Digital marketing is a constantly evolving sphere and businesses have to ensure that they are on board with every new development in digital marketing campaigns to stay competitive. One such development in digital marketing, with reference to the Chinese market, is KOL marketing.
KOL is an acronym for ‘Key Opinion Leader’, and to put it simply, it is the use of influencers in marketing campaigns. If your business is searching for ways to embrace the concept of influencer marketing, then keep reading.
This article will explain the digital marketing strategy that is KOL marketing, how it works and why brands should focus on collaboration with social media influencers in the Chinese market to strengthen brand credibility.
What exactly is KOL marketing?
KOL marketing is the use of social media influencers for the purpose of advertisement for products and services. This concept is common on mainstream social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, in which users with a large portion of followers are paid to market a business in their social content.
In China, many mainstream social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram are blocked, with the most popular and accessible social media platform in the country presently being WeChat.
However the Alibaba-backed e-commerce platform specifically for influencers, Ruhnn Holding, has recently filed for a Nasdaq initial public offering (IPO). It is projected to raise $200 million and is the largest KOL facilitator in China, based on 2018 revenue data. It has signed over 100 KOLs and has amassed approximately 148.5 million fans throughout their other social media platforms.
Brands looking to reach a Chinese customer base can advertise their business on WeChat or other widely-used Chinese social media platform through KOL marketing. As in the western world, KOLs in the Chinese market are also famous people with large audiences, people who have the power to influence the decision of other people online.
However they do not necessarily have to be celebrities; KOLs can also be social media savvy individuals that include bloggers, fashionistas, socialites, and columnists who have built-up a large community of followers throughout their social media networks. They typically post promotional content covering a wide range of subjects, including sports, cosmetics, food, fashion, and luxury goods.
Using KOL marketing techniques, the marketer pays the KOL an agreed sum of money and in exchange, the influencer will post the marketer’s ad on their agreed upon social media account(s). By posting your business on their timeline, your business gets visibility and credibility on a large scale. As social media networks in China are not as commercialised as in western markets, KOL marketing campaigns are very effective in China where consumers hold these influencers as trustworthy sources of knowledge.
What are the benefits of KOL marketing?
Subscribing to the methods of KOL market, many businesses can reap diverse benefits.
There is a big distrust for corporate ads all across China and this is reflected in the fact that Chinese consumers tend to be more accepting of influencers endorsing products as opposed to if the brands were to advertise their products and services directly to the user. Users know that the goal of brands is to advertise their goods and services.
Xiaohongshu is a great example of the benefits of KOL marketing. The social media platform surged to popularity in China by maintaining quality and trustworthy reviews with an engaged community. The platform became so popular that now the app has transformed into a shopping experience platform by sourcing their own products for customers who want to buy directly. The app does not allow anonymous reviews or one-click ratings. Moreover, a user cannot simply click high ratings if a certain period of time has elapsed. This has kept its community faithful in the quality of their reviews and more engaged over a longer period of time.
Influencers invite their audience to try the same goods and services that they use in their everyday life, lending credibility to a brand’s qualities. Thus, approaching your prospective customers via influencers makes a more effective and sustainable marketing strategy for acquiring the trust of your consumers and building your brand.
Further, consumers are also more receptive to KOL marketing as influencers are more approachable and relatable when compared to faceless corporate brands. This is especially true given influencers provide content that users have deemed valuable and represent their interests.
Wechat does not allow for links to external websites from its platform. However, Chinese consumers still rely heavily on KOL influences and often look up their recommendations and suggestions for new products or services.
There are many options when selecting KOLs for Chinese social media platforms, meaning that marketers interested in KOL advertising have a wide range of influencers to choose from. This allows for a great deal of flexibility in the choosing process. Here, marketers can decide which price points they can afford and their intended target fan base. A little research can help them identify a KOL who best suits their requirements for the job.
How are KOLs paid?
KOLs can be paid for their promotional posts in three different ways; either as a flat fee, as a product giveaway, or a result-based fee in which the influencer is paid based on the results of the advertisement. In the case of a flat fee, there is no fixed pricing structure for KOL marketing on platforms such as WeChat and KOLs have to set the price themselves. The influencers can either propose the price or have the social media agency do it on their behalf. Further, some platforms like WeChat are beginning to adopt rules on giveaway or competition style posts.
KOL marketing can cost a few dollars or upwards of several thousand dollars or might include an exchange of products for their promotional services. The amount a marketer pays for marketing is dependent on the KOL’s duties (marketers may need KOLs to create text or branded visual content), their online reputation, as well as their network of followers. It goes without saying that the more demanding your requirements and the more effort the KOL is required to put into the creation of branded content, the more this method of advertisement will cost.
Further, most social media platforms require that an influence give a disclaimer that their content has affiliated or marketing promotions. This has not seemed to discourage their audiences faith in the credibility and authenticity of the influencers they follow.
How do you choose a Chinese influencer?
In KOL marketing, consumers see the influencer engaging with a brand. The KOL acts as a middleman between the brand and the customers. When choosing a KOL for this marketing strategy, it is absolutely important that you go for an influencer who will represent your brand well and accurately depict your business image to their niche.
The KOL is your face on social media and it is up to you to ensure that your KOL matches your brand in interests, style, and value. Sometimes it might be more beneficial to go with a KOL that has less followers but a stronger community niche that represents your brand. The goal of KOL marketing is to increase not only your company’s visibility, but also to be able to increase the engagement your intended target audience has with your brand. Some KOLs have large followings, but many of these may be unreceptive or nonresponsive to your brand.
Remember to carry out thorough research on your chosen KOL before you approach them. Do not just look at the number of followers they have, check for the engagement value in their posts. A small active fan base is better than a larger inactive one as active users are more likely to engage with advertisements. That said, you can look at Antipodal Talent, AsiaKOL, and iconKOL, to name a few, if you are looking for an ideal influencer for your advertising strategy.
Who should use a KOL?
KOL marketing can be used by both small businesses and large corporations. Smaller brands can use it to create awareness and draw attention from their intended target consumers. Established brands who do not necessarily need the visibility that smaller businesses are looking for can use KOL marketing to advertise or promote the launch of new products on the market.
KOL marketing is thriving within the Chinese market primarily because Chinese consumers feel better connected to those they engage with on social media. They find authenticity and credibility among the individuals who they have carefully chosen to follow, many of whom share similar tastes and values with their audience members. Since a lot of Chinese customers on WeChat and other Chinese social media platforms look up to KOLs as credible sources, having one of these influencers endorse your product can work wonders for your business.
KOL marketing is very flexible and targeted. It is a highly recommended strategy for small and up-and-coming businesses who need the recognition in Chinese markets to grow the brand and drive up sales. It can revitalize the image and sales for established brands, keeping them competitive. Working with a good KOL can help you implement your marketing strategy and attract Chinese customers to your business in no time.