With China’s rise in economic power, an increase in major companies looking for a foothold in the market, and a lack of trust from consumers, KOLs have become immensely popular and are a must for any serious companies wishing to operate in the market. A lot of businesses are still not fully aware of the power of Kol Marketing in China.
This blog post will be a guide to understanding what they are, their roles in marketing, how to measure them effectively, and why it is important for your brand or business to get involved with these social media influencers.
Understand Chinese KOLs & Influenceurs Landscape
What are Kols?
KOL stands for key opinion leaders (your Chinese version of Instagram influencers if you will). They are typically thought leaders in their respective industries and have a large following on social media and have “huge” power in consumers purchasing decisions.
Key opinion leaders are often tapped by companies and businesses to promote or share content because of their influence. They can be a great resource to drive sales and get the word out about a new product, service, or campaign.
They can be celebrities, influential bloggers, or intellectuals. The choice of the key opinion leader depends on the type of product you offer, for example, if you sell in fashion, celebrities may be the right choice, but not only, even an expert on that product could be a good choice.
Who are Chinese Kols?
Most Chinese influencers are between 18 and 30 years old. Their wide audience is mostly composed of Millenials and Gen Z. They are content creators o social platforms, industry experts, e-commerce influencers, and entrepreneurs.
They create content that is targeted to the Chinese market and drive user engagement with their followers. Influencers in China can be classed into different categories from the mega start to the micro-influencers and key opinion consumers. Consumers’ communities can be considered to be influencers as well, have a considerable amount of influence, and are great for organic word-of mouth
Why are key opinion leaders so popular in China?
it’s a legitimate question. For years companies have preferred collaborating with celebrities (singers, actors, models, etc.) but the growth of social media all across China has changed the game.
With the democratization of social media and the ease of share that comes along, some personalities have organically started to grow in popularity and with such big following, top brands have jumped on the opportunity to collaborate with them and reach out to a larger audience and promote products.
Their popularity with the general public can be explained by how relatable they are (just like in the west). With kols there is certain proximity and intimacy that exist than can’t be replicated with stars: kols and normal people use the same platforms and share the type of content as everyone else. In short, users can identify with kols and build long-term relationships with them which are perfect for sponsors to create loyal customers
In 2019, the cosmetics, personal care, food, and beverages segments were leading the overall influence market. Domestic companies paid more and more attention to influencer marketing and quickly occupy users and markets through the flexible use of KOL and KOC.
China Kols Marketing Market Scale
Traffic is the driving force behind the growth of the KOL marketing market. In 2019, the number of daily active users on the platforms TikTok and Kwai showed explosive growth. While users were educated by short video content forms, they also accepted new forms of advertising: Kol marketing campaigns.
The increase in content creators means that advertisers also have more choices as to whom they hire for their Kol marketing campaign.
At the same time, Chinese influencers understand the needs of their followers. They want to be seen as authentic KOLs rather than brand advertising billboards that sell products. Being authentic and honest is key for an influencer’s brand image and its success in the market.
The surge in demand for influencers during the Covid-19 pandemic: With the Covid 19 pandemic and its subsequent confinement, data shows that China witnessed a huge surge in online purchases as well as Kols content & live stream consumption.
The live-broadcasting market in China is thriving: Pretty much every single Chinese social media app offers its own live-stream service that has been taken over not only by common netizens but also by brands selling their products through Kol campaigns.
How to optimize your China Kol Marketing Campaigns for success
There are a few things you can do to make sure your Kol Marketing campaigns in China are successful:
- Chose the right Kol and don’t be cheap, give out free products that can be gifted to his/her followers through a contest campaign for instance.
2. Make sure you target the right audience. You need to know your target market inside and out and make sure you’re targeting the right people with your ads.
3. Use Chinese social media platforms. The most popular social media platforms in China are Weibo and WeChat, so make sure you’re using them to reach your target audience.
4. Use localized content. Your content needs to be tailored specifically for the Chinese market if you want to be successful. Don’t use translated content – it won’t be effective. Use relevant keywords – many Chinese apps have an integrated search engine system or at least a popular # system.
5. Trust your chosen KOL with its choice and its content marketing strategy, they know their job… that is how they get their hard-earned money. A “corporate” KOL campaign can be seen from miles ahead and usually perform poorly. Influencers know their job and their target audience, don’t limit them?
