China has a distinct digital landscape, but we all know that a good KOL marketing campaign is always an effective strategy to captivate the fragmented Chinese consumer base.
Like it or not, Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) wield substantial influence across major social media platforms in China. And while their prowess molds consumer habits and purchasing decisions, not all popular KOLs suit every brand’s target audience.
For international brands, finding appropriate KOLs that connect with the Chinese market and resonate with their intended audience can be crucial to the campaign’s success.
In this post, we’ll share some insight into China’s influencer marketing ecosystem and recommend reliable Chinese KOLs in each industry.
Top 9 influencers for effective KOL campaigns
1. Crazy Xiaoyangge (Crazy Little Yang Brother)
As of 2023, Crazy Xiaoyangge is the most followed Chinese KOL in Douyin. Unlike other Key Opinion Leaders with sizeable followings, he entertains his 116 million fans through family-friendly content.
He also doesn’t do typical influencer endorsements, where most Chinese KOLs tend to pitch products to their audience randomly.
He appeals so much to Chinese consumers because he doesn’t just promote brands. Instead, he delivers honest reactions about the products he’s endorsing during his live-streaming sessions and encourages his fans to ask as many questions as possible.
Despite his popularity, Crazy Xiaoyangge does not capitalize on the social media marketing economy. His authenticity can help international brands gain exposure and generate sales in the Chinese market with his dedicated fan base, many of which trust his recommendations.
2. Zola Zhang
Although Zola Zhang has been in the KOL market for over a decade, her influence is primarily known in the beauty and fashion industry. Her popularity spans different Chinese social media platforms, but she built quite a solid fan base in Douyin and RED.
She’s one of the top KOLs in Douyin, with over 2 million social media users following her account. Her industry experience and dedicated audience allowed her to collaborate with multiple brands like Valentino and Louis Vuitton (LV) for a successful KOL campaign.
Her consistent influence across various channels and age groups makes her the right KOL to work with if you want to reach consumers enthusiastic about high-quality beauty products and fashionable items.
3. Nono (抬头看风景)
Social media influencers in the travel niche are slowly gaining traction in China. In Nono’s case, she amassed over 5.2 million social media followers on SinaWeibo for her content exploring undiscovered destinations perfect for vacations and adventures.
She started as part of the micro KOLs in the industry, so it’s not surprising that she has quite a dedicated social media following. Local influencers in the travel niche, like Nono, can be effective brand ambassadors for international businesses looking to attract Chinese tourists.
If you want to increase brand awareness for your family-friendly products and services, Nicomama is one of the top-tier influencers you can approach for collaboration. The mix of good parenting advice and product recommendations made this Chinese KOL garner 10.6 million social media followers in Douyin.
In 2022, Nicomama became more relevant in social commerce platforms after she generated 7,000,000 GMV in a live-streaming broadcast. This achievement is not typical for social media influencers selling infant products because Chinese parents care more about quality and safety than good discounts or deals.
Her popularity on social media platforms in China isn’t the only reason she’s a top-tier Chinese KOL, but her professional credentials of a doctorate degree and published books.
It’s worth noting that parents in China invest in their children, and having reputable Chinese KOLs (like Nicomama) backing your brand can generate good exposure and drive student enrollment for overseas schools.
5. Becky Li
One of the most outstanding key opinion leaders you can find when launching KOL marketing campaigns for fashion brands is Becky Li. Her cumulative followers on social media platforms amount to 20 million users.
She’s one of the early examples of success for KOL marketing in China because, in 2017, she sold 100 Mini Cooper vehicles on her WeChat Official Account in just four minutes.
This successful influencer marketing campaign gave her the nickname of “BuyBuyBuy” Goddess among popular Chinese KOLs and her fan base. It’s evident that that feat impressed the international luxury market as her following collaborations include high-end brands like Dior, Hermes, and Chanel.
Since Becky Li mainly endorses luxury items, it’s safe to say that her audience reach is not similar to micro-influencers. Remember that collaborating with Key Opinion Leaders with this big following and highly specific audience requires a more elaborate digital marketing strategy.
