KOLs are key opinion leaders – popular and trusted online personalities with a substantial following over which they carry considerable sway.

In China, KOLs can be very influential with consumer audiences, which is why businesses wishing to break into Chinese markets should consider engaging them.

Who are they?

China’s KOLs might be celebrities, stars, professional bloggers, experts in a specific field, fashion icons, or simply people with a strong online presence and brand. They can often be found on popular Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat, although they may also have their own blogs or websites. They may also be managed by talent agencies.

KOLs are often courted by top global luxury and fashion brands to promote or endorse their products or services. They may test out products and give their opinion, promote their favourite brands or in some cases become brand ambassadors.

Some well-known KOLs in China include fashion blogger Han Huohuo, and popular blogger, singer and rally driver Han Han.

Benefits and pitfalls of using KOLs

Word-of-mouth marketing is big in China; consumers like to seek out the opinions of their friends and trusted personalities before making purchases. According to China Internet Watch, 66% of consumers say they would willingly share their positive experiences of a brand with family and friends, while 60% said they would share on social media.

You could say that KOLs are at the pinnacle of this style of ‘natural’ marketing. They come with ready-made audiences over which they have influence, and can provide some great word-of-mouth promotion for brands that go about it all the right way.

The main pitfall is possible fake profiles and audiences. It’s always important to ensure that any KOLs you are considering are genuine, and that they come with bona-fide followers.

Tips for engaging KOLs

  • Define your goals – before starting, decide why you want to engage a particular KOL, and what you hope to achieve, such as greater brand awareness, leads, sales, enhanced brand image and so on.
  • Choose the right ones – connect with KOLs that have an audience similar to your own, or that you consider would be interested in what your brand offers. Very high-profile KOLs are choosy, and may not necessarily be the best choice for your business anyway. Consider connecting with lower-profile emerging bloggers with a smaller, quality following.
  • Invest the time – engaging KOLs involves a commitment of time towards connecting with them and building a relationship that is mutually beneficial, so be prepared to put in the hard yards. Getting in touch with KOLs may include inviting them to your promotional events, connecting on social media, or organising to meet with them.
  • Be unique – offer exclusive content that your chosen KOLs can in turn offer to their fans. Play up the uniqueness of your brand and the features of your products that you think would grab the attention of your KOL’s audience.
  • Combine with other marketing efforts – engaging a KOL should not displace your other marketing campaigns, so make it just one part of your overall strategy.
  • Hire an expert – if you don’t know where to start, consider using a marketing agency to connect you with suitable KOLs in China.

Are you interested in learning more about engaging KOLs as part of your digital marketing strategy? If so, get in touch with our bilingual China marketing team for more information.

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