Collaboration on Chinese Social Media Platforms
In the past, the channels for Chinese consumers to buy goods were mainly concentrated in stores, supermarkets, or e-commerce platforms. Today, a good influencer marketing campaign replaces traditional shelves, and users can purchase goods in influencers’ Live broadcast rooms, TikTok shops, and Kwai shops.
KOLs and Influencers are getting closer and closer to netizens, and their marketing value is constantly being amplified.
Short video platforms are favored by brand owners due to the rapid increase in daily activity, more vivid content forms, and efficient access to users. Short video platforms usher the harvest period of the market.
Weibo and WeChat are impacted by the rapid development of short video platforms, and the distribution ratio of companies’ investment amount on Weibo and WeChat is declining. At the same time, when looking at the top 5 social marketing apps, over 70% of marketing investment still happens on Weibo and WeChat. They are still unshakable in the media industry.
Chinese Key Opinion Leader Prices Vary a lot
Weibo: The overall price of all KOL publications is increasing, which means that the commercial value of Weibo KOL is underestimated by the market
WeChat: The public account is very concentrated in the top, and the competition in the medium and “bottom” is more intense;
TikTok: The regular price of Top KOL increased slightly and gradually stabilized. The number of KOLs at the middle and bottom increased sharply, leading to increased market competition
Kwai: more focus on influencers with a small number of followers led the price of Kwai KOL to increase sharply
Xiaohongshu: more practical content with a greater impact on fan decision-making. Pricing is experiencing an upward trend.
Choosing a social platform to run a successful Kol marketing campaign
KOL Marketing on Weibo: high engagement rate
Weibo is the App by excellence for KOL marketing. It not only has its own networks of verified influencers but every single Chinese influencer has a Weibo account with an engaged audience. Users on Weibo are also used to commercial content. These criteria make Weibo an ideal channel to run a campaign of influence, however, because of its success in the field, it become quite expensive to do so.
Weibo is a great medium for brands that have resources and want to achieve high exposure rapidly. Thanks to Weibo business accounts (and other marketing tools), they can easily link a campaign to their company profile on the app and reap the benefits almost immediately.
Work with Social Media Influencers on WeChat
Behaviors users are quite different on Wechat. Instead of mass consumption of content in a feed and wide acceptance for ads, users on Wechat are spending more time on content, and are not expecting promotional content to be as in the face as they are on Weibo. Your promo campaign will have to be subtle, and presented in a way that provides value to the viewer.
On WeChat, KOLs use words to build deep “emotional” communication with fans. Wechat is better for reaching out to an audience on a specific subject. Influencers on the app are often highly specialized and regarded as experts in their field. They have loyal followers but they also are pricey.
If your goal is to grow your audience and brand awareness by reaching tens of millions of users, then Wechat is not the right app for you.
Invest in Douyin Kol campaign
KOL marketing on Douyin (TikTok’s Chinese version) is incredibly effective because of the app’s massive reach and engagement (over 600 million active users) Douyin is very visual, which makes it perfect for showing off products or services.
Kol (key opinion leader) marketing can be extremely effective on this platform, as users are able to get a quick and visually-appealing look at what they’re promoting.
Plus, Douyin is a great app to create viral content and get a lot of followers rapidly.
KOL Marketing Campaign with Short Video app Kuaishou
Kwai: brands mainly launch customized videos on Kwai. Fans do not mind seeing ads in the content they watch. Through the “human + content” social ecology, Kwai helps companies quickly establish a strong trust relationship with fans.
The app is particularly good for KOC marketing and reaching out to a targetted audience living in smaller Chinese cities and has a focus on eCommerce.
Invest in Xiaohongshu for an effective Kol marketing campaign
On Xiaohongshu, marketers tend to put their resources in top KOLs with a strong identity to help their product get quick exposure. However, KOCs, have been getting popular in the influencer marketing realm, as their small follower base allows marketers to go for a targeted audience, that is often highly engaging for a smaller price.
Because Xiaohongshu’s core feature lies in UGC and peers-to-peers reviews, KOC marketing is extremely effective. Reduced costs, allow companies to hire multiple KOC, try out new audiences, and build a “closer” relationship with their audience. In short, it is great when brands work on their online reputation.
