What are KOL’s? (Key Opinion Leaders..) 

 KOL’S (Key Opinion Leaders) are social media influencers who have anywhere between a thousand to hundreds of thousands of followers on Chinese digital platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, QQ or video platforms such as Youku or Meipai as well as Nice.

You can recruit these Key Opinion Leaders to represent your company, brand, product or service in China through paid posts. This is a very powerful tool for international companies new to the Chinese market, allowing you to tap into large active community’s who are strongly influenced by a KOL’s opinion.

It is estimated that just this year alone, 1 billion USD has so far been spent on KOL advertising.. It is an incredibly lucrative industry for all concerned.

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A powerful strategy for growth

They provide a powerful infrastructure for brands to tap into their large, engaged and active communities of followers who are strongly influenced by Opinion Leaders, these influencers are considered experts in their particular area’s and fields.

The phenomenon exploded with the growth of China’s hundreds of Live streaming video platforms, users will live stream their everyday lives and build up large followings that become highly monetizable.



KOLS are content creators, e-commerce businesses and entrepreneurs 

KOL’s are content creators, own e-commerce businesses, engage in monetization through advertising and form entrepreneurial communities.

Less than 0.5% of users on platforms are considered to be KOL’s. By definition there can only really be a small number of leading influencers in each field, it is important to have a local partner to advise on the best choice of KOL’s for your field.


Impulsive buying on a large scale

 Most KOL campaigns in China are about impulsive buying, KOL’s create a short time excitement about the product. People are not searching for the product, they come across it and make a snap decision.

Group buying and flash sales create virality. People will share attractive campaigns with their friends, especially if there is a promotion or incentive. You can offer a short term discount through KOL posts to create this immediacy for instant purchasing.



The Different Types of KOL

There are different types of KOLs. Firstly there are ‘expert sellers’ who are great for sales of WeChat shops/e-commerce platforms. They are good at creating an impression and driving traffic to a store to increase sales.

Secondly, there are ‘Curators’ who are really good for branding, content and story-telling. They can help with building emotional trust for your brand.

A combination of sellers and curators is a very good thing to build the brand reputation and also facilitate sales.


 How do you find the right kind of KOL’s?

In such a big space (considering the size of the Chinese market) you need the right tools to find the right KOL and sort through a large number of potentials.

You have to think about what your brand is trying to achieve and leverage the right platforms to allow you to find the right KOL’s.

The best sites for this are:

yourank.cn: This is a big analytical platform with data on most KOL’s, it can help you identify a specific KOL as there is a lot of historical data.

The main issue with yourank.cn is that there is a lot of data to go through to find the relevant information on an influencer. It can be quite interesting if you have the time to analyse a lot of statistics.

WeMedia – This is typically thought of as a ‘Low end platform’, there will be good KOL’S but also fake KOL’s. Be careful of fake KOL’s as they can waste a lot of time & budget when it comes to your campaign. Our advice would be to avoid WeMedia.

Newrank.cn – This website offers ‘curated KOL’ services. They can help you sort through a large number of potentials but it can be time consuming if you are unsure what to look for.

 Gentlemen Marketing – We are KOL specialists who have a whole database of trusted, reputable KOL’s at our fingertips. We can connect you with the right KOL for your brand or company.




You’ve found your KOL, how do launch a campaign?

The most effective strategy is to create an ‘echo chamber’, that means you ‘hit’ the user on different platforms with multiple KOL’s promoting your product or service. If Chinese user encounters the brand through multiple influencers from multiple sources the credibility and reputation of the brand will be greatly enhanced.

Most brand’s don’t have natural brand advocacy, it takes time to build credibility with a KOL audience but as we said, these are very engaged communities that you can tap into with the right content and strategy.


What’s the right size of a KOL campaign?

Brands working with multiple KOL’s are much more likely to see an impact. It all depends on the budget as you can also invest intelligently with a smaller budget. A combination of ‘sellers’ and ‘curators’ (mentioned above) works well.

It is also important to up-promote and optimizes posts, in some ways it is not the size of the campaign but how well thought out your digital strategy is.


What level or tier of KOL should you be working with?

A tier 1 may be able to deliver over 100 000 views and interactions but is it just a matter of numbers? No, it’s about what makes the most sense for your product/budget.

A tier 2 can deliver between 40-80k views but they may be more targeted and relevant for your brand. In contrast lower values tier 3 KOL’s may drive 10k interactions but you can recruit a higher number of them to make multiple impressions on consumers.

It is worth noting that WeChat after 100 000 views does not show any higher statistics than the 100k views. This is a limitation of using a very large KOL, you do not get the most accurate impression of how a large scale campaign went in terms of data analysis and metrics.



Adopt a Multi-strategy approach, stay flexible

The most important point is to engage in a ‘multi-strategy’ approach, tier 1 KOL’s combined with mid-tier can be very effective. Less than 100 k views will show the exact figure, this can be very helpful for more accurate data/analytics. Stay flexible and do not just put all your eggs in one basket with 1 expensive KOL when a multi-tiered strategy works best.


Large KOL’s motivate smaller ones

Engage with a large KOL, this does motivate and influence smaller KOL’s in greater numbers because the brand is deemed as established and reputable enough to work with a top tier KOL.

In this field, KOL activity is typically cumulative. Think of the influence KOL’s will have on other influencers.


Driving Engagement & Conversion Rates

Who is developing your Chinese content? KOL posts are a great tool but you need to research how best to reach out to these active communities, great exposure with poor content is a waste of everyone’s time.

The best way to drive engagement, click throughs and sale conversion rates is to ensure you have the best content. How well do you understand your Chinese target audience? Does the content fit the brand? How have you tailored your value proposition to this market?



 Systematically send product samples to KOL’s

This should be a requirement, make sure you always send as many comprehensive samples as possible and way in advance.. This allows the seller to get a sense of the product, they can then write about the product from a personal standpoint if they have been using it/have more experience.

You can build a database of relevant KOL’s with contact details and addresses to streamline this process.


KOL’s should be personally connected to your product/service

This will lead to a more successful social Media campaign, when they speak about a brand they should mean it. If a KOL is not asking for a sample of the product before promoting that should be seen as a red flag, they should know and understand the product as the communities will detect this, this also functions as a filter for the quality of the product, you do not want to select a KOL who could potentially damage your brand because their reputation is declining through their lack of awareness etc.

Favor KOLs who emphasize understanding the product as this directly impacts upon social engagement and conversion rates.



Sales/Customer Service Teams should review the comments made by the KOL’s audience

Users will have questions about the product, where to purchase it, specific technical questions etc.

Follow these threads closely, your customer services team need to be active and help close sales by engaging with a KOL’s fan base, you can’t expect the KOL to always be your customer service representative.

Keep a very close eye on conversation and promote discussion with your informed, user friendly posts on the KOL’s original post.


We are a digital marketing & lead generation agency based in Shanghai. We specialize in helping international brands makes waves in China. We have an extensive database of KOL’s to tap into for our clients.

For more information please get in touch with one of our experts.


Further Reading:

Guide to Finding Quality Chinese Distributors

How a local fashion designer became the most popular ‘ready to wear’ brand in China

Most popular Brands for Chinese Women


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