For anyone working in the Chinese marketing industry, or anyone seeking to enter the market, the term KOL (Key Opinion Leader) will pop up in virtually every other conversation. More commonly known as ‘influencers’ internationally, KOLs are individuals who command sizeable followings on social media, and can use those followings to help brands gain exposure, or directly sell product.
According to E-marketer, spending on China’s shopping apps reached USD 1.53 trillion!
So in year 2021, not only Weibo and WeChat influencers will have much work to do, but influencers from mobile apps such as Douyin (Chinese Tiktok), Weitao (Blogging site of Taobao), Red (Xiaohongshu) who may not have Weibo or WeChat account will be involved greatly in promotional campaigns of the brands.
The world of Chinese influencers can often seem opaque and difficult to navigate, however, both for newcomers and the already initiated. That’s why we’ve come up with our list of top Chinese KOLs for 2021.
How Can Chinese KOLs Help Your Business in 2021?
Influencer marketing all around the world is booming, but the scale of KOL marketing in China, and the diversity of consumer engagement options available, is unique. Research from Rakuten in 2020 suggests almost 4 in 5 online shoppers aged between 35 and 44 made a purchase directly because of KOL endorsement. Moreover, trust in KOLs remains higher in China than in other Asian markets.
In China, livestreams are incredibly popular, with KOLs either filming in studios or livestreaming their ‘daily lives’ to instantaneously interact with their fans. Short videos and vlogs allow KOLs to inject their own creativity into a brand’s marketing.
Whereas traditional ads are usually disruptive – placed before or between content – KOL endorsement allows the ad to be a part of the content.
Why Indicate Your Business Location when running a KOL Campaign?
But the big question still remains: how can I make sure the campaign followers reach my destination?
With this in mind, campaign of the influencer better include the exact location of the promoted destination, best ways to reach it and the best features of the destination that will bring value to the traveler’s life (special experiences, great deals, new products or services).
Apps like Douyin and RED allow KOLs to pin down the location they talk about. When follower clicks on that link, more information could be available about the spot.
Most of information could be described in the KOL post, but it is best not to over do the business side as it could make a post very commercial and not too attractive.
Top Chinese Apps for KOL Marketing in Different Industries
Top KOL Apps and Social Media Platforms for Travel Industry in China
When brands think about using KOLs and Influencers to advertise to Chinese tourist, it is important to understand the social media landscape of traveling industry in China. Unlike the west, Chinese tourists have dozens of sources to rely on when travel.
Xiaohongshu (RED/Little Red Book): before traveling
This app is mostly used by Millennials and Gen Z women from top-tier cities in China. Red’s main purpose is review and recommendations. Started as cosmetics and skin care cross-border app, today Red is one of the top apps for all kinds of advice giving including travel.
Brands use Red to cooperate with Chinese KOL on a “organic” level, where the advertising is not too obvious. Red provides a “brand station” type of account where brands do not sell anything, but have a brand information page with latest updates and videos.
Qunar Blog: While traveling
When people are on a go at the destination, and want a little extra advice, they go to 2 main platforms: Qunar and Dianping.
Qunar is one of the very first Chinese travel ticket booking engine and travel blog. One of the differentiating points of Qunar are the running comments lines on featured image of the post. Qunar is easy to use, and popular among
Top 11 Leading Chinese Influencers in the Travel Industry
#1 Chinese KOL and Travel Influencer
Followers: 9.69 million on SinaWeibo
Shenwei’s (神威) huge following puts him in the ranks of top Chinese KOLs. He a takes a refreshing approach to his writing and is also a globe-trotter. He has written travel literature including “Let’s go! You still have your youth and dreams” and “The day I met the world”, a personal growth novel “Dear, have you been lonely?” and romance novels such as “I like you, you know?” and ”I miss you, you know?”.
He has also been invited by many television and radio stations to host shows. He has been a guest on shows including “Big Entertainer”, “Fashion Icon”, “Travel Channel Travel Sharing Session”, “Mobile Vision”, “The Choice”, “Qilu World” and many others.
He has his own travel show on Xiamen Tourism Radio, FM94.0 called “The Travel Diary of Shenwei”. He also has his own travel programs on Youku and Tudou.
