How to Work with KOLs in Chinese Market


Chinese KOLs are different from western KOLs. For example, we know that food critic has great influence to the reputation of restaurants. Their comments are like valves which can keep customers outside or let them in. Food critics are only one kind of KOLs. While in China there are not so many professional food critics now, so the comments, especially online comments from Internet celebrities, will lead the audience and influence people’s ideas.

In fact, most influential KOLs in China are from the Internet. More than 650 million Chinese netizens are directly influenced by Internet. The success of social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo in China has given rise to a number of influential bloggers and social commentators, including national celebrities and politicians.

If brands are going to survive in the competitive Chinese market, they will need to learn how to build relationships with these vital sources of advertising. In essence, key opinion leaders are people with a large follower base and people other Chinese netizens tend to trust. It usually refers to academics, celebrities, business men and women, and even professional bloggers.

Here are some tips for how to work with KOLs in China:

1. Ask the important questions. Before doing anything, the key is first to ask yourself a few questions: what is the objective of engaging with a KOL? What result are you looking for? Are you looking for brand awareness, sales, or even a change in positioning? Considering the fact that many top KOLs will serve for a different brand each day of the week - do we really believe that their followers will flock to stores and purchase goods as we wish? They do observe and follow KOLs but they also rely on friends and media for information and advice.

2. Choose the right KOLs. This is the trickiest part and there is no magic solution. For luxury brands, the big KOLs will bring quick awareness, but sometimes the most interesting KOLs are the credible ones - they are not just “famous for being famous” ones. Brands need to choose KOLs who are knowledgeable and respected in the field. This way they can attract loyal customers for the brand, and their posts are more credible than the KOLs who post about 20 different brands every week.

3. Do your research. Which social media is the most suitable one for your brand? Should the KOLs write a post on WeChat or should they post on Weibo? Social media in China is unique because it is growing so fast, with new platforms and new apps constantly sprouting out for attention. Do you want a KOL to live stream the new collection, generate buzz for an online competition or personally review a product? To choose the right platform, a brand needs to start with its objectives and based on the objectives you can further select a proper platform.

4. Look beyond the big KOLs. Big brands with deep pockets have been using KOLs in China for a long time. It’s easy to see the reason. As millions of followers are reading posts released by KOLs, brands tend to pay out a lot of money for direct access to numerous audience. Moreover, brands can further gain more value by focusing on a specific target group. Small influencers or grassroots KOLs might have less followers, but those followers are often more loyal and responsive to the KOL’s posts, providing an opportunity for brands looking to hit a specific niche audience. Whether you are in the field of art, culture, fashion, fine wine, luxury travel, business, entrepreneurship, society, food, or travel, make sure you pick the right influencer for your brand!

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