It is a Step by Step Guide to help People to become Famous in China, be a KOL (key Opinion leader) and monetize their Popularity.
It is a well-known fact that every other teenager in China wants to become an “influencer”, “KOL” or “WangHong” (网红) – a social media personality with a large following and glamorous lifestyle. Foreigners with distinctive advantages also get curious and excited to give it a try. This article provides you a good start with everything you need to know, first and foremost, on how to become a KOL in China.
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What are KOLs?
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.
How big is China’s influencer market?
With the rise of social media in this digital era, it’s no surprise that the fast-moving influencer industry has developed at an even more advanced pace. KOLs are seen as having more importance and relevance than mass media because they are able to connect and relate to their audience in a way that is intimate. From Weibo and WeChat to Chinese social media platforms on the rise such as Douyin, KOLs have become a necessary part of any brand’s marketing strategy in China. The 2016 Chinese influencer economy was worth an estimated $8.6 billion. It is projected to be worth over $15.5 billion by the end of this year, having doubled in value in just two years, according to CBNData. Recent research from Tencent, one of the country’s biggest tech companies, shows 54 percent of college-aged respondents identify “online celebrity” as their number one career choice. It’s easy to see the appeal: designer freebies, relatively easy money and millions of adoring fans. Being a KOL seems to be a dream job for young girls!
How powerful are KOLs in China and why?
Chinese consumers have been through all sorts of scams, fake companies, fake products, fake services, etc. They have reached a point where they don’t trust what a brand says about itself. And so they rely on people, instead. KOLs have the power to significantly increase brand awareness and ultimately influence purchase decisions. More than 70% of Chinese Gen Z consumers – those born after 1995 – prefer buying products directly via social media than through other channels, compared with the global average of 44%, according to a 2018 study by consulting firm Accenture. Another reason why Chinese influencers are so powerful is the endorsement of social media and e-commerce. For Chinese, social media platforms like WeChat and short video platform Douyin, shopping is all part of the experience. Users can tap links, select an item and pay for it while they are still reading a post or watching a video – a far cry from Instagram. Since Chinese KOLs are really effective in generating sales, they are highly valued assets for themselves and brands.
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 Days 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 to KOL marketing. According to AdMaster, 63% of brands want to invest more in KOL marketing in 2018.
So, persuaded enough to start your venture of becoming a KOL?
How much do influencers in China earn?
Followers of Chinese influencers are much more tolerant toward advertising. Whereas sponsored posts tend to create a backlash in the West (accusing influencers of “being too commercial”), Chinese followers tend to embrace and encourage collaboration between influencers and brands. A typical WeChat campaign will cost between 0.5 RMB and 1.5 RMB per view. For instance, WeChat influencer “After Party”, with 550,000 followers and about 32,000 average views charges 40,000 RMB for one post. WeChat KOL “blogger手账” with 70,000 average views charges 33,000 RMB for one post.
Chinese influencer Gogoboi charges around $50,000 USD per promotion message and can run up to 15 brand collaboration each month. That’s $9 million USD of yearly revenue solely from WeChat advertising for an account estimated to gather around 8M followers. Gogoboi’s Weibo account, with nearly 10 million followers, likely brings in an additional $15,000 USD per post, with around 10 collaborations per month, netting another $1.8M USD per year of revenue from Weibo advertising. In addition to collaborations with brands, KOLs also earn a fortune from operating their own e-commerce stores or allowing advertisers to put ads on their platforms. Xiaoxiaobaomama, a popular childcare KOL, runs a popular WeChat Mini-program Store generating more than 80M RMB of sales per month. Assuming a 30% commission on all product sales, it is about $43M of revenues every year.
Overall, it is unquestionable that Chinese influencers can yield enormous returns, much more than their Western counterparts.
The important question, how to become a KOL in China?
1. Content is your top priority
“A KOL is a person who successfully combines expertise and passion.”