Shenwei acts as the travel ambassador for Sina Tourism and Travel, global hotel experience ambassador for Ctrip and public welfare ambassador for Zhongxin Travel. He has also been appointed as the Bazaar public welfare celebrity.
Shenwei has been invited by Canada, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia and some domestic tourism bureaus to promote their tours and hotels. He would be a hugely valuable asset in KOL marketing.
#2 Travel Influencer in China
Followers: 10.9 Million on Douyin
Kiki (房琪Kiki on Weibo) is the location host of a Chinese travel program, 美丽中华行 (Měilì zhōnghuá xíng, Beautiful China Tour). She travels around China and takes videos to promote little-known natural beauty spots and her travel lifestyle. Her buoyant spirit makes her one of the top Chinese KOLs.
#3 Top Travel KOLs in China
Followers: 9.47 Million on Douyin
Zhang and Liang are a couple. They are involved in producing “侣行” (lǚ xíng), a popular program about traveling to unusual, ‘off-the-grid’ places, such as Somalia, Oymyakon in Russia, Syria and Afghanistan, where they give people an unfiltered view of the real lives of others. The adventurous couple have even been to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
Their program shares history, facts and interesting information on regions and topics that are not usually openly discussed in China. It is only available for viewing on a few video websites, such as Youku. After the programme became well known, it attracted sponsorship from Mercedes-Benz as well as other major companies, placing them near the top of any self-respecting China KOL ranking.
#4 Travel KOL in China
Followers: 7.82 Million on SinaWeibo
Aznan (阿滋楠) is a globe trotter, worthy of inclusion in any KOL guide. She’s travelled to more than 100 countries, without any financial help from her family. She encourages the idea that travel should not be gendered, that women should feel free to explore and broaden their lives. As one of the top Chinese KOLs, she’s won the top travel KOL award for five consecutive years.
#5 Top KOL in Travel in China
Followers: 6.9 million on SinaWeibo
Molly (貓力) , also known as the Globe Traveller, is one of the most prominent Chinese influencers. She’s a columnist, screenwriter, actress, model and popular blogger. She graduated from East China Normal University and was raised in a family of performers.
Since her time at university, she has visited many countries including Japan, South Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Armenia, Karabachos, Georgia, Turkey and others.
Her moving quote “I’m only worried about one thing: I won’t finish seeing this world before I die” has inspired and moved many people who now follow her travels through photos and articles.
Acting as a KOL guide, her followers on Weibo, travel websites and other platforms can appreciate the culture and customs of the different places she travels to. Molly has also published several works including “Travelling with Molly” and “Shimmering on the Road: Travelling with Molly 2″.
#6 Chinese KOL in Travel
Followers: 5.2 million on SinaWeibo
Her unique travel model is based around her tagline “In-depth travels by an independent female – do not follow fashion to explore the destination”.
Through WeChat and Sina Weibo, Layla (蕾拉小姐) has created China’s first “Female Private Collection of Independent Travels” IP, placing her high in any China KOL ranking. She is helping to shape a new image of Chinese women as travelers with “Independence + Cultivation + Insight”.
She has also created her own successful brand and is highly regarded as a travel KOL. Layla is partly famous because of her divorce with one of the most popular actor/TV hosts of China, partly for her freedom spirit. Today Layla is communicating to the audience via WeChat as well, creating long article that feel like chapters of a book.
Her follower base is mainly highly educated Chinese travellers from top-tier cities of China with substantial travel experience. Attracting more than 85% of female travelers, Layla has a strong commercial influence on her followers, with Weibo organic engagement rate of 1,5%.
#7 Top Travel Influencer in China
5.12 Million onSinaWeibo
Nono (抬头看风景) is notable for how Chinese local TV programs respect her place as one of the top Chinese KOLs. She frequently gets invited to introduced little-known and astonishing natural landscapes or villages in the mountains, where city folk can take a break from everything.
