefer some genuine content that is uncensored or unfiltered compared to the spotless content that we deliver to our clients? I understand that some of these are required because of a brand’s reputation and a PR crisis lurking around the corner, but if we could craft this carefully, these campaigns are the types of campaigns that create a lasting impression on all of us. We all have to take some risks to create great content and take some risks on these hidden gems that are yet to be moulded into VVS cut diamonds. 

3. They are usually controversial

At this point, I’m sure most of my agency friends will tune out cause I’m starting to sound ridiculous. Look friends, I hate this too but controversy sells. What do we all remember the most about the recent Oscars? Will Smith slaps Chris Rock. What else do we remember about the Oscars? Jennifer Lawrence falls at the Oscars. I know… I hate it too, I hate that these moments are what take away our concentration and attention from the hard work that every actor/ producer/ director/ has put in. I hate that these moments are what we remember compared to all the credit we should be giving to every person who was nominated but it sells. Such is life. 

Influencers are no different, an influencer usually rises to fame from a major scandal. I won’t want to name anyone, but if you can think of one, add it to the comment below.

4. They have a younger crowd (high school students)

Just because these hidden gems are good value for money does not always mean they are good for your brand. They usually attract the younger crowd. Think about it, who are the age groups with the most time to spend on social media? High-schoolers. If you’re in your late 20s, do you realise it is almost impossible to get 1,000 followers on social media? Yeap! I feel you. That’s because most of our friends have a life outside of social media, kids to care for and jobs to pull an all-nighter. Usually, people who are able to attain virality are people who are able to attract the younger generation and if you’re selling bubble tea, this is the perfect guy for you. The next time you want to find a hidden gem, ask any 7 year old what they are doing in their free time. (Hint* They are mostly on Roblox) 

This is truly where the challenge lies, an influencer who has this type of following, probably wasn’t trained by a superstar parent. She probably didn’t try to become famous but just loves dancing on TikTok. When the fame hits, she doesn’t even know what hit her and may not have the maturity to manage the fame. Unless one of her parents is aware and made sure the teenager is managed and has a great personal coach to handle the stress, a lot of these influencers will fizzle out quickly. 

I genuinely believe it pays to have a great coach, a great manager and a great PA just to keep your sanity and to give you the confidence you need to go higher. I also think this is going to be a byproduct career path for a lot of people in the future with the rise of creators. What do you think? If you’re an influencer and is looking for a coach, hit me up and [email protected] 

In my next article, I will be sharing some of the trending influencers on TikTok in Malaysia. Stay tuned for more contents from me. If you have a specific topic you’d like me to write about, feel free to leave a comment.