The prevalence of social media use among Chinese consumers has given rise to a large pool of digital influencers. Influencers are called KOLs (key opinion leaders) in China. These KOLs are extremely creative, proactive and business-savvy. They are often quick to capture opportunities and good at monetizing their popularity.
KOLs can be found on platforms like WeChat, Weibo, QQ, Miaopai, Douyin, Inke and more. They are everywhere and the number is growing. Take Weibo as an example, the number of influencers with more 100,000 fans increased by 57.3% between 2016-2017.
Businesses have recognized the power of influencers’ relationships with their followers, and as a result, helped fuel the growth of China’s KOL economy.
Given the power of influencer marketing in China, it’s important to know what mistakes to avoid and keep updated with the latest trends. We spoke to Elijah Whaley, CMO at PARKLU, for his thoughts on influencer marketing in China.
1. What are the 3 most common misconceptions that western brands have about KOL / influencer marketing in China?
1.1 Content Strategies: Western brands tend to think of influencer marketing they way do in their home countries. Often brands will suggest content strategies based on YouTube or Instagram style formats, which do not apply to China social media networks.
1.2 Locations: Many brands will ask for influencers based in a particular city assuming that the majority of their following is in that city, which is sometimes but not always the case.
1.3 Micro-influencers: Brands interested in working with micro-influencers often do not work at a large enough scale to create real impact. For a micro-influencer campaign to move the needle, brands should get hundreds, if not thousands, of micro-influencers to participate.
2. What is your top tip for brands hoping to work with Chinese KOLs / influencers in 2018?
The vast majority of brand campaigns were quite simplistic in 2017.
Most brands simply focused on viral style awareness campaigns. There are levels of tactical sophistication that can maximize an influencer campaign’s value far beyond awareness.
One of the best tactics to pursue in 2018 is SSO and SEO.
It’s possible to leverage influencer content to rank across traditional and social search engines. This tactic can turn an adrenalin shot of awareness into a long-term strategic marketing play.
3. How does PARKLU define the “influence” of a KOL / influencer?
At PARKLU, we define influencers as those who have developed online followings due to publishing entertaining or educational content.
The core of influence comes from a value-add approach to social media relationship building.
The best influencers are experts or entertainers that focus on a niche area of interest.
The best influencers also deliver consistent value over long periods of time developing trust and affinity with their followers.
The elite influencers go one step further and actually have extremely close relationships with subgroups of followers in private chat groups.
4. What is the most overlooked Chinese social media platform that actually delivers satisfactory results for brands?
The most overlooked Chinese social media platform is not a social media platform.
Brands should be using influencer to create content for their stores on e-commerce platforms.
Most e-commerce platforms in China have content-rich social media like features which many brands overlook. Brands that utilize these features are communicating with users while they are in purchase mode and just a couple clicks away from the ability to buy.
Influencers are masters of creating content that persuades. Brands should leverage this special ability and hire influencers, not for their distribution capabilities on social media, but their content creation skills.
5. What’s the minimum budget for starting an influencer marketing campaign on PARKLU?
PARKLU is China’s largest cross-border influencer marketing platform.
Our clients are predominately large brands like Apple, L’Oreal, and the NBA, or large international ad agencies.
Even though most our clients are large, we have managed some small clients with small budgets. We have found that budgets bellow ¥120,000 RMB ($20,000 USD) are not at the scale to really have a measurable effect.
But it’s not just about budget size, it’s about commitment. Long-term influencer marketing strategies are the ones that really pay off and actually see increased RIO over time.
The reason for this mainly has to do with the relationships that are built with influencers and their audiences. A long-term approach also allows brands to experiment with different tactics and a large range influencers’ measuring ROI along the way.