Until recently, the name “influencer” in China was only attributed to celebrities, singers, actors, and industry professionals who advertise products in collaboration with some of the best-known luxury brands. There is Jackson Wang for Fendi, Lu Han for Louis Vuitton, and Angelababy for Dior.

We have already talked about the KOLs and their potential when deciding to promote products in China. KOLs are a powerful marketing tool, but working with them is extremely expensive, in addition to the risk of running into scams where agencies buy followers and interactions to demonstrate a return on investment. In addition, due to a series of scandals that have characterized the world of influencers in China, several KOLs have lost credibility in the eyes of consumers. It is in this scenario that the conditions were created for a new trend, which is prominent in 2020: the affirmation of the KOCs.

What is KOC?

KOCs, O Key Opinion Consumers, are regular consumers who share their product reviews on the most popular social media. Although most KOCs do not have a large follower base, they are able to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. In fact, KOCs as everyday buyers are closer to their followers and are generally considered more reliable and more authentic.

The reason for their success lies in the growing awareness of Chinese consumers, who try to avoid traditional marketing. 

KOCs also fit into the context of social commerce, or in all those apps that combine social media and e-commerce. An example in which they are particularly effective is Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book). On this platform the KOCs not only are able to create direct relationships with users, but they are also facilitated by the same algorithm of Xiaohongshu which highlights the quality posts and the most shared ones. This further motivates users to share their reviews.

Another successful example of using KOCs comes from Perfect Diary one of the best cosmetic brands in China. Perfect Diary’s initial strategy involved using large-scale KOCs. This technique made it seem to the average consumer that the brand was quite popular because everyone was talking about it.

What are the differences between KOC and KOL?

1. Number of followers
As we have already mentioned, the KOC follower base is small, around a few hundred.
The KOL instead is classified according to the number of followers that goes from Micro-influencer (5.000 – 1K) to Celebrities (millions).

2. Authenticity
Although they have fewer followers, KOCs are considered more authentic, so they have more influence, as product verification is their competence. KOL followers know that they are actually paid to collaborate with brands, this affects their credibility in the public eye.

3. Type of collaboration
Work with KOLs provides incentives for cash or products in exchange for promotion.
The KOC is first and foremost a consumer, so they will only try and review the products of their interest. Your job is convince them to talk about your product. 

Why choose to work with KOCs?

1. KOCs are the perfect mix of KOL and CRM marketing
CRM is a strategy that every company should adopt as it helps maintain and improve customer relationships and also drive sales. The collaboration with KOL instead serves to support the brand and associate it with a positive image to the consumers eyes. 
In the KOCs there is a fusion of these two activities, in fact the KOCs are consumers in the first place, who give feedback on your products and convey their perception. At the same time, they have the power to influence consumers’ purchasing choices.

2. Consumer reviews have a strong impact on potential customers
Over 70% of consumers agree that online reviews play a decisive role in their decision making. Considering this, including KOCs in your marketing strategy can only be a good idea, their voices have a strong influence on customers and help increase your credibility.

How to start KOC campaigns?
The best way to get in touch with KOCs is to encourage them to leave reviews. This is possible through a good seeding activity, or reward marketing activities.
The aim is to interact with your audience and build a community around your brand. Once you have built a community, you will be able to identify the KOCs that can help your brand: the consumers with the most reviews and creative social media with a good follower base are ideal candidates.
At this point, you should try to formalize KOC partnerships with wider post-campaign marketing.

This technique brings a high ROI with a low investment, in fact, it will be sufficient to send your product to users to obtain a huge exposure.

Remember that KOCs are extremely useful to understand what your product’s perception is to the public, try to use all their feedbackS, even negative ones, in a constructive way.

Can KOCs replace KOLs?

KOCs cannot completely replace KOLs.
The value of KOL marketing is based on the selection that KOLs make on behalf of their followers. The true strength of a kOL depends precisely on not working with all brands, but on choosing only the ones they believe are relevant. Their followers like it, despite the commercial background behind the promotional messages. Also, we shouldn’t forget the sense of emulation that many of these internet celebrities arouse in their followers.
In other words, KOLs are able to convey authority and bring out certain brands rather than others.
KOCs are able to give the point of view of the common consumer and therefore to convince him that he will like that product.

We are ready to bet that KOCs will become an integral part of the influencer strategy also in western countrie, already today with the new Instagram “Checkout” function we are witnessing the first social commerce phenomenon in the West.

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