Key opinion leader marketing, also known as KOL marketing, is just one of the many tools you can utilize to boost your marketing’s effectiveness. This practice revolves around endorsements from individuals who are qualified experts in your product’s field. While it is most prevalent on social media, KOL marketing can also be employed in traditional television, radio, and print campaigns.

How to Establish an Effective KOL Marketing Strategy

An effective KOL campaign will revolve around juggling cost, endorsements, and platform management. Effective KOL depends on having the right spokesperson on the right platform who says the right things. It’s a tricky business to manage, and it’s never a bad idea to hire a bit of outside help.

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china kol marketing efficiency compare to other channels

Why Use KOL Markeing in China?

With its booming economy and skyrocketing population, advertisements and products constantly bombard consumers in China. KOL marketing offers these consumers more trustworthy and transparent advertising experiences than the average celebrity endorsement. The transparency and, importantly, the inherent trust that the public carries for popular experts is what your business will tap into when using KOL marketing.

Today, Chinese consumers react more readily to social media and web-based marketing than traditional print or television media. Some of the most popular platforms to focus on when engaging in Chinese marketing are:

  • Weibo
  • WeChat
  • Youku
  • Yizhibo
  • Miaopai
  • Douban
  • Zhihu

Choosing the Right KOL Spokesperson

Of course, it’s worth noting that finding the perfect KOL candidate is no easy feat. Fortunately, Gentleman Marketing Agency is here to help. Our digital marketing platform has successfully worked with many clients in the past. We can locate and recruit the perfect KOL spokesperson for your brand. Moreover, —and perhaps more importantly—we can coach them to create content that will give your brand a foothold in the vast world of Chinese eCommerce. Our many happy clients include:

  • Red Bull
  • Twist and Drink
  • Volvo
  • … and many more!

Who Counts as KOL?

There are a few different types of KOL. While each type of spokesperson is a bit different, they all share a proven track record and established presence in their field of expertise.

Celebrities

The most popular and widespread classification of KOL in mainland China is qualified celebrity endorsement. Though extremely effective, celebrity endorsements are equally expensive.

Bloggers

As part of the evolving sphere of China’s digital influencer marketing influence, bloggers make up another category of KOL spokespeople. Hiring a blogger for your KOL campaign may result in as much widespread recognition as a celebrity endorsement, but it’s far more cost-effective. Nonetheless, bloggers are not without their challenges. Many are rather picky about what they will support, and their endorsements will often come in the form of compensated reviews.

Wanghong and Micro-influencers

Literally meaning “web celebrity”, the wanghong is another modern subset of influencers. These social media darlings sometimes exceed the impact of a traditional celebrity, yet they cost far less. Many wanghong are known for their looks and specialize in fashion or beauty topics.

Similar to wanghong are micro-influencers. Particularly prevalent in China’s version of TikTok, Douyin, these individuals are a great way to connect to a younger and trendier audience. Micro-influencers also specialize in fashion and beauty.

When dealing with either wanghong or micro-influencers, it’s important to be wary of the account. There is a fair risk involved in hiring a social media promoter, as many Chinese social media accounts are spoofs or bots.

KOC – Key Opinion Consumers

One of China’s more unique KOL marketing approaches is the key opinion consumer or KOC. Like a KOL, these individuals have built a reputation with their fanbase for offering up trustworthy, high-quality products. They have a smaller reach but help establish a brand as an “everyman” item.

How Many KOLs Can I Work With?

Depending on your company’s size, budget, and capabilities, you may opt to only work with one of these categories of KOL. Smaller companies with a tighter budget and companies facing supply or production issues will likely want to start by singling in on one category. Conversely, larger companies with more extravagant budgets can easily handle endorsements from multiple types of KOLs.

On Which Chinese Social Media Platforms Can you Promote Your Brand with KOLs?

In addition to finding and recruiting a KOL, you’ll also need to determine which platform you want to focus your marketing efforts on. GMA recommends that smaller companies and companies facing issues with supply or production pick one or two platforms to focus on. Larger companies and groups with more funding can tackle multiple campaigns across various platforms at once.

Weibo: the app for every brand & company in China

One of the biggest social media apps in mainland China is Weibo. A hybrid of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, this platform does a little bit of everything (including eCommerce) and is the place to be to promote a brand in china while building a massive following.

You’ll find all types of KOLs for every type of topic on Weibo as well as an audience to consume the content resulting in your Weibo KOLs campaign.

Chinese Short Videos Apps: visibility with Chinese Gen Z

There are multiple apps for handling TikTok-style videos in China. Douyin ($26B GMV in 2020) and Kuaishou ($58B GMV in 2020) are the most popular short video and live-streaming apps in China, and are even becoming more and more competitive when it comes to eCommerce. Both of these platforms cater to younger audiences with highly creative videos, many of which revolve around music and offer perfect content formats to create engaging KOLs campaigns.

WeChat: KOL Campaigns to nurture an already existing fans base

Wechat is obviously a big one when it comes to popular social media platforms to run Kol campaigns in China. The vast amount of features allows brands quite a bit of creativity for their collab: from WeChat live streaming, to video on their WeChat channel, to sponsor collab their official account, or reviews and endorsement on a KOL/KOC WeChat account.

Furthermore, many companies in China rely on WeChat to maintain a digital presence and communicate with customers as an alternative to email marketing. As a platform, WeChat has a wider user base than others; the typical age of its users spans from 18–40. In addition to its functionality as a hub for communication with consumers, the platform can also be used to send out regular updates and emails.