#8 Top Chinese KOLs in Travel
Followers: 4.84 Million on SinaWeibo
Janice (Janice简妮 on Weibo) comes from Guangdong. She is running her own company, and owns two Taobao shops. Her passion is all about discovering unique and fashionable clothing in different countries and bringing it back home. She appeals to younger audiences in KOL marketing.
#9 Top Travel KOL in China
Followers: 4.51 Million on SinaWeibo
Winnie (羽晗winnie on Weibo) is a well-known food tourism blogger, Weibo Travel Player, hotel experience expert and reporter for the China Photography Association. One of the top Chinese KOLs, she has travelled to over 30 countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia and to Australia, as well as all over China. She holds the role of Promotion Ambassador for Quzhou Network Travel and is also the public image spokesperson for Yushu Tourist Administration.
#10 Top KOLs in Travel in China
Followers: 4.27 Million on SinaWeibo
Having been over 30 countries and 100 cities, Claire (Claire小爱 on Weibo) gained millions of loyal followers on weibo and other platforms by taking high-quality photos and sharing traveling experience.
What makes her special is that she claims to travel with beauty and love in a smart way rather than hard or tough. As a result, In 2017, she was awarded as one of the top 10 most popular and influential travel KOLs in China. She also took part in the reality show《K-WAVE》in Seoul invited by COSMO.
#11 Top Chinese Influencer in Travel
Followers: 3.27 Million on RED
A KOL guide in the field of both travel and fashion, Tingyu (凌听雨) shows off the high-life – taking trips to beaches and fancy hotels. Aspiring, trendy middle-class women will look to her to see what to buy and where to go, making her valuable in any KOL selling campaign.
Top influencers in China usually charge a lot, hence many companies cannot afford them. Here is a list of the top 10 mid-tier KOLs that wield significant enough influence to generate sales!
Top Chinese KOLs in the Beauty Industry
#1 Top Beauty KOL in China
Followers: 54.65million on SinaWeibo
Mr. Kevin Chou (Kevin凯文老师 on Weibo) is a famous stylist in Taiwan and one of the hosts on Taiwan’s hottest variety show “WQueen”. Chou was deemed “makeup king” by the industry; recognition of his position as one of the top Chinese KOLs. He created his own brand, BeautyMaker, which is tailor-made for Asian women’s skin and ivory toned skin color. It can take into account the skin and skin color of Asians and he currently resides in Taipei, Taiwan. In 2005, he entered the “WQueen” team and became a makeup icon in both Taiwan and mainland China.
In 2008, his book, “Bare Makeup Bible and Beauty Make-up Collection”, which took him over a year of painstaking efforts, was published and sold more than 130,000 copies in three months. This book became the best-selling fashion lifestyle book in Taiwan in five years after “Beauty King”.
#2 Top KOL in Beauty Industry in China
Followers: 45 Million on Douyin
Austin (李佳琦) is one of the leading KOLs in China. He started his career as a live-streamer focusing on lipsticks. Dubbed ‘lipstick king’, in 2019 he won a Guinness World record for most lipstick applications in 30 seconds. He is way up there on any China KOL ranking, even pulling in top celebrities to be his guests in his streams.
#3 Top Beauty Influencers in China
Followers: 35.8 Million on SinaWeibo
Doctor P (小P老师) was born on February 8th in Taiwan. Now one of the top KOLs in China, he is known as a makeup artist, skin care specialist and also an image designer. Having built up an incredible following, he is now invited by numerous beauty TV shows including “女人我最大”， “我要你最美”， “今夜女人帮”， “美丽俏佳人” and “我是大美人”.
He gives accurate and special advice for beauty and image design and also to tell women how to deal with their skin or hair problems. He is also the founder of “媲美网” and a makeup brand named JMIXP to provide Asian women with trendy, simple and practical makeup solutions. In addition to that, he has his own signature columns in several magazines including “时装L’OFFICIEL” (Fashion L’OFFICIEL), “时尚COSMO” (Fashion COSMO) and others. For KOL marketing, there are few better.
#4 Top Beauty KOL in China
Followers: 13.6 Million on SinaWeibo
Pony (Pony_朴惠敏 on Weibo) is a Korean blogger based overseas. She uses her platform to KOL teach different Korean make-up looks and tips, skills, products, making her a gem for KOL marketing campaigns involving cosmetics.
