Running KOL campaigns in China can be tricky, but fear not – today we will show you what are the main tools for the success in influencer marketing in China. Still looking for an influencer agency in China? Don’t forget to ask these questions before you choose a partner to work with!
What are the best ways to promote products or services on social media in China?
There are thousands of new brands coming into China every year looking to connect with new customers in this large and growing market. Once they have successfully set up the structure to make their products/services available for Chinese consumers, they’ll quickly realize they need to begin investing in brand promotion. That’s where a strong understanding of China’s digital ecosystem comes into play.
Generally, every brand must have a website. However, unlike in the West, a brand’s website will not function as the “primary point of sale” for brands in China. Instead, brands must also establish a strong presence on Chinese social media channels.
It’s here where the big marketing questions pop up: how do we ensure people will see your post, interact with it and convert to being customers? To some extent, answers may vary but it all comes to the available tools social media platforms build for brands. In general, they can be categorized into three main types:
- Content marketing and incentives (owned media)
- Advertising (paid media)
- KOL/Influencer or 3rd party Endorsement (paid and earned media)
Now, while working with paid ad campaigns on social media platforms in China are straightforward (they work in the same way as in the West), it can be more difficult to navigate working with 3rd party partners such as KOLs, KOCs, and other media. But fear not, as today we will answer these FAQ we get from brands and agencies from around the world.
What are the platforms for influencer sourcing in China?
Main KOL campaign management native tools for each Chinese social media platform:
RED: Dandelion (蒲公英)
DouYin: Juliangxingtu (巨量星图)
Weibo: Weirenwu (微任务)
Third party platforms for KOL sourcing and performance evaluation.
These are our top picks when it comes to data analysis. These tools provide a deeper look into KOL performance and are wholly independent. They provide services on a membership basis (pay-per-month/year), but no English version is available.
Different types of contracts with KOLs in China.
When it comes to working with social media influencers in China, there are a few different models:
- Placing orders via the social media platform’s native influencer program: must have agency account registered to gain access. Allows you to control quality, as the contract payment will be held by the platform until the content is released. Payment in RMB only.
- Direct contract with MCN agency or KOL: cooperation and contracting done in Chinese, contracts signed are enforced by PRC legislation, payment done in RMB. MCN charges 50% commission.
- Sourcing and contracting via marketing/KOL agency: cooperation in English, contracting in English, payment in multiple currencies. Agencies charge 15-50% commission depending on size of contract.
- Product seeding (gifting) cooperation which doesn’t include payment or KOL contract: done in-house with a help of a third party forwarder. Can also be done via marketing agency.
Why is there so little data available in Influencer marketing in China?
If you’ve ever tried to contact KOLs in China directly, you would have learned that unlike in the West, influencers in China are not willing to share much when it comes to performance metrics. Of course, when it comes to top-tier influencers, many whom command prices similar to TV celebrities, they usually have a perfect media kit prepared in any language you need.
But mid and low-tier talents usually provide basic press kits (if any at all) where they include metrics that are already publicly visible plus a screenshot or two of their most successful posts. They would still command impressively high prices, which would increase every few weeks. Thus, it would be very hard for a brand to calculate ROI and make an informed decision.
Why is it so hard to get a solid information about KOL performance? Firstly, in this new market where “everyone is a KOL”, many accounts are not what they seem. Excluding top profiles, on average, 30% of followers of any mid to low tier KOL accounts are fake, which can easily fool an untrained observer and ruin important statistics (CTR, Engagement rates) in the back office.
Secondly, KOLs in China operate on a somewhat unregulated market, where they come up with the prices according to their own personal judgment. In addition, due to the intensely competitive nature of the market, KOLs are not willing to have their analytics and prices come into the hands of competitors.
And lastly, mid and low tier KOLs are usually still focused on creating content and growing their accounts, instead of representing themselves for business negotiations. Because of this, they often sign with MCNs (multi-channel network agency).
What about collaboration with MCN agencies in China?
Oftentimes, KOLs that would perfectly fit your campaign are managed by large MCNs. How would your collaboration work in this case?
While a KOL is represented by an MCN, it still doesn’t mean that their data is transparent and accessible. If there are things to hide – they will still be hidden.
The hard truth is that MCNs work to protect their position as the middleman, not for the benefit of the KOL or brand. Which means the contract you’ll need to sign with them protects the MCN from every angle (e.g., tight deadlines, immediate payment in full, and no reimbursements after signing – even if in the end, the KOL you chose refuses to post branded content, the MCN will reserve their right to push the content with another KOL of similar size.)
Usually, the MCN provides data formatted as a large excel sheet with hundreds of names and links to a front page. But just as before, you most likely won’t be able to find the information you are looking for other than account followers and impressions. Some MCNs provide a deck of all their talents, presenting some data on the accounts in these slides. However, again, this data is most likely already publicly visible on social media.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that MCNs earn 50-100% of the contract value, depending on the type of contract between the KOL and the agency. It is not uncommon for MCNs to sponsor a talent early on in the hopes of reaping handsome interests on investment down the line.
What about third-party KOL management tools?
There are a few platforms available in China that would help a brand self-manage KOL campaigns. While they might seem like an answer to your prayers, there are not without drawbacks.
- These platforms are useful mostly for multi-KOL campaigns involving large budgets.
- These platforms present a collection of talents in the same way as any agency, as it would be impossible for them to detect what counts as fake data on KOL accounts.
- These platforms do not bear any legal responsibility if you end up wasting money on KOL collaborations that don’t bring your brand any value. In addition, they can’t provide any advice on how to choose the best talent.
- These platforms bill you (on average 500-2000 USD) at the end of each month, even if you do not end up using them.
Thus, even though these platforms could be a great solution for agencies handling hundreds of KOLs a month, they still would be pricy and not essential for an average “KOL user”.
What about using influencer agencies in China that provide campaign management services?
If you do not have time or internal resources to hand pick the perfect KOLs for your campaign, you can always use the help of professionals. Marketing agencies such as HI-COM specialize in social media campaigns. Using the latest available tools and resources and operating with knowledge from their prior experience and relationships with KOLs, marketing agencies can deliver the best return on investment for smaller brands. Brands can enjoy a hassle-free workflow and enjoy the benefits of published content or live campaigns. However, agencies charge around 15-40% of the total contract value as a service fee and the brand may need to pay commission from sales to the KOLs.
When can I expect my campaign to go live with influencers in China?
When foreign agencies are looking to outsource Chinese influencers, they must be ready to face a different set of rules, be it platform rules, budget expectations or collaboration processes.
When working with independent KOLs, the whole process usually proceeds like this:
- Selecting a KOL – 5 days.
- Sending a brief to the KOL and making sure that the brand will be scheduled within the KOL time slots – 2 days.
- Signing a contract or placing an order via SM platform. – 7 days.
- Sending samples – 2 to 15 days depending on destinations.
- Receiving the mood board from the KOL of the upcoming content. – 3 days.
- Receiving a preview of the content before it goes live. – 2 to 7 days depending on availability of both sides.
- If all looks good, having the content published. – 1 day.
Realistically a brand should expect their desired content to be ready to go live in 3 to 5 weeks.
Want to increase your account visibility in Chinese Social Media? Learn more about HI-COM’s Social Media Management Services.
HI-COM is a digital marketing agency dedicated to providing China-specific strategy, social media communication and e-commerce marketing services to businesses around the world. Working with more than 100 brands, HI-COM is the go-to partner of companies that want to enter the China market! Contact us for your free consultation today!
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