Xiaohongshu: KOL marketing for Beauty & Life-Style Brand

Xiaohongshu is a blend of eCommerce and social media. The website’s core features: “shopping note” (aka consumer reviews) is the real key to its success within the Chinese beauty & lifestyle community. With this feature, companies can purchase user-generated content (UGC) and KOC pieces, such as reviews in addition to (or in lieu of) traditional ads.

Little red Book app: Shopping note

Taobao through Weitao & Taobao Live

As part of the Weitao selection of apps, Taobao is a social media platform for vendors and brands. On Taobao, brands can promote their products through photos, posts, and WeChat-style updates. This platform also allows for brands to accrue followers and reach out to potential KOLs.

KOL Marketing in Practice:

In practice, KOL marketing has a lot of moving parts. You’ll need to effectively track all of these aspects at once to have a shot at running a successful campaign. For your sanity, GMA recommends hiring someone like us to do the job for you. However, if you still want to do it yourself or want to know more, here’s how it works!

The Price of Working with a KOL

As with all things, KOL endorsements come at a cost. Regardless of the platform, a KOL endorsement will cost more for someone with more followers. Prices range from $150–$4,400 per post on average. Accounts with less than 100,000 followers are the cheapest, and prices increase from there.

Types of Content Generated for Chinese Kols Campaigns

When dealing with KOLs, the first step is to know what sort of content you’ll be engaging with. There are four primary types of KOL content:

  • Short videos make up a huge share of the younger population’s screen time and habits. These bite-sized clips offer unique ways to showcase your brand and content.
  • Long-form live streaming offers a sense of connection with clients through your KOL. During a Livestream, a KOL can showcase your product’s features and capabilities.
  • Blogging can be done through both traditional written text and images. If you deal with a KOC, you’ll likely be looking at a blogging campaign.
  • Q&A sessions can be held through various apps or as a Livestream and offer the same benefits.

Types of Kol Campaigns

In addition to the type of content you’ll be utilizing, you should also consider what type of campaign you’ll run. The most common campaigns for KOLs are:

  • Reviews and UGC have often sponsored posts. They may be hosted on a social media platform similar to Twitter or posted as a long-form blog. 
  • Live-streaming sales are a good way to showcase a product while offering a discount.
  • Contests and games serve as interactive giveaways. Often, KOLs will encourage entrants to share the post, which further increases your brand’s reach.
  • Banner ads are more traditional advertisements. They often take the form of an image or video along the bottom of a web page or app.

Common Mistakes when doing Kol Marketing in China

While anyone working alongside GMA won’t have to fret about mistakes, someone trying to handle a KOL campaign alone will have to recognize and avoid a variety of common obstacles. KOL is a risky game, and brands should be aware of some common mistakes that can leave them out of money and without a proper KOL.

Hiring a Fake Kols

The most dreaded and common type of scam is for a bot to post as a KOL. In these situations, a marketer will pay the bot for content to be produced, only to receive poor-quality results. Even worse, no content may be delivered at all! These fake KOLs work by setting up legitimate-looking accounts and purchasing followers. Often, they’ll bolster their credibility by stealing videos and posting them to their page.

No Goals when setting up a KOL strategy

As with all campaigns, your KOL campaign should have a defined goal and purpose. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to find customers or expand your brand’s recognition; you need to set a goal and stick to it.

Excessive “Aggression”

Campaigns can be too forceful or commercial-like. Chinese consumers are keenly aware of when they’re being sold to, and ineffective campaigns often approach a KOL as more of a television commercial than a modern advertisement.

Use the wrong Chinese (social media) Platform

Choosing the wrong platform to advertise on is just as harmful as choosing the wrong KOL. Before you create and finance your campaign, you need to research your product’s target audience and select the appropriate platform.

Why Collaborate with Chinese KOLs?

One of the biggest benefits of utilizing a KOL is the effectiveness of the campaign. KOLs have spent years building trust with their followers. In some cases, they can have over 9 million individuals following them and taking their advice. That’s 9,000,000 opportunities for your product to be seen and purchased.

Demographics- wise, KOLs are a powerful way to reach China’s massive number of young consumers. Estimates show that almost 50% of China’s Generation Z kids follow at least one KOL, and roughly two-thirds are receptive to KOL advertisements.

The rapidly growing popularity of KOL marketing is driven by its success and its ability to spawn confident and repeat customers. Through creative blog posts, photos, and live streams, these modern influencers utilize their trusted position to help customers find the best versions of a product, and you want that product to be yours.

Why does KOLs Marketing Work so Well in China?

Since the 1990s, China’s widespread consumerism has seeped into every facet of life. This has led to advertisement fatigue. There is a lack of trust among Chinese consumers when it comes to many products, and KOLs fill that gap. Moreover, thanks to the deep knowledge many rising KOL stars have in their area, they’re not always expensive. Many modern KOL darlings are defined by their expertise and skill rather than their pure follower count.

The trust that KOL followers have built also plays into the ageless value of word-of-mouth advertising. Partnering with a KOL gives your brand the unprecedented ability to have your product showcased by a true professional. Every highlight of your product will be called out and showcased.

Most importantly, KOLs cater to the rapidly changing marketplace. COVID has pushed more consumers to online events, where live streamers and KOLs dominate. The same expertise that benefits your product’s word-of-mouth demonstrations carries into these live streams and showings, where your product will really stand out from the rest of the competition.

Want to know more about KOL marketing in China?

GMA ecommerce agency china

At GMA, our specialty is working alongside KOLs and your brand to create a campaign that will make your product a success in one of the world’s biggest and most competitive markets. You can trust us to stay true to your brand’s ideals while adapting them to appeal to a completely different cultural mindset. If you’re ready to break into the world of Chinese eCommerce, then schedule a consultation with us today!

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