With the rise of key opinion consumers (KOCs), it’s obvious that the Chinese market is getting tired of the standard influencer marketing campaigns. Fortunately for 帅soserious, he has his own weight loss experience backing his authenticity as a reliable KOL in the health and fitness industry.
His content focuses on fact-based information to help social media users understand their health and medical needs. With excellent tips and first-hand experience, he gained over 4.5 million followers in Douyin and 1.2 million on RED.
Chinese influencers like 帅soserious have credibility in their niche because their audience knows their experience through quality content. Brands who want to enter the medical and wellness market in China should note that local consumers value authenticity more than the product’s popularity on social media platforms.
7. Mr. Bags
The luxury fashion market in China is full of female social media influencers, but Mr Bag’s advantage is not about being male. He accumulated over 7 million followers on WeChat and Weibo because of his niche content about searching for the perfect bag.
Another side of KOL marketing in China is the market’s preference for high-quality and high-end accessories. His recommendations and photos of sought-after luxury products jumpstart his career as one of the top-tier influencers in the Chinese digital landscape.
Renowned brands marketing in China, like Givenchy, Burberry, and LV, even contacted him for collaborations.
8. Mi Zijun
Since Mi Zijun is known for her eating adventures, brands looking to promote international food and beverages to Chinese consumers can use KOL collaborations to appeal to her audience.
This food lover is the perfect example of how micro-influencers can get a headstart through viral content. Her fame skyrocketed after the live broadcast of her eating ten noodle cups quickly.
While her popularity stems from viral content, she’s now big on social media for working with different restaurant brands. Among Chinese influencers in the F&B industry, she has the highest number of SinaWeibo followers, which is around 19.1 million.
9. Austin Li (Li Jiaqi)
Li Jiaqi is one of the leading beauty KOLs in China, with over 45 million followers in Douyin. While he has faced different controversies over the years, he’s still relevant across social media platforms in China.
The infamous nickname of “Lipstick King” that got Li Jiaqi the Guinness World Record is still why he’s one of the top KOLs in China. On top of that, he’s often accompanied by celebrities in his live-stream sessions.
Cosmetics and fashion brands seeking high exposure on social media platforms in China can surely leverage his account’s broad audience reach and popularity.
Top Apps to Use for Your Influencer Marketing Strategy
In recent years, China has become a powerhouse in influencer marketing, boasting a massive online population and a unique digital landscape.
As a result, businesses looking to tap into this dynamic market have turned to various apps and platforms to execute their influencer marketing strategies effectively. Here are some of your options:
As a cornerstone of China’s digital landscape, WeChat transcends its messaging roots. Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) harness their power to establish official accounts, sharing content with their followers.
Influencers and brands converge on WeChat Moments, fostering collaborations that resonate with the app’s massive user base.
2. Douyin (TikTok in China)
Renowned for its concise video format, Douyin thrives as a nexus for influencer marketing. Collaborations between brands and influencers unfold through relatable videos, effectively capturing the attention of the platform’s dynamic and youthful audience.
3. Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu)
Mainland China’s millennial and Gen Z demographic gravitates toward this fusion of social media and e-commerce. Chinese KOLs find a niche to dispense product insights, style advice, and lifestyle content, seamlessly integrating purchasing avenues for engaged audiences.
Amid real-time trends, Weibo maintains its sway, offering opportunities for collaborations with key opinion leaders (KOLs). International brands leverage KOL partnerships to penetrate China’s market and participate in ongoing dialogues, amplifying their visibility.
5. Taobao Live
Seamlessly integrated with Alibaba’s Taobao, Taobao Live marries live-streaming with e-commerce. Influencers exploit this platform to provide real-time product demonstrations, interact with audiences, and facilitate immediate sales conversions, nurturing a novel shopping experience.
Why is KOL marketing so effective in China?
The remarkable effectiveness of Key Opinion Leader (KOL) marketing in China is a phenomenon that emerges from a blend of cultural, technological, and economic dynamics.
This strategic approach has become an indispensable cornerstone for brands aiming to thrive in the local market. And while technology, in general, prompted this phenomenon, KOL’s popularity started when live streams took the stage.
