KOLs are popular social media users who have created viral content and developed a large following on social media platforms. Many are experts in their respective fields who create a personal connection with fans sharing advice, reviews, instructions or tips regarding products, brands or other life topics. Chinese KOLs have a much stronger influence on society in comparison to other countries and can have millions of followers who trust their advice and actively engage with the content they create on a regular basis.
KOLs marketing is critical in China
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KOLs has become a big part of any brand’s marketing strategies when operating in China. Due to a history of scandals from brands bringing in fake or unsafe products, consumers are wary to trust brands they don’t know and often turn to social media to view recommendations. This is where KOLs come in as a reliable source of product reviews, advice or usage tips for consumers to consider before making purchase decisions. Accenture found that 70% of Chinese born after 1995 will turn to social media to directly purchase products as opposed to other channels – compare this with the global average of 44%. For the past several years, many labels have benefitted from the promotion by online influencers of their products and services, especially those influencers with large followings.
Brands also frequently use them as a bridge to better understand the interests and preferences of Chinese consumers. Sometimes they’ll even collaborate with bloggers to launch events and release new collections because carefully selected KOLs can generate much more engagement than any brand’s official social media account can. According to Cyril Drouin, Chief e-commerce officer for Greater China, “if you don’t have a KOL, you won’t sell.”
One example of successful KOLs in China is Becky Li. Li is no pop star or TV personality but in a way, she’s exactly the kind of celebrity that brands increasingly lust after.
Style blogger and KOL Becky Li.
With more than 7.5 million combined followers on social media platforms WeChat and Weibo, Li is one of China’s top fashion bloggers. She’s one of China’s influencers who have been able to convert fans and generate sales on a staggering level. Two years ago, her WeChat collaboration with British carmaker Mini sold 100 cars in five minutes. And at the end of that year, Li launched her own clothing brand, which reached 1 million Yuan ($146,000) worth of sales within seven minutes of the launch of its first products.
Chinese blogger Zhang Dayi is another KOL who is astonishingly successful.
KOL Zhang Dayi
Zhang’s sales volume on the 2017 Single Day shopping festival alone hit 170 million Yuan ($24.8 million), according to Chinese news portal Sohu.
Tao Liang, better known as Mr. Bags is an expert whom all Chinese turn to for shopping luxury bags.
Till today, he’s garnered almost 3.5 million Weibo followers and countless fans on his WeChat account and has been tapped by luxury brands such as Dior, Fendi, Chloé and Tods for collaborations. His collaboration collection with Givenchy, for example, generated considerable excitement, with 1.2 million Yuan worth of bags being sold in just 12 minutes on his WeChat platform.
Brands are seeing KOL marketing as a cornerstone of their marketing strategies in China. KOL marketing spending in China is estimated to be at least RMB 35 billion (~USD5 billion) and is expected to grow three to five fold over the next five years. Advertisers are also allocating more resources for KOL marketing. According to AdMaster, 63% of brands want to invest more in KOL marketing in 2018.
Weibo is the best platform for your KOLs marketing campaigns
There are hundreds of apps in China, and many of them are great for different reasons, enabling KOLs to reach their fans in an optimal way; however, I would like to focus on WEIBO platform specifically. Why?
Firstly, WEIBO is inarguably the most influential social media platform in China. Weibo usage will grow to 340.1 million people in China this year, accounting for 24.6% of China’s population, according to eMarketer. This growth will continue over the next couple of years with Weibo users passing 400 million in 2018.
Shelleen Shum, the forecasting analyst, eMarketer, said, “Weibo has evolved into an entertainment platform that encompasses the features of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, and YouTube rolled into one.” Besides, Weibo has remained competitive by innovating away from text-based content to more visually rich formats such as videos, live streams, and photos. By this, KOLs can create more engaging and creative content for their fans. Finally, compared to Wechat, Weibo is a more open platform. Even non- account holders can view Weibo posts, repost, comment or share. Therefore, Weibo enables posters to reach more fans and expand awareness emotionally.
Creative ideas to promote your products and services on WEIBO using influencer marketing:
1/ Product reviews:
This basically means that KOLs would write reviews for products and post them on their WEIBO accounts. KOLs can utilize different forms of content to talk about the products such as images, videos or even live streaming. This promotes trust between customers and the brands and can spur purchasing behaviors among those who want to emulate the KOLs. Through KOLs’ millions of followers, brands also get to increase their awareness among potential customers. These valuable reviews created by KOLs can then be reposted on brands’ own WEIBO pages. Product review is not a new strategy to reaffirm customers about the quality of products. However, it can be very exciting and effective depending on how creative and informative the product reviews are as well as how brands utilize different advertising tools offered by Weibo to expand the reach of the reviews.
