Finding a KOC in China

Finding a KOC in China [Step-by-Step Guide]

Last Updated on May 10, 2024

The Chinese market has a rich influencer economy. In fact, recent statistical reports suggest that the segment could reach a whopping 7 trillion yuan ($1 trillion) by 2025 if the industry continues to rapidly grow within this year.

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) used to be the primary focus of most Chinese influencer marketing strategies. However, with local consumers actively seeking genuine user-generated content, they now view micro-influencers as a more credible source of valuable insights.

In this post, we’ll help you find the right KOC in China and explore effective strategies to ensure the success of your influencer collaborations amidst the country’s complex digital ecosystem.


What is a key opinion consumer (KOC) in China?

A Key Opinion Consumer is a regular customer who can influence the purchasing decisions of their family, friends, colleagues, and other people within their personal social circles.

They are also known as micro-influencers who share authentic content about the products and services they availed in local e-commerce and social media platforms. They also publicize these reviews in different media formats, such as long-form and short-form videos, live-streaming sessions, or posts with images.


An influencer promoting products on a live stream (Source: Forbes)


Unlike a Key Opinion Leader, most KOCs don’t endorse brands in every content they release. They gain consumer trust through genuine content creation about their personal journeys, interests, and hobbies.

Most of these virtual influencers are selective about the products and services they feature in their content. Because of this, their endorsements work incredibly well in generating brand awareness and sales conversions.


7 Steps to Choosing the Right KOC in China

1.   Identify your brand marketing goals

Before you proceed on this venture, it’s worth noting that launching an influencer marketing campaign with a KOC differs from working with a KOL.

For instance, if your goal is to increase brand visibility and awareness from the general public, you need an influencer with a massive audience reach.

A regular Key Opinion Consumer typically doesn’t have that. However, if your goal is to gain relevance in a specific niche and build communities that drive sales, micro-influencers must be a crucial part of your strategy.



The key role of a KOC in China is to bring you closer to your target audience on a personal level. So, it’s important to ensure that the KOC’s follower base aligns with your target demographic.

While follower count is important, you must also consider how these influencers engage with their audiences. This factor often indicates a KOC’s ability to influence their viewers’ purchase decisions.

Look for micro-KOLs with high engagement rates in their posts. This metric suggests they maintain a strong connection with their fans.


2.   Localize your products or services

Chinese consumers are savvy online shoppers. Gone were the days when they blindly patronize Western brands. Today, modern customers tend to gravitate toward familiar products and services.

Although working with a Key Opinion Consumer does put smaller brands on their radar, well-localized offerings will naturally align better with domestic tastes and preferences.

A KOC promoting a product that feels “foreign” might not be as effective as one that seems custom-made for the local audience.


WeChat influencers post videos reviewing specific energy drink products

WeChat influencers featuring localized Red Bull products


Remember, brand localization goes beyond language translations. It involves understanding regional preferences, modifying product designs, and adjusting marketing messages to resonate with local consumers.

Localized offerings also enhance the credibility of KOCs when they recommend these products, leading to higher engagement rates and a stronger consumer response.


3.   Select platforms based on your target audience

When marketing in China, the best way to find an influencer is through social media platforms. Establishing a presence in these channels can help Western brands build trust among consumers who have yet to become familiar with their offerings.

Defining your target demographic’s age, interests, location, and buying behaviors can help you determine the best platform for launching influencer marketing campaigns.

Remember, each platform caters to different user bases. For example, younger audiences may gravitate more towards platforms like Douyin (Chinese TikTok) or Bilibili.

Meanwhile, social channels like Weibo, Zhihu, or Little Red Book can attract more educated audiences due to their dynamic content and specialized communities.


Popular social media in China


You must also look at where competitors are investing their influencer marketing efforts. Understanding which platforms these brands use can provide insights into where audiences for similar products are most active.


4.   Choose the suitable content format

Influencer marketing comes in many content formats. Short-form videos and live streams are arguably the most popular media types today, as they often showcase authentic, real-time feedback from influencers and industry experts.

The campaign objectives and the nature of the product should dictate your choice between long-form and short-form video formats. Short-form videos are ideal for creating buzz or briefly demonstrating products, and they perform well on platforms like Douyin.

Long-form content is suitable for platforms like Bilibili or Douyin, allowing brands to explore in-depth storytelling to strengthen the connection with the audience.


Quiet live streaming China

Influencers doing real-time product demos on e-commerce platforms


On the other hand, there are over 727.9 million live-streaming users in China. In fact, this media format generated a market value of five trillion yuan in 2023 alone.

Considering its prevalence in the Chinese market, real-time content can expand the brand’s reach and increase the chance for a higher conversion rate.

You can explore platforms like Taobao Live to facilitate real-time interaction between KOCs and your target consumers. These channels provide content creation tools for product demonstrations, tutorials, and Q&A sessions, which are proven effective in driving instant purchasing decisions.

When choosing a KOC for your live-streaming content, you should consider their ability to communicate effectively and engage with live audiences. Their personality and presentation skills are important, especially if you want to maintain viewer interest and trust throughout the campaign.


5.   Execute a Product Seeding campaign

Audiences that interact with micro KOLs are not keen on traditional sales tactics. Fortunately, product seeding is a strategy worth exploring if you want your campaign to appear more authentic to consumers and influencers.

It’s when companies provide products to influential individuals (in this case, KOCs) for free in hopes that they will use them and share their genuine experiences with their followers.

