There are more than 800 million internet users in China, who are permanently connected to their mobiles, tablets, and computers. Despite this huge number of potential online consumers many new companies entering the market struggle to attract customers. How can you target the Chinese market online more effectively? What new strategies are brands and companies using to attract Chinese customers? The answer is online influencers, or ‘Wanghong’. Let’s explore how these cyber celebrities can make or break a new business.
Influencers on the Chinese Web
We’re in the ‘golden age of influencers in China’. Influencers (or ‘key opinion leaders’) are the established online celebrities who’ve built a large following for themselves. As a foreign brand or company, it’s vital to tap into the large and impressionable communities surrounding influencers by recruiting them for your promotions. They offer an important platform for growth in a very competitive yet lucrative market.
Influencers and social media:
Brands want to expand on Chinese social networks like Weibo and WeChat because of the large number of active Chinese users. WeChat boasts over 750 million active users whilst Weibo has 250 million. Spend some time in China and you will see, everyone is obsessed with social media and glued to their smartphones.
A celebrity influencer’s online behaviour has a large impact in China primarily because Chinese consumers are constantly connected to the web and are especially active on social networks. They spend on average 1.5 hours per day browsing social media. More time leads to more interactions.
A key part of social media for the Chinese is to follow popular figures. The power of the ‘celebrity figure’ in China is huge. It’s important to realize that the scale of this fandom in a country with 1.4 billion people is very different. The Chinese naturally like to follow reputable and admired people. They consider them to be ‘experts’ in their field, influencers can now literally dictate and shape fashions and trends.
Burberry, for example, has invited KOL to their fashion show
A Highly Influential Approach
In China, there are influencers in all areas from cosmetics to fashion. These bloggers have formed large communities of tens of millions of fans. Key Influencers have great influence on the Chinese because the average netizen uses social networks as their primary source of information. WeChat is often referred to as the ‘WeChat times’. Many Chinese now distrust the traditional press and official sources. So they turn to user based content. This type of information informs their worldview and has a great impact. For the Chinese social media user an Influencer is more trustworthy than the official press. Most of PR agencies offer influencers services in China, it’s a trend.
Influencer posts may include the celebrity using the product or service, feature a link to the official social media pages or website or a direct endorsement of the quality of the product/service. Visual images and video content tend to attract the most attention and helps the post to go viral. Followers will share influencer posts on their feeds very regularly.
Collaboration with Influencers and Building Trust
Brands have quickly understood the need to collaborate with influencers. It’s important to identify the Influencers who can tap into your market niche and connect with them to start building relationships. This can be difficult with the language barriers, so having a third party agent to liaise with the influencer is important to sign a deal.
When it comes to new products and services the Chinese are famously distrustful and like buy what they know or have been recommended. An endorsement from a trusted reputable figure is worth its weight in gold. This is why it’s important for market entry to establish in the Chinese consumer’s mind that you’re a popular brand to encourage sales.
Partnerships are increasingly expensive
Influencers in China are aware of their privileged position and know how to leverage it. Agencies have sprung up to represent them as they are a highly valued digital asset. It’s akin to the success of a ‘Celebrity YouTubers’ but on a greater scale financially (in terms of initial investment and potential return..).
PapyJiang, for example, sold her first video ad for 3million dollars. She’s a satirical video maker with over 100 million followers.
Weibo user ‘Han Huo Huo’ is one of the most influential fashion bloggers in China with over 3 million followers on his page.
More KOL examples
Consider ‘micro influencers’
‘Micro influencers’ are also important. These are figures who have formed smaller communities based on niche subjects and interests. They don’t have tens of millions of followers but are still influential in their smaller communities.
If you have a smaller budget and can’t afford the large-scale ‘Opinion Leaders’ and celebrities then consider using ‘micro influencers’.
This is especially good if you have a more niche product or service to offer. Bear in mind the size of the market. You only need to tap into a small percentage through your online marketing to be profitable.
Example: this Chinese girl doing soft advertising for this Thai Brand
With the diversification of media apps in 2017 ‘alternative platforms’ such as ‘Nice’ (akin to Instagram) or Little Red Book (e-commerce app with social group chats) are gaining strength. This will encourage the rise of micro-influencers to create a different type of social space outside of the large scale Influencer led WeChat.