Maybe you will try numerous techniques to attract viewers and followers, but good content is always the top element of success. First of all, you need to know your target audience well. This means understanding what they want and need; then getting the content, channels and communication style right. You should responsibly invest in yourself, as well as your area of interest, consistently working to develop your knowledge. Since you are trying to be positioned as an expert in a certain topic, constantly providing audience with updated, fresh and original ideas should be the first priority. In addition, it is crucial that your contents are engaging – preferably within the first few seconds. We’ve probably all experienced watching videos or reading articles that take too long to get to the point, or fail to grab our attention from early. Make your content look well invested and professional either they are reading or watching materials. Get help from experts if you have limited or no experience in producing high quality content. Above all, be yourself! Authenticity is rare and very much appreciated in this era of massive media.
2. Get social, social and social!
If you are interested in becoming a KOL, it is critical that you make yourself accessible to your community, both in person and online. Social media in China is a really big deal. By some estimates, there are 600 million social media users in the country. Huge names elsewhere (Facebook, Google, and Twitter) are blocked. As a result, China-specific platforms have developed, messaging and social media app WeChat and Weibo among them. McKinsey & Company recently found that more than 91 percent of Chinese Internet users used social media in the past six months (compared to 61 percent in the US). Because of distrust in centralized communication, social media also has a larger influence on purchases in China than anywhere else in the world. Social media is your playground and you have to maximize them.
WEIBO: CHINESE VERSION OF TWITTER
Weibo is a micro-blogging platform similar to ‘Twitter’. Weibo’s users can exchange content and follow other users’ accounts. With over 650 million registered accounts, Weibo is a good place to be engaging with if you are attempting to be famous in China. As a public platform, Weibo is a launchpad of viral content and the place where online influencers spread their content and get multiple followers. Live streaming and Mini-videos have become a crucial component of Weibo’s offerings (the platform just acquired its live-streaming partner, Yizhibo) and is a major tool for KOLs to engage with their followers. In addition, Weibo Stories, which is similar to “Instagram Stories”, also allows you to upload short visual content. It is a very ‘open’ social network and therefore the most effective for KOLs to build their fame.
WECHAT: THE TRUE GOLIATH OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CHINA
WeChat boasts a massive monthly active user count of over 1.06 billion (August 2018), and is on the rise, both locally and internationally. Wechat started as a simple app for the smartphone whose main appeal was to send short vocal and written messages before morphing into a fully-fledged, integrated social networking platform. WeChat allows you to sign up for subscription or public accounts and market content to WeChat users in different ways. Moreover, WeChat has been evolving quickly into e-commerce field with the release of mini programs, favoring KOLs and the social selling aspect of e-commerce. Many KOLs have Subscription Accounts, which can now seamlessly link to ecommerce mini programs. This means that a consumer can be reading a piece of content from their favorite KOL, one click gets them into this KOLs WeChat mini program where they can browse products, share with friends, and in just a few clicks purchase whatever they desire all without leaving WeChat.
With Wechat, you can expand your followers as well as monetize them.
LITTLE RED BOOK (XIAOHONGSHU)
It is an application for shopping that focuses on giving users authentic product reviews, quality travel tips, and so on. Little Red Book allows users to post reviews, start discussions, and upload their own content. This platform focuses almost exclusively on offering trusted product reviews and experiences and is a rich source of tips for a lot of young consumers. The Little Red Book is incredibly lucrative for Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) looking to build their fame through their content. Millions of consumers go on Little Red Book for information and advice. Therefore, get yourself a foot here is important. First thing is to provide lots and lots of distinctive content to users. The WOM and sharing effect of Little Red Book will soon spread out your reputation since Little Red Book is a highly engaging community.
DO MORE LIVE STREAMING
In China, one of the biggest social media phenomena has been the rise of zhibo or “live” showings. These are essentially live broadcasts in which KOLs sit in front of a camera and talk, dance, sing, or otherwise look attractive to an audience in real time. People can make comments, like the posts, or send money in the form of virtual gifts. In the mainland, over half of all social media users (more than 344 million) have used one of China’s live-streaming apps. Particularly famous anchors can make hundreds of thousands of dollars each month, mostly from gifts given by fans. A report from Deloitte finds that China is likely to continue to top live streaming records, with viewers reaching over 450 million. The revenue generated from live streaming will, Deloitte estimates, rise 32% from 2017 to hit $4.4 billion in 2018. For you to become a KOL, first be an expert in live streaming.
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