Social Media in China has diversified in the past few years. So has the impact of influencers. Platforms like Tiktok, Douyin (抖音), Instagram, and Little Red Book (小红书) have elevated influencers impact. Previously, influencers were famous people who enjoyed an established career before building a social media following. Now, it’s easier for app users to gain influencer status by making content that is relatable to their followers. Below, we will explore how Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are influencers. Then, examine how they can boost your brand on Social Media in China.
What is a KOL?
KOL stand for Key Opinion Leaders, a type of influencer. The main difference between a KOL and an influencer is their audience. An influencer gains their following from a successful career. Such as in acting, modeling, music, art, socialites, business, etc. As a result, an influencer’s audience is broad. Since influencers often involve themselves in many professions.
For example, singer Rihanna is a global superstar. As well as having a successful music career, she has also:
- Starred in movies like Ocean’s 8 and Home.
- Modeled for luxury brands like Dior and Armani.
- Started her own fashion house Savage.
- And launched makeup brand Fenty.
Therefore, Rihanna’s following comes from different revenue streams as fans may follow her social media accounts for different reasons. Some consuming her music, and others consuming her products. Influencers source their followers from different demographics, enabling them to reach a wider audience.
KOLs, on the other hand, are a type of influencer with a niche specific fan base. The definition of a KOL is in its name, “opinion leader.” KOLs are influencers that focus on a topic. This can range from makeup and fashion to sports and gaming. Many consider KOLs experts in their respective fields. So, they are trusted by their followers to create/post content in their niche. Many brands choose to work with KOLs because their product will reach the brand’s desired consumers.
Dutch makeup artist Nikkie de Jager is better known as NikkieTutorials on Instagram and Youtube. On these platforms she has 15.2 million and 13.9 million followers respectively. For years, NikkieTutorials has been posting product reviews and makeup tutorials on her YouTube channel. Her loyal fanbase trusts her expertise in creating new makeup looks, which products to buy, and what styles are popular. As a result, she has partnered with Marc Jacob Beauty, and Maybelline. She also joined Beauty Bay where she launched her own eyeshadow palette. Her large following legitimizes her career in beauty, along with the accolades she has received. In 2017, Forbes magazine listed NikkieTutorials in their top ten “beauty influencers.” She also won the Shorty Award for “Youtube Guru” and the Teen Choice Award for “Choice Fashion/Beauty Web Star.”
Conversely, it is key to know that an influencer does not naturally qualify as a KOL. KOLs are always building their own knowledge on a topic they are passionate about. We consider a KOL’s social media their own brand. That is why they dedicate time and effort on the platform to share their insights.
Why use a KOL?
Before the rise in social media, it was hard to become an influencer by relying on interests alone. Nowadays, anyone can become an influencer with a small following. All it takes is a passion about a topic and a commitment to grow a following.
Regardless of the size of your company, your brand can benefit from KOLs. Whether you have an established base or are freshly launched, it may be hard to target ads to your audience.
KOLs are the conduit between your product and your customers. Because KOLs have invested considerable time building your target audience through personalized posts, videos, and stories. There is a clear foundation of trust between KOLs and their followers from the time spent with online interactions. Using a KOL allows your brand to reach a group of people who are already interested in products similar to your brand. Think of this as an extension of trust. Since the KOL is promoting a product they believe would be of value to their followers.
Running a regular ad, on the other hand, does not guarantee that your brand will reach the right audience. Working with a KOL will ensure that their followers will interact with your brand in some way. Such as liking your posts, clicking your company profile, or visiting your product page.
From the KOL’s viewpoint, working with a brand benefits them as well. A partnership with a company adds to their credibility and boosts their careers. They secure their place as an opinion leader in their online community and use the alliance in their portfolios.
Choosing the right KOL
First and foremost, what kind of KOL are you looking for? It is important to establish the type of KOL that best suits your brand and product. For example, imagine you are promoting a specialty drink, like wine or beer. Then, a KOL in the food and beverage niche would be a great fit. Conversely, it would not make sense to partner with a fashion-centered KOL who has a completely unrelated fan base.
