KOL Marketing: Working with Chinese Influencers

If you are advertising your products and services in the Chinese market, you basically can’t get around KOL marketing.

First of all, KOL stands for “Key Opinion Leader”. They are influencers, who work with brands on marketing campaigns. Of course, digital marketing is constantly evolving. Thus, businesses must ensure that they are up-to-date with every new development to stay competitive.

In this article by Tenba Group, your agency for China influencer marketing, we explain all you need to know!

  1. Wanghong, KOLs, KOCs. Who is Who?
  2. What is KOL Marketing?
  3. Benefits of Influencer Marketing
  4. How do influencers work?
  5. How do KOLs make money?
  6. Which Chinese influencer is right for me?
  7. Who should work with KOLs?

As you can already guess, brands have many benefits of working with these social media influencers in the Chinese market. They can strengthen their visibility and credibility, generate leads, and sales. So, let’s get started.

1. Wanghong, KOLs, KOCs. Who is Who?

They are all influencers. But there is some differentiation.

  • Wanghong means “internet celebrity”, often with a very stunning appearance. For about 5 years, they have been presenting mostly fashion, accessories, and cosmetics to their fans. The Wanghong economy is estimated to reach 15 billion USD in 2022!
  • Whereas Wanghong are influencers by profession, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) often also have other jobs. This can range from journalists and entrepreneurs to writers and politicians.
  • Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) are real and actual consumers. They are experts in their field and give their honest opinion and recommendations. After their research, consumers who are ready to buy, turn to their trusted KOC for advice.

Click here to discover the hottest influencer trends of this year! Now, that you are familiar with the terms, let’s look at KOL influencer marketing in more detail.

2. What is KOL Marketing?

First of all, KOL marketing is the use of social media influencers for an advertisement for products and services. This concept is common on mainstream social media platforms. Users (influencers) with many followers receive compensation to market brand products and services on their account or channel.

As you know, in the Middle Kingdom, most international social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are blocked. Therefore, local social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo have emerged.

Brands looking to reach a Chinese customer base can advertise their business on Chinese social media platforms through KOL marketing. KOLs in the Chinese market are well-known people with large audiences. They 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. This includes bloggers, fashionistas, socialites, and columnists who have built-up a large community of online followers. KOLs post promotional content on any kind of niche, for example, sports, cosmetics, food, fashion, and luxury goods.

3. Benefits of Influencer Marketing

Working with KOL influencers in combination with conventional marketing has many benefits for businesses. The specific benefits of working with influencers are:


To give you an idea of the reach of Chinese influencers, we have selected three of them for you.

Fashion blogger Chrison has 5 million followers on Weibo, and 300,000 on WeChat. And that without even appearing on social media herself.

Mr. Bags, Tao Liang, promotes luxury bag brands. He has 3.7 million followers on Sina Weibo, and 850,000 on WeChat. He even launched his own signature mini-brand.

Becky Li is famous for selling 100 Mini Cooper cars on her WeChat account in just 5 minutes. She has 3.2 million followers on Weibo and 2 million followers on WeChat.


Chinese consumers trust their peers more for real and authentic information compared to corporate advertisements. Consumers know that the goal of brands is to advertise their goods and services.

The Little RED Book aka 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 its products for customers who want to buy directly.

The app does not allow anonymous reviews or one-click ratings. Besides, a user a certain amount of time to provide the rating. This has kept its community faithful in the quality of its reviews and more engaged over a longer period.

KOL marketing campaigns are very effective in China where consumers hold these influencers as trustworthy sources of knowledge.

Leads & Sales

KOL marketing creates ready-to-buy leads and sales for businesses. The KOL receives compensation (money, merchandise, trips, etc.) for posting the agreed-upon content on his/her social media platforms.

4. How do influencers work?

Influencers invite their audience to try the same goods and services that they use in their everyday life. As a result, this gives credibility to a brand’s qualities. Thus, approaching your prospective customers via influencers is an effective marketing strategy to gain trust, build up your brand in a new market, or expand it.

Besides, 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.

There are many options when selecting KOLs for Chinese social media platforms. This allows for a great deal of flexibility in the choosing process. Here, marketers 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.

5. How do KOLs make money?

KOLs receive compensation 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.

KOL marketing

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. Recently, some platforms like WeChat are beginning to adopt rules on giveaway or competition style posts.

Now, KOL marketing can cost from a few bucks (or just the reviewed product or service) to thousands of dollars. The amount a marketer pays for marketing depends on several aspects. These include 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. The more demanding your requirements and the more effort the influencer needs to put into the creation of branded content, the more it will cost.

Finally, most social media platforms require that an influencer give a disclaimer that their content has affiliated or marketing promotions. However, this does not seem to discourage the consumers’ faith in the credibility and authenticity of the influencers they follow.

6. Which Chinese influencer is right for me?

In KOL marketing, consumers see the influencer engaging with a brand. In other words, the KOL acts as a middleman between the brand and the customers. When choosing a KOL for this marketing strategy, you should go for an influencer who will represent your brand perfectly.

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 better to go with a KOL who has fewer followers but a stronger community niche that represents your brand. Because some KOLs have large followings, but many of these may be not suitable for your brand.

However, you should thoroughly research your chosen KOL before you approach them. Do not just look at the number of followers they have. Account followers are often artificially built up with bots. Instead, check for the engagement value in their posts. A small active fan base is better than a larger inactive one.

To find influencers, take a look, the Alibaba-backed ecommerce platform for influencers, Ruhnn Holding, for example. This agency is also listed on the Nasdaq since April 2019. It is the largest KOL facilitator in China with over 100 KOLs and has around 150 million fans throughout their social media platforms.

Alternatively, a Chinese marketing or influencer agency can help you to find the right Wanghong, KOL, or KOC for your business. We at Tenba Group are excited to do this for you!

7. Who should work with KOLs?

KOL marketing can be used by both small businesses and large corporations. Smaller brands can use it to create awareness and get attention from their target audience.

Finally, established brands can use KOL marketing to promote the launch of new products or expand their reach. As the markets are getting more saturated, Xiachen (marketing to lower-tiers) has recently become the latest trend. So, consider this for your strategy, if it makes sense for your brand.

The Takeaway

Congratulations! You are now an expert on Key Opinion Leaders and China influencer marketing. And you know how to incorporate influencers into your digital marketing strategy to skyrocket your business.

KOL marketing is thriving within the Chinese market. Primarily because Chinese consumers feel better connected to their peers, whom they engage with on social media. They find authenticity and credibility among the individuals who they have carefully chosen to follow, often sharing similar tastes and values.

So, KOL marketing is very flexible and targeted. It is a great strategy for businesses that want to get visibility and credibility in Chinese markets, grow the brand, and drive sales. It can push the image and sales for established brands, keeping them competitive.

To wrap this up, if you want a helping hand with marketing in China, the experts of Tenba Group are here for you! Contact us now to skyrocket your business in China and the Chinese speaking world!

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