In any country in the world, marketers need influencers to touch the minds and hearts of consumers. Particularly in China, the help of influencers is essential get one’s message across via social media. This is the main message of ‘China Marketing Book Digital China: Working with Bloggers, Influencers and KOLs’, written by China social media experts Ashley Galina Dudarenok and Lauren Hallanan.
The authors, both recognized social media experts in China, joined forces to make an important point to any marketer trying to influence the Chinese social media consumer. The most important take-away of the book, according to Dudarenok: “Influencer marketing will continue to grow and be a key component of marketing strategies in China. For the foreseeable future, it will remain one of the best promotional methods in China. Meanwhile, brands and marketers should keep a close eye on the changing influencer market and novel approaches when developing their influencer marketing strategy.”
Influencer marketing in China is big business. According to research by Analysys International, the China influencer economy will be worth over $15.5 billion in 2019. China has the world's largest and most powerful influencer community. With a huge e-commerce economy that saw revenues of 7.57 trillion yuan (US$1.17 trillion) in 2017, China's KOLs - key opinion leaders - are well placed to help businesses looking for a foot in the door and more.
Opportunities in China are immense. This is a huge market to conquer and even more than elsewhere in the world, consumers tend to listen to the voices on social media. Brands and small business owners all over the world do have a chance of success in China when they understand China's online influencer ecosystem and how they can join the conversation.
A gap in the market
Seeing a gap in the market, Dudarenok and Lauren Hallanan targeted their book on brands seeking to enter China, expand their presence both inside China and while catering to Chinese tourists abroad. The book offers a map to the world of online influencers in China and give practical advice to Hong Kong marketers about cooperating with KOLs on Chinese social media.
True, bloggers, influencers and KOLs are part of the social media arena all over the world, but even more so in China, where people are wary of official information outlets, weary of standard media advertising and carry wide suspicions of business following repeated food and product safety scandals.
Crucial to marketing
Dudarenok and Hallanan argue that influencers are crucial to marketing efforts in China, because WeChat, unlike Facebook and Google, doesn’t offer data to advertisers allowing them to micro-target very specific demographics. Given these factors, brands and advertisers increasingly seek collaborations with influential online personalities who have large, loyal followings.
The point they make in the book is that bloggers, online personalities and internet celebrities that use social media as their primary communications channel, have a stronger influence in China than they do in the West. These KOLs usually have a considerable follower base that sees their opinions and suggestions as credible. And: they can be very effective in promoting attitudes and approaches that can affect the buying decisions of their followers and readers. Some excel in driving online sales, others even have their own brands and engage in direct sales themselves. Social commerce has been a success in China and is considered normal.
Do’s and don’ts
The authors offer some do’s and don’ts.
One: do assign a significant budget to influencer marketing. In China, influencers expect marketers to pay them outright, because product links in posts are restricted on most social media channels and affiliate marketing and profit share models are not as common as in the West.
Two: influencer marketing needs to be done strategically. Working with a few KOLs on a one-off campaign won’t create significant impact. It’s best to collaborate with a variety of influencers who have large and small follower bases.
Three: choose real influencers. Some Internet celebrities may be popular, but are not trusted sources of information and don’t have much influence in this regard. There are also KOLs that purchase fake followers and fabricate interactions to make their accounts look more popular. It’s meaningless to work with them and any effort put into content and campaigns is wasted.
Four: brands need to work with influencers who are fans of their products and grant them creative freedom. They know best what kind of content appeals to their audience and will receive the best reaction.
Digital China: Working with Bloggers, Influencers and KOL is now available on Amazon.
Dudarenok is the founder of Alarice and ChoZan, marketing and training agencies respectively with expertise in KOL marketing in China. She runs AshleyTalks, the biggest vlog and youtube channel about China marketing. Lauren Hallanan is a writer, entrepreneur and social media marketing expert.