What kind of Chinese influencer is right for your brand?

In China, social media influencers are a huge business in their own right. Many of these influencers actually have more sway than traditional celebrities when it comes to their online audiences, and businesses work hard to build profitable partnerships with the right influencers for their brand. For this reason, Western brands will usually invest in an influencer relationship as part of their broader Chinese digital marketing strategy, and this channel can be hugely powerful when used correctly.

There are no easy wins, however, as with online customers in the West, Chinese customers expect fast, effective and targeted messaging when it comes to their online experiences, so the right content is key. Chinese customers also greatly trust the influencers they choose to follow, and influencers will only consider sponsorship arrangements with the right brands. The right Key Opinion Leader (KOL) or Key Opinion Customer (KOC) can deliver excellent returns for Western brands, but only with the right strategy in place first.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at which kind of Chinese influencer will be right for your brand, and how to get the most from the relationship.

How to pick the right Chinese influencer for your Western brand?

1. Know what kind of relationship you need

Most Western brands will seek to forge a relationship with a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) who has a relevant audience. Some brands may also seek to co-create content with Key Opinion Customers (KOCs), who have a more niche, targeted influence based on genuine and authentic experiences. Both types of influencers can be useful, but for most Western brands building their presence in China, KOL relationship development will usually be the priority for brand building, awareness and potential conversions. Even within this category, there are various different relationship models, which can range from paid promotions to ongoing sponsorship arrangements and partnerships.

As with all effective business practices, the key to success over time with a Chinese influencer is to invest in the relationship and work together as closely and flexibly as possible. The approach you take may well refine over time as you learn what works well and what can be adjusted. With this kind of investment in a mutually beneficial influencer relationship, your brand can see real results.

2. Understand the target audience and buyer persona

The ‘right’ KOL will have an audience that tightly matches the brand’s target consumer group. This allows a natural sponsorship or partnership arrangement to be created, that adds genuine value and the best possible chance of success. Initial research into understanding this target audience will help to find the right KOL with a closely aligned follower base. Create your buyer persona to assess the likelihood of a good match with potential KOLs. This background work will help when you begin to have conversations with target KOLs about the possibility of a partnership arrangement.

3. Have a clear budget

It’s important to understand how much budget you are prepared to allocate to the KOL relationship as part of your overall Chinese digital marketing strategy. The budget will also help you to target KOLs that operate within your price points. Some KOLs charge thousands of dollars for a single post, but it’s not always necessary to find the KOL with the biggest following. For many brands, a KOL with a smaller, niche but a more engaged audience could be key to winning over new customers.

4. Think carefully about content

Some Western brands make the mistake of asking their KOL partners to simply add advertising content into their Chinese social media feeds. But this generally doesn’t work and the KOL risks losing credibility. It’s important to work carefully on a content plan that will work for the brand’s goals whilst supporting the ways in which the influencer naturally engages with their followers. This could mean creating content in the influencer’s own style, giving the influencer creative control over branded posts, or co-creating content.

5. Listen to the influencer’s experience

KOLs in China are powerful professionals and often incredibly good at what they do. Western brands can learn a lot from a good KOL about engaging with their target audience for the best results. KOLs may have ideas for specific campaigns that are likely to engage their followers, and creative ideas which are backed up with insight. The better the communication between the Western brand and KOL (facilitated with native language support where required), the better the results of the partnership.

6. Know your goals

As with all digital marketing activity, it’s important to have clear goals in place before you begin your programme of influencer activity in China. This will give you a clear framework to establish success and to identify where approaches may need to adjust to better meet objectives. These goals might range from brand awareness within your target Chinese audience to online conversions. Many Chinese KOLs will be able to evidence their results with specific data, and may even be able to help guide goals if your brand is new to Chinese digital and influencer marketing.

7. Invest in expert help

Even experienced Western brands can find it hard to deliver successful Chinese digital marketing strategies in this vast, fast-paced market where customers are incredibly demanding and the technology is advanced! By partnering with an expert Chinese digital marketing agency, your Western brand will gain access to expertise, insight and native language skills, allowing you the best possible chance of success.

Find out more

Market Me China is here to help Western brands achieve their Chinese digital marketing goals, with a highly experienced team of digital marketing professionals available to work on a flexible basis with your business. We work with brands across education, tourism, B2B, B2C and other sectors to help them achieve their goals in the China market. Please contact us for a no-obligation chat about your needs and we will be delighted to offer assistance.