4 Hottest Trends in China Influencer Marketing in 2020

In today’s world, if you are using digital marketing in China to reach your target audience, you can’t get around China influencer marketing. And being present in the Middle Kingdom, the largest economy in the world is a smart move for your business.

Due to the censorship restrictions in China, Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world with 2.5 billion monthly active users, is not available in the Middle Kingdom.

The largest influencer marketing platforms in China are therefore Chinese social media channels like WeChat and Weibo. If you want to learn more about the Chinese online media ecosystem, take a look at these 3 trends in social media in 2020.

In this Tenba Group article, we reveal the 4 biggest trends around influencer marketing in China, and how your business can implement this smart marketing strategy to conquer the Chinese market.

A Short History of Influencer Marketing

China’s influencer marketing industry is about three to five years ahead compared to the rest of the world. This is thanks to the advanced functionality and integration of social media, ecommerce, and digital payment in the Middle Kingdom. But how did it all start, you may wonder?

Influencers are as old as mankind. In the early days, they were spiritual or community leaders, and later on kings, queens, and popes. Of course, back then they didn’t sell products and services to their followers to the extent this happens today.

In the early 20th century, there were only a few brands on the market. Besides, marketing was still in its infancy. A well-known example during this era is Coco Chanel and the iconic black dresses, which she made famous. At the time, some brands created personas to trigger the purchase decisions of consumers emotionally. Famous examples of global brands are the Santa Claus figure, which was invented by Coca Cola, and Tony the Tiger by Kellogg’s.

In More Recent History

In 1984, Michael Jordan famously signed the first celebrity endorsement with Nike to promote their sports sneakers. A few years later, in 1991, the internet became publicly available. And in the early 2000s, social networks started to rise, with MySpace, YouTube, Reddit, and, of course, Facebook.

From this point forward, we all pretty much know the story. Only in May 2019, the word “influencer” with today’s meaning was officially added to the English dictionary. In summary, according to influencer marketers, building trust and an emotional connection between the influencer and consumer is key in this industry.

Differentiating Chinese Influencers

In the context of China influencer marketing, these words are always mentioned. You may ask yourself, if there is a difference or if they all simply are modern-day word-of-mouth marketers? Let us reveal the differences:

1. Wanghong

Wǎnghóng or 网红 translates to “internet celebrity” in Mandarin Chinese. Since 2015, Wanghong apply their fame and fandom to promote products and services. They do so by publishing photos, videos, and other online content for their fans.

With their eye-catching appearances, Wanghong are predestined to present fashion, accessories, and cosmetics. This economy is estimated to reach 15 billion USD in 2022.

china ecommerce

Since having a community of loyal followers drives these influencers, this is often the reason that they only recommend high-quality products and services to their followers. Read more about the Wanghong phenomenon in this Tenba Group article.

2. Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)

While the Wanghong influencers tend to be native to social media platforms, KOLs often also have parallel professions – such as journalists, entrepreneurs, or writers – while working as influencers at the same time.

Chinese KOLs typically don’t recommend products related to their professions and often regard voicing their opinion as complementary to their day-to-day activities. They have high credibility and are well respected, which makes incorporating them into your marketing strategy very beneficial.

Values such as loyalty, sincerity, and trust are characteristics that attract followers to Key Opinion Leaders. Take a deep dive into the world of KOLs in this Tenba Group article.

3. Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs)

Now, this latest type of influencers consists of real and actual consumers. They are experts in their field when it comes to testing products and services, and giving their honest opinion and recommendations. Including KOCs in your marketing strategy is a great way to reach your specific target audience in a more private environment, rather than the large public spaces.

The advantage, in this case, is that typically consumers have already done their research and made the decision to buy. Therefore, you don’t have to convince them anymore that they need the product, but can focus on helping them to find and choose your brand.

Now that you know everything about the different types of influencers, let’s dive into the hottest 2020 trends around influencer marketing in the Middle Kingdom.

4 Biggest Trends in China Influencer Marketing

The times of a global Coronavirus pandemic together with the social media revolution of the last years have ushered a new era. It’s time to reveal the 4 hottest trends in influencer marketing in China in 2020:

1. Real Benefit & Use

As the worldwide economy is shaken by the Coronavirus pandemic, sales are plummeting across industries and nations.

digital marketing agency china

This means that whatever product or service you are selling, you need to have a real benefit and use for consumers. Only then, influencers can genuinely transport this message. In the face of this current economic crisis, many traditional influencers have lost their cooperation contracts. Only serious influencers with real products and added value can remain on the market.

2. KOCs Gain Relevance

We have seen that literally everybody can become an internet sensation with a viral photo or short video. Filters and a high level of staging across many production aspects of content have nourished the desire for authenticity.

During this time of “influencer fatigue”, Chinese consumers particularly value the relatability and trustworthiness of the KOCs, which they see as their peers. KOCs are quickly becoming the most important influencers in China. Especially those who have high authority and a large number of followers on their Chinese social media platforms.

3. Live Chat

Just like sending live streams has become an online marketing trend, live chatting is a huge sales booster among influencers. Alibaba is ahead of the game in live chat for marketing, together with upgraded customer-service chatbots.

4. Social Search Optimization (SSO)

Similar to SEO (search engine optimization), SSO improves a personal profile or brand shop to appeal to the sophisticated search algorithms on Chinese social media apps. For example, WeChat allows users to search not only the web, but also social media posts, private conversations, and mini-programs.

Moreover, WeChat search is becoming more and more sophisticated and complex. Therefore, it is imperative to continue working on content optimization for this channel.

So much for the theory. In case you don’t know where to start, a social marketing agency for China can help you. Find the most suitable word-of-mouth replicator for your business with ease!

The Takeaway

China influencer marketing is a fundamental component of social media marketing. From its humble beginnings to the difference between Wanghongs, KOLs, and KOCs, and on which social media platforms they are active – you are now an expert on digital word-of-mouth marketing.

Working with influencers is particularly smart in closed social media ecosystems like WeChat as advertising space there is very expensive.

China influencer marketing

If you are planning on entering the Chinese market, a Chinese digital marketing agency can help you! Contact Tenba Group to develop a tailormade Chinese marketing strategy for your business. We have the best marketing advice for China for your SME!

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