Pechoin is a Chinese skincare brand. Founded in 1931, Pechoin had failed to keep up with the time and its image was outdated. Pechoin wasn’t a brand that young Chinese consumers would consider buying for themselves. In 2017, Pechoin decided to use the Shopping festival 11.11 day to reborn itself. It worked with four beauty KOLs. During 11.11, these four KOLs created high-quality content sharing their real experiences using various Pechoin products, inspiring viewers to try out the products themselves.
For example, @C神SEASON shared a post on Weibo sharing her experience testing out a Pechoin beauty mask, and demonstrating the results. Her post alone received more than 1.7 million views and 1,000 comments with numerous fans expressing their intention to purchase the product.
2/ Giveaway campaigns:
Brands can use the giveaway strategy to catch attention for their new products. Giveaway gives fans the opportunity to try out new items without any risk. This is especially effective for skincare products where buyers are often concerned about the quality and compatibility of the products with their skin. In giveaway campaigns, KOLs help spread the call with their powerful voice.
Gogoboi, one of the most influential fashion bloggers on Weibo, set up a giveaway campaign with SK-II. It was in Q&A form with a twist. Participants had to answer a question after watching a video and then repost it to others with the answer. Selected participants with the right answers on their reposts were rewarded with sponsored SK-II star products.
3/ Competitions with the showcase of KOLs
Brands can organize photo or video making competitions featuring the products. Besides the valuable prizes for winners, brands can create a viral move on WEIBO with the help of KOLs. That means once many KOLs start to take creative pictures or make funny videos featuring a certain product, their fans tend to follow the move since it seems cool and trend-updated, which Chinese young people like to be perceived as. They also get to receive hot prizes if they become the winners.
Mizijun (密子君) is well-known for her compelling competitive eating videos on Weibo. She was engaged in a Weibo campaign set up by Pizza Hut for its new product promotion. The campaign was entitled “Show Your Excited Look When Eating”(#秀出吃货高潮脸#), allowing participants to upload their selfies with excited looks when eating pizzas of new flavors, and then the most popular 70 participants would be selected as the winners according to their number of “Like”. Mizijun was invited in the campaign as well and made a competitive pizza-eating video for Pizza Hut. As a result, the video triggered over 1500 reposts and 2500 comments within merely six hours.
4/ KOLs as storytellers in short movies
The story is the most effective way to transfer a message, and it’s even more powerful if the storyteller is an influential person with a large number of loyal fans. The movies aren’t limited specifically to the problems that brands are trying to solve but any life topic that can spur the interest and opinions from targeted consumers. The products in this way would appear as a close- by friends who are trusted by the KOLs. Weibo is a great platform for viral content. With its multiple functions and tools, Weibo can push these well-invested contents to the right audience.
OUR CASE STUDIES on INTEGRATING WEIBO INTO MARKETING STRATEGIES
FashIcon is an online fashion App that connects fashion lovers with stylists for personal outfit tips and advice. It is very interesting for a community of people with a common interest in fashion to share ideas, inspirations, and give advice to each other.
They contacted GMA for helping them to increase visibility and get more engagement in China.
Social media campaign (Wechat+ Weibo)
Q&A post ranking 1st page
PARA’KITO is a natural solution to get rid of mosquitoes based on the use of essential oils. PARA’KITO is one of the leaders in the solution against mosquitoes (especially bracelets).
They contacted GMA to get visibility on the Chinese market and increase brand awareness.
E-Reputation (PR, Q&A, KOL)
Q&A: 50 questions asked (Tieba, Wukong, Baidu Zhidao, Zhihu, Xici, Douban) KOL (20 posts: WeChat, Weibo, XiaoHongShu- Little Red Book) PR (4 posts: Sohu, Yoka, Pclady)
ilaya was founded in 2011 to help couples realize their dream of becoming parents. During these years, Ilaya has gained an excellent reputation, and their services have been highly valued by thousands of customers from all over the world. ilaya’s specialty is in innovative medical technologies, and the aim is to eradicate disease with minimal intervention within the body, which results in significant reductions in patient recovery time.
GMA was contacted by Ilaya, for helping them to get more visibility in China
80% of exposure
PR: Coverage on 4 top platforms
E-reputation: 5 Q&A discussions published the first month
SEO: 3 leads after one month
In conclusion, brands can be very creative in how they cooperate with KOLs to design interesting activities for fans. However, the effect of these campaigns would depend largely on whether brands are able to select the most suitable KOLs as well as how well they understand Weibo to capture the best tactics of it.
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