#5 Top Chinese KOLs in Beauty
Followers: 13.4 Million on SinaWeibo
MoMo (张沫凡MOMO on Weibo) is the founder of Mo Amour Essential Oil and is one of the top-ranking KOLs on Weibo. In 2010, she founded MmeAmore Cosmetics (Beijing) Co., Ltd., and for the first time presented “one to one Aromatherapy customized skin care” in China.
In 2014, she established “MeiMoDream Fund” for the urban women’s beauty and dream. This post-90’s beauty has been famous on the Internet for a long time. The reason for her fame is because she is absolutely shocking and glamorous. She is a member of the Baidu MCC Hall of Fame, SinaWeibo celebrity, Renren.com beauty, and CJ ShowGirl.
As a famous taobaogirl, her popularity on the Internet has always been high because she shared her beauty with many people. She is also a British IFA aromatherapist, the founder of MimoEmalcosmetics, the owner of Mo Amour Essential oil shop, and the founder of Mo Amour essential oil; also, an essential addition to any KOL guide.
#6 Beauty KOL in China
Followers: 13.2 Million on Douyin
Based in Beijing, Doudou is a KOL selling master. She seeds beauty products, posting good humor-tinged product tests, fashion item reviews and life recordings.
#7 Beauty KOL in China
Followers: 11.9 Million on SinaWeibo
One of the key leaders in the Korean-style movement, Echo (桃小小) introduces new looks with makeup, and also seeds products. Her featuring of products can stand to hugely aide benefit KOL selling campaigns.
#9 Top Beauty Chinese Influencers
Followers: 9.04 Million on SinaWeibo
Jun (俊平大魔王) is the founder and CEO of the JUNPING brand. After graduation, he worked for well-known Internet companies such as Sohuand Object Software and was responsible for the operation of online games.
Throughout working in Shanghai, Beijing and other places, he is getting familiar with the aromatherapy and beauty fashion industry. He later returned to Hangzhou to establish the FAC HuajianMiyuAroma Life Concept Store and the JUNPING brand.
#10 Chinese Beauty KOLs
Followers: 7.22 Million on Sina
Amiu (滕雨佳Amiu on Weibo) is a famous Model at taobao girl ShowGirl. In the past ten years she was earning her living by modelling for car exhibitions and gaming events, as well as winning a few talent awards, bringing her fame and business in the Influencer market.
Nowadays she is one of the most recognized beauty KOLs in China, working with many cosmetics and skincare companies, including Meitu Beauty.
#11 Chinese Cosmetic Influencer
Followers: 7.9 Million on Douyin
Another beauty king of KOLs in China, Wangyu (骆王宇) does multi-channel product seeding for his very loyal fanbase. He carefully scripts his videos for a feeling of maximum authenticity.
Top Chinese KOLs in the Food and Beverage Industry
#1 Chinese Food and Beverage KOL
Followers: 19.1 Million on SinaWeibo
Chongqing native Mi Zijun (密子君) is a famous blogger, a top Chinese KOL on Sina Weibo, and a huge food lover! She has gained fame for eating food: a lot of it, and very quickly. Mi Zijun famously broadcasted herself finishing 10 cups of super spicy instant noodles within 16 minutes and 20 seconds, and also wowed her audience at a rice-eating competition in Hangzhou after downing over 4 kilograms of plain white rice in one sitting.
With more than 19 million followers on her Weibo, Ms. Mi opened an online snack store at Taobao which is named “大胃王密子君零食店”, which translates to “The king of big stomachs – Mi Zijun’s snack shop”. Her unbelievable food feats have attracted a large amount of attention and a huge following online, and restaurant and food brands have been eager to capitalize on Mi Zijun’s wide audience in KOL marketing campaigns.
Today Mi Zijun works with many famous restaurant brands and their promotions, such as Pizza Hut’s Home Service. Chinese influencers food lovers are getting the top Restaurants typically enjoy a 10% increase in traffic after she has broadcasted about it. She is also invited to appear on many popular Chinese TV shows to show live audiences her astonishing eating abilities.
