How brands can break into the Chinese market using key opinion leaders

How brands can break into the Chinese market using key opinion leaders

A Kardashian tweets negatively about Snapchat and its shares plunge by $1.3 billion. That’s an influencer.

But it’s not only American social superstars wielding lofty influence in the country. Key opinion leaders (KOLs) are China’s influencers - and they’re making big waves in the U.S. and internationally.

Take Chinese megastar, Fan Bingbing. Companies such as Louis Vuitton, Adidas and L’Oreal all hired the actress and KOL as a brand ambassador. According to a report by retail giant Alibaba’s Taobao, Bingbing’s influence generated a huge $74 million USD in e-commerce revenue.

You simply can’t ignore KOLs if you’re planning any kind of digital strategy to reach Chinese consumers. But what makes them more powerful than influencers in the West? And what do brands need to consider if they’re new to China’s market? 

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  • Think mobile-first

     Think mobile-first logo

    Imagine paying an influencer to promote a big-value item like a car. They have 4.5 million followers and sell 100 cars in the first five minutes of posting on social media.

    This isn’t unusual in China.

    According to the Abacus China Internet Report 2018, the country has 527 million mobile payment users, meaning consumers are only one click away from a purchase when KOLs share a product.

    To get your brand in front of China’s smartphone-driven, app-heavy consumers, it’s crucial to focus on mobile before web browsers. Cooperate with KOLs to create a seamless experience for consumers bouncing from one app to the other. Talking of apps...

  • Know where KOLs hang out

    Know where KOLs hang out logo

    The two huge platforms you’ll find Chinese KOLs are Weibo (a Chinese microblogging site) and WeChat - a multi-purpose social media app where users can message, share updates and make mobile payments. Search for KOLs on here by typing in keywords related to your brand.

    Another handy way to find KOLs is through designated search engines - looking at Robin8, ParkLu  and Newrank. If you have the budget to pay someone to do the hard work for you, get in touch with Chinese influencer agencies such as Louis Communication.

  • Finding the right KOL for your brand and budget

    Finding the right KOL for your brand and budget logo

    The Chinese KOL you work with depends on the project at hand. There are celebrities such as Fan Bingbing: singers, actors and TV personalities who can charge over one million RMB for a post on Weibo.

    Then you have the internet ‘celebrities’, otherwise known as ‘wanghongs’. These can be up to 40 per cent cheaper than celebrities and include the likes of comedy blogger Papi Jiang (pictured) and model/internet celebrity Zhang Dayi.

    China’s bloggers often specialise in a skill, expertise or something with a close personal connection - they produce in-depth, thorough, quality content. A Weibo post from this kind of KOL can cost between 100,000 and 300,000 RMB. #

    If your brand is particularly niche, you might be able to find an industry-specific KOL to create a Weibo post for between 1,000 to 10,000 RMB.

  • How to work with KOLs

    How to work with KOLs logo

    As with Western influencers, there are a few ways partnerships with Chinese KOLs can work. The most obvious is sponsored posts: simply provide a KOL with the basics of your brand, product, service or campaign and give them enough creative freedom to produce content that appeals to their audience. Other methods of breaking into the Chinese market include:

    • Sending products to professional KOLs to review.
    • Launching giveaway campaigns on Weibo or WeChat - users usually need to follow your account, forward the post and tag multiple friends to win products.
    • Commission-based social selling: KOLs get paid for every click or sale they make.

    As with everything in the influencer world, a solid KOL partnership can’t rocket your brand into Nike-style stature overnight. But if you have a strong presence and are communicating with your new Chinese market via the best-suited mediums, KOLs can definitely enhance the groundwork and boost sales.

Staff Writer