In the last 5 years the rise of influencer marketing has actually changed the way brands communicate their message to buyers.
Consumers are increasingly using social media to read news and personal updates, so it shound not surprise that it has also become a breeding ground for product recommendations and a new type of marketing.
Who are the KOL?
Influencers in China they are called Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) and are extremely powerful in most marketing campaigns.
They are popular users in social media that have created viral content and developed a large group of followers. Many are experts in a specific field, and this guarantees them the trust of consumers, with whom they establish an almost personal relationship, giving advices, reviewing the products and indicating where to buy them. Chinese KOL have a much stronger influence on society than other countries and may have millions of followers who look at their advice and commit themselves actively to the contents KOLs create on a regular basis.
They are able to influence consumers’ choices and direct them to buy one product rather than another.
To understand why KOLs in China are so effective, it is important to understand the cultural background behind this type of promotion.
Why have influencers become so important?
The reason must be sought firstly in a basic consumer distrust in the Brand. Because of scanadalis that periodically hit brands, offering dangerous products on the market, consumers are cautious about buying items they do not know, and often look at social media to check consumer recommendations.
Furthermore the word of mouth in China is a well-established system of disseminating news and tips for shopping.
A social-oriented digital ecosystem.
Many Western marketers consider the absence of Facebook and Instagram as a problem when it comes to create promotional campaigns. On the contrary, the absence of the major Western social media supports the spread of national social media that integrate perfectly with the culture of the place. There are three main companies that control most of the e-commerce, social, mobile payment and search market. This has made online shopping extremely simple, since you can choose products, make payments, share the purchase with your friends, always staying in the same app.
Western marketers should not underestimate Chinese social media just because there is no Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.
The return on investment on Chinese platforms has given rise to powerful apps and a different consumer culture that has become ideal for the concept of influencer marketing.
Social Media are preferred platforms for shopping
Chinese consumers, unlike Western consumers, not only believe that it is completely OK to shop on social media, but they prefer them as platform for shopping.
Statistics show that 70% of Chinese born after 1995 turn to social media to buy products – note that the global average is 44%.
The Chinese spend a lot of time connected to their mobile phones.
In 2017, Chinese app users spent around 225 billion connected, basically 4.5 times more than in India. Users spend their time between e-commerce, games and research, which is why the lines between social and e-commerce have become increasingly thin.
This is where the KOLs come into play.
The most popular app in China, WeChat, often referred to as a “walled garden”, is a difficult place for brands to gain visibility.
Within this walls, individual bloggers and content creator started to be followed by a large number of people, going beyond and providing a higher level of service and building personal relationships with their fans.
WeChat has evolved rapidly, especially in the last two years after the release of mini-programs, favoring KOLs and the social selling aspect of e-commerce.
Many KOLs have integrated their account into mini-programs, this means that a consumer can read content from the profile of their favorite KOL, with a click enter a mini program and shop for the suggested products, inform friends, find others products, all this without ever leaving the app.
Another powerful KOL tool is live streaming, which roughly corresponds to our Instagram stories.
Live streaming in China exploded last year with viewers over 450 million users. Through it the KOLs show users what they are doing, naturalizing advertising to a daily life scene.
Direct streaming can be used for product launches, exclusive events, trade shows and much more.
KOL use: pro and cons
KOL can organically reach the public on a large scale. Each KOL has its own fan base and thank to a voice that has already gained trust in the market, they allow companies to spread an idea or message in the form of an authentic brand engagement. As we have seen, Chinese consumers promote authenticity and are more likely to trust an individual as a credible source on any other subject. 68% of consumers in China state that their purchasing choices are influenced by social media and this is largely due to the commitment to KOLs.
On the other hand, KOL campaigns do not always go as planned and it can be difficult to create an effective KOL campaign strategy. Brands must be sure that the KOL they are addressing is reliable. The best KOLs require a fairly high investment for the campaign, but sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the base of fans of a KOL is real. There are many false accounts among Chinese social media with false followers and comments. Furthermore, the influence of a KOL may decrease if it is promoting too many brands. At the beginning, brands that are starting their first KOL campaign should approach influences of medium impact but great autenticity.
We should not forget that the main advantage of using a KOL is the trust and intimacy he manages to reach with the consumers.