How Can Small & Mediums Size Companies Collaborate With Chinese Celebrities and key opinion leaders?
Small and medium enterprises in the early development stage of transformation should focus on brand awareness and setting up their sales and communication channel; in the medium and long-term marketing stage, brands need new media platforms, such as Douyin, Weibo, and Xiaohongshu to improve the brand exposure and increase traffic.
When getting started, we would not suggest you go with a KOL campaign. In fast many Kols do not work with unknown brands. Better work on your awareness through a more basic digital marketing strategy first.
With the rise of KOC in the Chinese influence market, we are definitely seeing more places for SMEs to operate and get their piece of the cake.
Key opinion leaders & Chinese Shopping Festivals
Popular KOLs are getting all the attention during Chinese Shopping Festivals but we would honestly not recommend Kols campaigns during these dates if you do not have enough brand awareness. That would be a waste of resources as your campaigns would be lost in the mass of the big names promoting for the big day.
However, it is true that influencer marketing has become an important promotion and sales channel for brand owners in large-scale marketing festivals. Marketers are usually focusing their effort on the events.
It seems Weibo is the channel recording most company/Kol collab during Chinese shopping festivals. A typical promotion pattern of a successful Kol marketing campaign would be cooperation with KOLs in the early stage of the Double 11 activity combined with PR content on WeChat to further realize consumer acquisition.
How did the Covid 19 pandemic Impact Chinese Key opinion leaders?
In Q1 2020, the epidemic hit the traditional advertising market pretty hard. Indeed, offline brands only did not have access to their targeted audience anymore. The first lockdown in China happened during two important marketing timing (2.14 Valentine’s Day and 3.8 Women’s Day) so it was hard and they had to suddenly turn online
However, the at-home economy during the epidemic also prompted a certain increase in the amount of KOL investment in the online education and gaming industries.
Brand owners in some industries have even increased the number of resources put into Kol campaigns and word of mouth
Enterprises also save themselves through the Live broadcast where their audience was happy to find them. The pandemic lockdown and forced hands to move online were a success.
Taking Lin Qingxuan, a domestic beauty brand as an example, during the epidemic, through the Live shopping guide and WeChat mini program membership conversion, the epidemic crisis was successfully resolved.
As of February 15, 2020, Lin Qingxuan’s offline performance reached 145% of the same period last year. Due to the sudden epidemic, brands gradually realized the importance of digital construction.
It is worth mentioning that during the epidemic, some brand executives joined the Live broadcast, such as Lin Qingxuan founder Sun Laichun, SAIC Passenger Car Company Deputy General Manager Yu Jingmin, Xiaomi Group Vice President Chang Cheng, et al.
Kol Marketing Strategy Trends in China 2022
Influencers Growth: Affected by factors such as the brand’s pursuit of marketing efficiency, platform support, and potential user spending power mining, the overall amount of collaboration will continue to maintain a high growth rate
Koc Marketing: preferred by Chinese netizens for their authenticity (fewer sponsors, fewer followers) and brands for their better prices, they have a bright future ahead
Live Streaming: selling goods via Live streaming has been a hot success and marketing campaigns using this medium will only multiply. With the core demands of advertisers inclining from promoting products to transforming traffic, Live streaming has become the keyway for all platforms.
SME: The number of SMEs is large, and the demand space is large. In the future, SMEs will become the backbone of the KOL market in china.
Influencers can not only help a brand to extent exposure and enhance brand influence but also directly promote transaction conversion. How far KOL marketing can go? Let’s see.
Need a Kol marketing strategy?
Do you want to know more about Key opinion leaders in China? Contact GMA a digital marketing agency, that specializes in the Chinese digital market.
We help you:
- Chose and register on the right marketing channels (eg: WeChat official account)
- Pick the right KOL to reach out to your target audience more efficiently (we have an extensive network)
- Kol strategy (eg: choosing the best key opinion leaders for your niche audience/ brand voice/ promo material/ platform and so on)
- Design and run your social network and Kol campaigns
- Word of mouth & brand awareness in your target market
- Marketing mix with traditional media and traditional advertising if that is what you need
- campaign performance reports
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