The idea of authenticity and actual recommendations for real people drives this market to be trusted by Chinese consumers. Rather than advertisers or the actual brands themselves, KOLs are regarded by the public as trusted advisors.
The more genuine KOLs’ content is, the more trust local consumers will give them. Because of this, they can sway consumer behavior toward certain brands. However, as the influencer market is slowly commercializing, some audiences lean on purchasing opinions from Key Opinion Customers for more unfiltered recommendations.
How many KOLs are there in China?
China has around 10 million Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) across different digital platforms. And while each platform will lure brands in with millions of active users and influencers, it’s worth noting that not all apps include your target audience.
For example, if you look at the graph below from Statista, you’ll see that the active users following KOLs differ in each platform. While Douyin has the most proportionate distribution, it’s clear that its dominating KOL audience is Millenials who are aged 25 to 35 years old.
While the same can also be said for KOLs in WeChat, Little Red Book and BiliBili have a high percentage of KOL audiences in the Gen Z age group of 19 to 24.
Tips for finding the right KOLs for Marketing in China
- Understand Your Audience
Before selecting KOLs, have a clear understanding of your target demographic. China’s diverse population spans various age groups, regions, and interests. Ensure that the KOL’s audience aligns with your target market.
- Define Your Goals
Determine your campaign objectives. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive sales, or establish expertise? Different KOLs excel in different areas, so align your goals with their strengths.
- Authenticity and Relevance
Look for KOLs whose content resonates authentically with their followers. Authenticity is crucial in Chinese influencer marketing. Audiences are likelier to engage with genuine content rather than overtly promotional.
- Engagement Metrics
Analyze engagement metrics such as likes, comments, shares, and video views. High engagement rates indicate a more active and involved audience, suggesting a more effective collaboration.
- Content Quality
You must review the KOL’s content quality and style. Visual appeal, storytelling, and creativity are key factors that contribute to successful influencer campaigns.
- Brand Alignment
Ensure the KOL’s values align with your brand’s message and image. A strong alignment enhances the credibility of the partnership and resonates better with the audience.
- Cross-Platform Presence
As you can see from our list, many KOLs have a presence on multiple platforms. Consider whether their reach extends beyond one platform and how this can benefit your campaign’s reach.
- Negotiation and Communication
Remember to establish clear terms of collaboration, including content requirements, posting schedules, and compensation. Effective communication is key to a smooth partnership.
- Long-Term vs. Short-Term
Decide whether you’re looking for a short-term campaign or a long-term partnership. Long-term collaborations can lead to more sustained brand-building efforts.
What is the Difference between KOLs and KOCs in China?
In the landscape of influencer marketing in China, it’s essential to understand the distinction between Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs). First, KOLs are established individuals with a significant online following, often as celebrities, industry experts, or social media influencers.
They possess substantial influence over their audience’s opinions and purchasing decisions. Brands collaborate with KOLs for their reach, credibility, and ability to shape trends.
On the other hand, KOCs are everyday consumers who are highly passionate about a particular product or brand. They authentically share their experiences and opinions with their social circles. KOCs tend to have more minor but highly engaged and trusting audiences. Brands tap into KOCs for grassroots and word-of-mouth marketing.
The main difference lies in their origin: KOLs have intentionally built their online presence to become influencers, while KOCs organically advocate for products they genuinely love.
KOLs and KOCs have their merits and can be strategically used based on campaign objectives. KOLs offer broader exposure, while KOCs provide a more personal and authentic touch. Understanding the nuances of these two influencer types is crucial for crafting an effective marketing strategy in China’s dynamic influencer landscape.
Your Trusted KOL Marketing Partner in China
It’s no secret that every KOL stands as an effective tool for any type of marketing strategy. But as the Chinese market continues to expand, finding the right influencer for your brand’s campaign gets more challenging.
Don’t let the fragmented local market hold you back! Selecting the right KOL, platform, and strategy can be crucial, particularly for new businesses entering China. Contact us for assistance if you’re ready to elevate your KOL marketing strategy!
Whether it’s collaborating with the top KOLs, crafting compelling paid WeChat advertising campaigns, harnessing the power of SEO and social media, or making waves with PR, we have the digital solutions you need. The possibilities are endless – let’s make them a reality!