Next, think about your budget. How much are you willing to spend on KOL advertising? Luckily, there are many options to choose from! This goes hand-in-hand with the type of KOL you will be looking for. KOLs and influencers can be broken into a couple of categories:
- Nano-influencer (1k-5k followers)
- Micro-influencer (5k-10k followers)
- Mid-influencer (10k-100k followers)
- Macro-influencer (100k-1 million followers)
- Mega-influencer (over 1 million followers)
Note: expect KOLs with over 10k followers to either charge a flat rate or a rate per post. On the other hand, many nano and micro-influencers accept a product package instead of monetary compensation. This is where budgeting and choosing the right KOL is essential. Book a free consultation with Gab China now, and we will ensure your brand partners with the correct KOL.
Thirdly, what kind of partnership do you have in mind? This, of course, will affect your budget! A picture or blog post is the simplest. Next, is a series of pictures or a short video, which will also give a longer period of return. Will you give complete creative freedom to the KOL, or expect them to portray a specific idea? The most expensive option is a live stream. To that end, the KOL will showcase your item in real time while answering their follower’s questions. Live streams are becoming more popular, as followers see the product tested. Popular live streams include: appliance how-to tutorials, clothing try-ons, and makeup applications.
Lastly, do research on your KOL! Look at the type of engagement that is occurring on a KOL’s social media platform. What is the follower to the likes-per-post ratio? Are there consistent interactions in the comments between followers and the KOL? What brands have the KOL worked with before? These are all key components that will help you choose a trustworthy influencer.
If you want to fast-track these steps, contact Gab China and book a free consultation now. In fact, we can find the best KOL for your brand, saving you time and trouble.
Choosing a Platform
When it comes to Chinese social media, there are platforms that perform consistently on top:
- WeChat (微信)
- Weibo (微博)
- Little Red Book (小红书)
- Douyin (抖音)
These platforms will determine what kind of KOLs, posts, and audiences you will reach.
Everyone in China uses WeChat. Yes everyone! It is the main source of communication between Chinese citizens. And acts as news outlet, ride-share, and bank service, etc. WeChat really has no age restriction, as both young and old users actively use this app daily. In addition, official WeChat accounts allow picture and video sharing with short description posts and long blog posts.
Young adults and millennials use Weibo as a blogging website. Here, members share pictures and videos with longer descriptions. Users get on WeChat for day-to-day life interaction with family and friends, like Facebook. On the other hand, users join Weibo for broader community group discussions and more unique posts, similar to Instagram.
Little Red Book and Douyin each have a huge young-adult user base. In fact, most of their users are between the ages of 18 to 25 years old. Little Red Book allows both pictures and short videos. Users turn to it for advice on clothing, cosmetics, travel, and food. Similar to Instagram and Pinterest. And Douyin is strictly a video-sharing app, which also promotes topics that help with daily life. Popular video ideas include tutorials (appliances, cosmetics, do-it-yourself projects), food recipes, travel destinations, etc. The influencers on each platform are similar in age range. But younger consumers tend to use Little Red Book and Douyin as their preferred social media outlets.
Reaching out to a KOL
Connecting with a KOL is just as simple as sending a direct message on social media. If the KOL is a nano or micro-influencer, they usually accept a direct message into their social media inbox. They often have their contact email linked in their profile descriptions, which is also another contact route. Mid and macro KOLs may have a manager or agency that runs their social media, making them more difficult to reach. At Gab China, we will ease this process for you.
All in all, KOLs can help any brand, because they are just as diverse as people’s interests are. Finding the right KOL boils down to your brand, image, budget, and which platform you want to advertise on. Since social media in China has no age limitation, KOLs also have no boundaries on age. Remember that choosing a KOL is first, and foremost, about promoting your own brand image.