Wearing luxury clothes mean a lot, they give the wearer status. It’s important to understand that Chinese customers are becoming more sophisticated, and they strongly appreciated international brands. When it comes to taking advice, Chinese value the information from their peers, friends, bloggers, and celebrities they follow. These people are also known as KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). They are very crucial in the overall digital marketing approach in China because they can influence a consumer’s taste and choice. Collaboration with a KOL is a way to promote your brand. They have often a huge number of followers and are in touch with them daily. Nowadays, a lot of online KOLs are present on Chinese video platforms. It has become a real profession.
The power of video marketing in China
Digital marketers should not overlook the value of branded online video to their audiences. China’s video platforms such as Youku, and Baidu Video experience huge popularity amongst Chinese people. Video apps such as Douyin has even become viral for the younger demographic. From online videos, then live broadcasts and short video apps… the mobile video sector in China is diversifying at a rapid pace and will soon reach 1 billion monthly active users.
People are visual creatures, and online video is just as powerful at capturing their attention as TV advertising. Videos provide information more directly and it’s more convenient to watch. That’s why new marketing strategies are leveraging more and more online video ads. Also, with the development of mobile and 4G, people spend and will spend more time online. Be up to date with the change in people’s behavior and be present on these video platforms if you want to reach your target consumers.
KOLs are talking daily with their followers. They are often well-known, appreciated for their authenticity and have already earned their trust. To collaborate with a KOL is one way to promote your brand in China. The Chinese have become very skeptical about the mainstream media. They are more likely trust these influencers that are on the consumer’s side as the expert in the matter. They think if this leader has chosen this brand, it is because it’s the best on the market.
Video sharing brings people closer
Nowadays, you don’t need to have any professional skills to create visual content. A lot of platforms provide simple features to allow users to make easily their own videos. The average person can become a KOL through these platforms because they have some special charm or the capacity to entertain the audience.
Video sharing platforms are also often combined with social media to build a community online (mobile video is secondary to social media in terms of monthly active users in China). In fact, it is quite smart to integrate social because it keeps users on the platform and spurs them to participate. Their comments, creations, and sharing constitute the real value as it brings “flows” (engagment). “Flows” are very important in our today’s digital environment. Where there are users, there is a business opportunity.
The sense of community is important because it makes people interact like in a real society. Chinese are more and more connected and they are very active online. They will share interesting content and information with their friends and talk about a brand’s online activity as they do in real life. Nowadays, to have an online presence is almost unavoidable for a brand to connect with their consumers.
The importance of KOLs in marketing to China
A major difference, however, is that with online video, viewers are more in control. People will often sit through TV ads if they are watching a program, even if the ads are boring. But people watching an online video can easily turn off a video if it’s not interesting. You need to make your video content enjoyable and engaging to catch your audience’s attention, so they can know your product. Make sure you have Chinese speakers involved in the making of your online videos for China. For that, KOLs can be really effective.
An ‘influencer’ as it is commonly called in the West, is a KOL in Asia. In the past few years, KOLs became a real part of digital marketing strategies. They are numerous and influential. KOLs are often Chinese celebrities, popular social media users, experts in a specific subject, columnists, socialites, fashionistas, or bloggers … Key Opinion Leaders have millions of people who follow them constantly engaging in the content created. Their influence is strong and the information goes viral for the company and for the products it offers.
KOLs provide advice, instruction, feedbacks to their followers and users love them because they have more faith in them than brands. They’ve created viral content and developed a community around them. They have a lot of followers because of their quality content and knowledge. Your brand presence can be further boosted through positive product experiences displayed through these influencers.
The power of KOLs needs to be understood if you want to do business in China. Working with them can help create significant buzz for your company and products.
Why you have to leave a latitude for your KOL
This past year has seen an explosion in KOLs moving from merely posting branded content to now helping brands to directly sell products. You can pay a KOL to share your posts or products on the KOL’s own account, but make sure to let them create their own posts and opinions. As it relates to China specifically, it really becomes more now about the quality of the interaction that the KOLs generate, rather than just the number of interactions.
These people have branded themselves through daily interaction with their audience. They have a better knowledge about their fans, understanding what they want and need, and can get the language right. Let them create content that meets the audience’s taste. To let the market in their own way will also increase their attractiveness of the posts on their account. There is a reason for their popularity and only they can manage it.
KOLs are often up-to-date with the latest internet trends in China. It’s a KOL’s habit but mandatory for their work. They can react quickly to new viral subjects and garner attention. It benefits your collaboration and it attracts new followers and new flows.
Moreover, if the product placement is too obvious and inappropriate, it could deteriorate the image of the brand and the image of the KOL. It is important to first analyze your brand positioning to find the best KOLs for your campaign.
Key tips for a successful partnership
The number of leaders has grown in China over the last 5 years and will continue to grow as long as it is used extensively by SMEs. Each key opinion leader has behind them a good handful of people, they represent themselves a media source. There is no doubt about the effectiveness of these valuable leaders, all that remains is to negotiate the costs. The cost can vary depending on the supply and demand.
KOLs often have a massive fan base who are constantly taking their advice and participating in their contents. They put themselves in the limelight through uploading their photos, writing posts/articles, artistic creation (music or video for example), or entertaining the audience. Nowadays, most KOLs are on mini-video sharing platforms (such as Douyin or Meipai) and social media platforms. For example, on Weibo, there are more than 30,000 KOLs having at least 10,000 subscribers.
Mini-Videos platforms have become a major channel and the most popular thing among Chinese internet users. A lot of apps provides a simple way to make your own mini-video easily and to share it on an online social community. This has enabled a lot of people to become a web star, evolving then towards what we call a KOLs in China, or an “influencer” in the west.
Brands are now clearly seeing that KOLs in China are not only a tool to build awareness and affinity with potential customers, but also a powerful new channel to launch exclusive products and sell directly to customers. There are 3 key tips for a successful partnership:
- Find a KOL who is related to your product: This is the key to be accepted. Fans don’t like to see meaningless collaborations, they want the authenticity as well from their favorite KOLs as well as from brand.
- Engage followers in the process: the more you can stimulate the audience, the more your campaign will succeed. They represent real resources (they can provide feedback or share their experiences) and have a huge power of promotion. The best partnerships take followers along the journey
- Establish a long-term relationship: for the brands which have been working with the KOLs on other campaigns and projects, when it comes to selling the brand’s products, it is seen as a natural extension. It could even earn followers’ support.