This tactic is particularly effective in the Chinese market due to the high value placed on peer recommendations and real user testimonials posted on local social media channels.

Keep in mind that product seeding is a popular KOC strategy in China, and chances are many brands are already sending their goods to the KOCs you’re targeting. If you want them to post your products, being unique is the key.


Maybelline’s Chinese New Year Product Seeding Campaign

Maybelline’s Chinese New Year Product Seeding Campaign (Source: Jing Daily)


Take Maybelline’s product seeding campaign as an example. For the Chinese New Year campaign, they gave away mahjong-themed lipstick sets to influencers.

Thanks to their localized product branding, they managed to capture the genuine interests of influencers, with many willingly posting positive reviews for the brand.

Not only did this strategy increase the possibility of potential sales, but it also created a positive brand image and user-generated content that the brand could use as social proof.


6.   Optimize your digital landing pages

As we already mentioned, Chinese consumers are naturally curious and savvy. So, when they encounter your products through KOC recommendations, they’ll likely search for everything related to your brand online.

Your website or other online landing pages must be ready to convert visitors into customers. First, you must ensure that these web pages are mobile-optimized, as around 76% of Chinese internet users access the web via smartphones.

Your landing page should also have a clear, compelling CTA that guides visitors towards the desired action, whether it’s making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or another relevant conversion goal.


Rioja responsive website for wine market China

Rioja Wine’s Website Localization


When it comes to website localization, you must check that all the important web pages are fast-loading to maintain the audience’s interest as they scroll through your content. You can achieve this by hosting the site domestically or configuring it based on China’s internet regulations and the Great Firewall policy.


7.   Work with a Chinese influencer marketing agency

Marketing in China can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the Chinese digital infrastructure and how local consumers engage with influencers online.

A domestic influencer marketing agency understands the cultural nuances and current trends that resonate with Chinese consumers. Because of this expertise, they can easily identify KOCs whose followers match your target demographic.

Beyond connecting brands with the right Chinese KOCs, agencies also offer campaign management services, providing valuable analytics on campaign performance. This data is especially valuable for making informed decisions about future marketing strategies.



Reasons Why Chinese Consumers Trust Key Opinion Consumers

●     More relatable than Key Opinion Leaders

Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) in China are not full-blown influencers per se. Typically, they’re also Chinese customers trying out products and sharing their first-hand experiences online.

This relatability stems from their perceived similarity to the consumer’s own social and economic status, lifestyle, or personal interests.

KOCs typically build their following by focusing on niche markets or specific interests, such as skin care, gadgets, or fashion. Their recommendations are seen as trustworthy because they are based on personal experiences rather than being driven by commercial contracts.


●     Lower Reputation Risks

Let’s face it. Working with a Key Opinion Leader with a massive number of followers opens the possibility of increased scrutiny. Meanwhile, a KOC’s smaller audience scale can lead to fewer risks associated with reputation.

In the Chinese market, where consumer trust is hard-earned and easily lost, a KOC’s perceived authenticity and lower-key presence make them less susceptible to public controversies.

In addition, any negative fallout from a potential controversy involving a KOC is usually less damaging due to its smaller reach. This dynamic is particularly appealing for risk-averse brands that still want to engage with influencer marketing in a controlled and manageable way.



●     Connection with Niche Audiences

While a Key Opinion Consumer usually lacks the massive followings of popular influencers, their fanbase is highly engaged and open to recommendations from their fellow customers.

Niche audiences see KOCs as peers rather than celebrities, making their recommendations feel more authentic and trustworthy. Collaborations with these influencers are also more community-centric and targeted than KOL campaigns.

For example, a KOC focused on skincare can provide insightful advice designed for followers with similar skin types or concerns. They often incorporate personal experiences with their endorsement to connect with their audiences more intimately.


●     Budget-friendly Price Range

Top KOLs tend to have high costs because follower count usually affects how much influencer marketing collaborations will be. KOCs have very niche audiences, so they obviously do not command the same high fees.

For brands, this means they can engage with KOCs frequently or across multiple campaigns without the substantial financial outlay required for top-tier KOLs.


Quick Q&A

What’s the difference between KOLs and KOCs?

The main difference between KOLs and KOCs in China is the range of audiences they can reach. KOLs typically have large followings and are influential figures across various platforms, while KOCs have smaller, more niche audiences but can yield high engagement rates.

KOLs are usually seen as celebrities or experts who can drive brand awareness on a large scale. At the same time, KOCs are considered everyday consumers who can sway purchasing decisions through personal recommendations and detailed product reviews.

How important is influencer marketing in China?

Influencer marketing plays a crucial role in China, serving as a dominant force in the digital advertising sector. Brands leverage these influencers to amplify their message and build trust and authenticity among curious and tech-savvy local consumers.


Your Trusted KOC Marketing Partner in the Chinese Market!

The shift in consumer interest from KOLs to KOCs clearly shows how the Chinese market craves authentic and organic marketing strategies. These influencers now hold the power to bring brands closer to their core target audiences.


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At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the trends shaping China’s thriving influencer economy. Our team has extensive industry experience that’ll help your brand select the right KOC in China and launch campaigns capable of attracting your intended audiences.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


Whether it’s finding an influencer to collaborate with, launching advertisements, or managing your social media presence, we have the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let’s start working on your first KOC campaign in China!


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