There are already over 800 million Internet users in China. The Chinese rely on their smartphones a lot in their daily lives, spend a lot of time on social media, and enjoy online shopping. As a result, more and more Internet celebrities from different spheres begin to appear, drawing in plenty of fans who rely on their opinions. No wonder Chinese influencers are starting to play an important role in advertising products from multiple brands. In 2018, the Chinese influencers’ net worth reached as much as USD 16 billion.
Who are Chinese influencers?
Chinese influencers are called Key Opinion Leaders, KOL in short. “Opinion leaders” is a term used to describe people who significantly impact their surroundings, and therefore are often contracted to, for example, undertake PR activities. Even if they are not selling the product directly, they have a considerable impact on other people deciding whether to buy it.
There is a couple of different types of Chinese Key Opinion Leaders, for example:
- Celebrities, like famous actors, singers, TV personalities.
- Internet celebrities, e.g. comedy video creators or people who publish their photos.
- Bloggers who create content based on specific knowledge or skills. They write reviews based on their own experience.
For many brands, working with influencers is the easiest way to present and advertise their products. Many Chinese Key Opinion Leaders are experts in their respective fields and share product reviews that contain valuable information. It is the reason why Internet users consider them reliable and trustworthy.
Influencers in China have a more extensive base of followers than those in other countries because of how many Internet users there are. The most popular Chinese influencers can have millions of followers who follow their advice. Therefore, they have a bigger impact on sales figures than, for example, some magazines.
Moreover, in other countries, products promoted on social media (e.g. Instagram) cannot be purchased directly from the platform. In China, however, everything is possible on one site or application. For instance, through the app WeChat you can advertise the products, open an online store, and receive payment for products using the WeChat mobile payments system. Consequently, the effectiveness of influencers in China is higher than in other countries.
How much does working with a Chinese influencer cost?
Working with a Chinese Key Opinion Leader is a great opportunity to present and advertise one’s product. That being said, an influencer who fits the marketing strategy should be well chosen, as the costs of working with those with the biggest reach can be higher than expected.
- The price of one post on Weibo shared by a Chinese celebrity can cost up to a million RMB (USD 150,000).
- A collaboration with an Internet celebrity can be cheaper by about 20-40%.
- The most influential specialized bloggers earn between RMB 100,000 and 300,000 per post.
The case is different when it comes to WeChat:
- The price of one post published by the most popular KOLs is RMB 300,000 on average.
- Owners of accounts with less than a million fans can get paid up to RMB 85,000 for one post.
- Chinese influencers with a couple of thousand followers publish posts for less than RMB 1,000.
There is a trend that, instead of a predetermined amount, Chinese influencers earn a percentage of the generated sales or link clicks. Key Opinion Leaders are more eager to post a direct link to the online store if their payment is set on those conditions.
How to start working with a Chinese influencer?
There is a couple of methods to find a Chinese influencer to collaborate with.
- A popular method is to search directly on Chinese sites. For instance, using the Weibo or WeChat search engine, you can find a list of accounts related to a key phrase, as well as the number of followers and contact information.
- There are also specific online databases, such as Robin8, Newrank, or ParkLu, which may come in handy when searching for a suitable Chinese influencer. They provide statistics concerning Key Opinion Leaders and suggest potential partners.
- Another way to find a Chinese KOL and starting a collaboration is to contact an influencer agency directly.
How can Chinese influencers advertise your product?
When working with a Chinese Key Opinion Leader, the right advertisement method for the given product should be chosen. It could be, for instance:
- Sponsored posts or advertisements published by the influencer rather than a company. In this case, proper materials about the product, service, or campaign should be provided to the influencer, and they are the ones to create and publish the advert.
- Product reviews. They increase the credibility of the brand, and positive reviews shared by influencers can attract many potential clients. It is worth adding that it is popular in China to test products during a live stream. Unfortunately, sending bloggers free samples alone can be not enough, and they also need to be compensated for publishing a review of the product.
- Promotional campaigns, during which Chinese influencers offer their fans special discounts or encourage participation in giveaways.
Live streaming in China
The gaming industry was the first to make live streaming popular, but now, the focus has shifted more to e-commerce. Many live streaming platforms, such as Taobao, Tmall, JingDong, or Meipai, allow online stores to sell products directly through the stream, making it more beneficial for brands to advertise their merchandise this way. One of the most popular Chinese live streamers, La Jiaqi, also called “The King of Lipstick,” set a record by selling 15,000 lipsticks in just 5 minutes.
Live commerce allows social exchange between the streamer, who is often an expert in the field, and the viewer, who trusts the streamer’s opinion and therefore is more prone to purchase the product. It is also why the practice became even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic when social interaction became limited. Chinese streaming platforms are expected to reach over 500 million users by the end of 2020, and the live commerce market is said to be worth over USD 130 billion.
Examples of Chinese influencers
- Papi Jiang (Papi酱)
She is one of the most popular Chinese Internet celebrities. She creates short comedy videos that gain over 30 million views each. Companies are willing to pay up to even USD 3,5 million for placing an ad in one of her videos. Papi Jiang is on social media platforms such as Weibo, Youku, Douban, and western Youtube. She also appeared in an Internet campaign for New Balance shoes.
- Zhang Dayi (张大奕)
Zhang Dayi is one of the most popular Chinese fashion bloggers. She has over 12 million followers on Sina Weibo, and she is active on the platform Xiaohongshu as well. In 2016, her earnings reached RMB 300 million (USD 46 million), which exceeded the earnings of the most popular Chinese actresses. Zhang Dayi is one of the first Chinese Internet stars to showcase products on live streams.
- Mr. Bags (包先生)
Mr. Bags has over 6 million fans on Weibo, and he is on such platforms as WeChat and Xiaohongshu. On Valentine’s day 2017, he collaborated with the brand Givenchy and promoted a limited edition of 80 bags priced RMB 15,000 each, all of which were sold out in 12 minutes. A year later, he beat this record, selling 500 Tod’s limited-edition bags in 6 minutes, generating RMB 3,24 million profit.
- Mi Zijun (密子君)
She is a Chinese influencer associated with the food industry. She gained popularity thanks to videos in which she eats large amounts of food in a short time. She has almost 19 million followers on Sina Weibo and publishes videos on Youku as well. Moreover, she appears in many live programs on Chinese television. She collaborated with, for example, Pizza Hut.
- Ma Jianguo (回憶專用小馬甲)
At first, his Weibo account was supposed to be simply a way to record his memories, but unexpectedly he became popular. The credit is due to the photos of his two pets: a dog, Niuniu, and a cat, Duanwu. Currently, as many as 41 million fans follow the pets’ daily life. Thanks to advertisements, Ma Jianguo earns RMB 10 million a year.
Other Chinese influencers
Chinese influencers associated with the fashion industry collaborated with, for example, Vogue and luxury brands like Chanel, Prada, and Gucci. Experts in the beauty sphere are also very popular, some of whom worked with L’Oréal, Yves Saint Laurent, Estée Lauder, and Olay.
As seen above, sites most used by influencers in China are mainly Sina Weibo, WeChat, Youku, and Xiaohongshu. Many influencers also appear on platforms such as Miaopai, Yizhibo, Douban, or Douyin (TikTok).
Moreover, streaming sites are becoming increasingly popular, where Chinese influencers share live e-sports events and stream video games. These are, for example, Huya, Chushou, and Douyu.