What makes her special: The amount of food this petite girl can put away is incredible. The phenomena seems to work well, attracting more and more curious crowds to her video sites, which in turn make her an influential marketing ambassador for food brands or restaurants.
#2 Chinese KOL in Food and Beverage Industry
Followers: 18.3 Million on SinaWeibo
Guangzhou-based 甜咪少女 makes videos about delicious homemade desserts. Her style is fresh, clear and cheery; she can lend a sunny face to any KOL marketing campaign.
#3 Food and Beverage KOL in China
Followers: 17.6 Million on SinaWeibo
干饭少女阿笼 posts cooking tutorials and videos, sharing step-by-step graphics. Product placement might be especially useful for direct KOL selling.
#4 Food and Beverage KOL in China
Followers: 13.3 Million on SinaWeibo
Amelie (阿米朽) is a vlogger who introduces home-made snacks, desserts and tips for the cooking process. She puts an imaginative spin on her snacks, with innovative recipes gaining her a place as one of the top Chinese KOLs.
#5 Top KOL in Food and Beverage
Followers: 13.3 Million on SinaWeibo
Another vlogger, 魔女宅冬冬’s style is cutesy and adorable. She shares desserts and dishes that creatively appeal to those looking to cute-up their lives.
Top Chinese KOLs in Sport
#1 Chinese KOL in Sport
Followers: 9.7 Million on Douyin
JJ (JJYOGA瑜伽 on Weibo) is one of the creators of the Round Yoga theory, and founder of the brand JJYOGA. For yoga, he is undoubtedly one of the, if not the top Chinese KOL. He’s taught yoga for 15 years already, and shares videos on Douyin, which allows audience to practice at home and with clear targets.
#2 KOL in Sport
Followers: 7.8 Million on Bilibili
Zoey (周六野Zoey on Weibo) shares aerobics videos on all channels, many of which are oriented towards one specific body part. Except fitness, she also posts about her daily liffe. This makes her a good partner for KOL selling campaigns that seek to target consumers across the sports-lifestyle-fashion fault line.
#3 Sport KOL in China
Followers: 7.57 Million on Sina Weibo
Previously a SWAT team member, Hei (黑猫的黑) is now a fitness nutritionist and runs her own WE Media. She posts mainly about marathons, and has cooperated in KOL marketing campaigns with with many famous brands.
#4 KOL in China in Sport
Followers: 4.85 Million on Bilibili
Pamela is a German fitness blogger. She teaches high-calorie-consumption aerobics across many channels. Her videos are known for being as slimline as the bodies they produce – straight to the point, little unnecessary chatting. In just one year they’ve soared in popularity in China, making her one of the top sport KOLs.
#5 Chinese Influencer in Sport
Followers: 3.9 Million on Sina Weibo
Nice (俞乃西Nice on Weibo) doesn’t teach people how to work out, she shares photos of her daily life and promotes related products. People love it! This makes her an invaluable asset for KOL direct selling, and her huge following puts her up there in China KOL ranking.
Looking for or have questions about Chinese Micro Influencers? Check out our Chinese Micro Influencer Marketing Guide!
Top Chinese KOLs in Parenthood
#1 Parenting KOL in China
Followers: 1.2 million on Weibo
Little Bag’s Mom (小小包麻麻) attaches great importance to the quality of maternal and baby products, and flies around the world every year to participate in maternal and baby exhibitions, just to share more cost-effective and trendy products with mothers.
She is famous for her high-quality parenting knowledge and professional evaluation of maternal and baby products. She is praised as “the best shopper of all the moms in China” by nearly ten million fans.
#2 Chinese Parenting Influencer
Followers: Over 1 million on Weibo
She is a super Mom, she is a super sportswoman. The promoter of the White Swim Meet, image ambassador for the Guangzhou Metro Marathon, parent-child sportsman, breakfast blogger and travel expert!
Linda (Linda酱的健康生活 on Weibo) one of the highest follower engagement rates, making jealous those KOLs with millions of followers. Cooperating with the popular Chinese APP – VIP (WeiPinHui) and companies like Nike, she promotes sport, health, parenthood and healthy food.
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