How to work with influencers (KOL) in China for your digital marketing ?

How to work with influencers (KOL) in China for your digital marketing ?

Influence marketing is a key pillar of your digital marketing strategy in China. Identifying, reaching out and negotiating contract with influencer or KOL (Key Opinion leaders) is critical. This aspect must be part of the mission of your digital marketing agency in China. But how your team and your agency should find influencers for your brand ?

In this article, we will review:

  • Why influence and KOL should be part of your digital marketing in China  ?
  • How to define the right influence marketing strategy ?
  • Where to find the key opinion leaders ?
  • How to reach out and negotiate with KOL ?

Digital marketing in China: Why your brand need the influence of KOL ?

The first question you may ask yourself is why do I need to work with influencers in China ? 

In China, netizens have highly rely on the opinion of their peers to make decisions. Those social recommendations have grown in popularity and are often perceived as more reliable than media or advertising.

Building brand credibility in China with influencer marketing

As such working with influencers is first a way to gain credibility and trust among your Chinese audience. So, it’s important to select influencers you feel comfortable working with. You need to see them as trustworthy people yourself as they are endorsing your brand.

Bad endorsements is also a risk for brands. And, there are multiple examples of brands having faced backlash in China because of their ambassadors. For example, NARS, the cosmetic company was badly hit in 2018. The backlash happened after working with a KOL, who was detained for using marijuana back in 2014. As such you need to make sure your collaboration with a KOL do not turn into a PR nightmare.

Creating brand awareness in China with influencer (KOL) marketing

The second key reason to collaborate with influencers is to increase brand awareness in China. With large community on social media platforms like WeChat, Sina Weibo or XiaHongShu, KOL can give visibility to your product instantly.

However, you need to keep in mind that visibility is only a short term gain, and that your investment will be negative if your collaboration does not have a long term impact and make your brand memorable. 

A short term campaign with a KOL can have significant cost for a brand when you add up the influencer fee, the discounted pricing on product, the campaign production… If this is not done with a long term approach, the impact on the brand visibility will not be optimal.

In interview with Next Ren Shanghai, an influencer reminded brands that they need to have a long term approach of their relationship they develop with KOL to maximise the impact on the audience.

Read the interview of a French Food Influencer in China

China Food Influencer Marketing

How to make influencer part of your digital marketing strategy in China ?

Digital Marketing Campaigns in China

When you launch a new product, or want to celebrate a special occasion like Chinese New Year or 11.11, your brand will need to create a special campaign including digital content and interactive web experiences like games.

Working with KOL can give a genuine twist to your campaign and you should leverage KOL to create content like videos that will engage their audience with more impact. You might even decide to make the collaboration with this KOL the centerpiece of your digital marketing  with a co-creation.

Social Media Marketing in China

Social Media Marketing in China with influencer

Social media platforms are the playground of influencer. They know the platforms inside out and might even give your brand visibility outside your brand social media presence in China. As such you need to integrate influencer in your social media strategy and leverage KOL support to:

Keep in mind social media is about interacting with different communities, especially on public platforms like Sina Weibo. As such, social media listening is key in China to identify who is already talking about your brand including KOL as well as KOC (Key Opinion Consumers). As a brand you should have genuine interaction with their content, it will help you get some exposure and a positive image in those communities.

E-commerce Marketing in China

E-commerce is a key area of KOL collaboration as they can maximise sale and have a direct impact on your revenue online. KOL can help you demonstrate the value of your product to your Chinese customers with live streaming videos directly on e-commerce platforms like TMall or JD.

Ecommerce China with influencer digital marketing

In the meantime, it is common for KOL and KOC to sell product directly to their audience on WeChat. As such WeChat has demonstrated over the year its capabilities to become a online e-commerce platform.

A successful way, brands have been collaborating with KOL on e-commerce in China is through flash sales on a limited amount of unique and exclusive product. For example, thanks to the promotion of a limited edition of 80 bags with a KOL, Givenchy manage to sell 1.2 million worth of products in less than 12 minutes.

Discover the best plaforms for e-commerce in China

How to identify, reach out and negotiate with KOL for your digital marketing in China ?

Work with a digital marketing agency in China

Part of the job of your digital marketing or social media agency like Next Ren in China is to help identify KOL and KOC for brands. They value added of an agency is to provide the client with an integrated comprehensive digital marketing strategy and planning.

As discussed in the previous points, KOL should not be approached ex nihilo and must be part of your digital campaigns, social media, and e-commerce effort. As such a digital marketing agency in China will make sure all the pieces fit together.

Use existing Chinese KOL platforms to recruit influencers

Today, multiple platforms will let you browse through KOL profiles for free or with a subscription model, like

If those platforms can be useful to reach out easily to KOL, collaboration will mostly be money oriented and evaluating the performance of each KOL can be a challenge.

KOL Influencer Platform for digital marketing

Reach out to KOL and KOC directly on social media

This genuine research and reach out is our favorite method. As mentioned above, KOL research should be part of your pro-active social listening effort in China. If you are truly serious about being successful you need to know and keep identifying who is talking about your industry on social media; follow them and interact with them.

This methodology will give you the opportunity to build stronger and more long term relationships with KOL in China.

Negotiating and compensating influencer (KOL) for digital marketing support in China

Most influencers (KOL) in China collaborate with brands as a business. As such financial compensation is more and more standard. In this situation, many KOL will work with an agent that will directly bill you for the influencer service.

However, financially compensating influencers is not the only option. Providing product or experience for KOL to share and give away to their community can be beneficial for both. You must never underestimate the value of your brand and the positive impact you can have on them. This is especially true with smaller KOL or KOC who can gain legitimacy by collaborating with international or local brands.

Collaborating with influencers is a two way street. For example, giving access to professional resources can be highly valued (video production).

Like in all aspect of digital marketing in China, keep in mind you must be creative. Always think outside the box to find the best win-win deals for your brand and influencers. 

Pricing - How much does influencer (KOL) marketing cost in China ?

In China, KOL pricing will mostly be a function of the size of the community; and the number of fans they can reach . However, you should definitely factor the level of engagement; or the creative implication of the KOL to get the right price.

Here some references for brand to use in future KOL negociation:

For Sina Weibo, an influencer with a reach of 1-2 million people will cost around 30,000 CNY for one post. On another hand, on WeChat, for a reach of 50,000 people, the cost can rise up to 40,000 CNY.

As such, to build your network of KOL in China; you can reach to a digital marketing agency like Next Ren Shanghai !

Next Ren is a digital marketing agency in Shanghai.

Follow us on LinkedIn and WeChat to stay updated on WeChat trends.

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