Influencer Secrets: Tactics for Strengthening KOL Engagement
Influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are known to have turned the fortunes (for good and bad) for a number of China’s brands. Given the market potential in China, growth prediction, and the persuasive power of KOLs, they also command a very high premium price. It is not uncommon for large brands to allocate 25% of their annual marketing budget to KOL fees. For mid-sized brands, the number might range from 40 to 75%. As the (still nascent) evolves and broadens its reach to commerce and co-creation, best practices for KOL partnerships are being developed on both the supply and demand sides.
Below, we’ve pinpointed some of the KOL engagement tactics that brands should place at heart:
Choose the Right Fit over Cool & Happening
Force fit will appear like a force fit. Spending time in the courting period is crucial — discussing ideas about each other’s visions, the level of involvement, and taking time to investigate a real match. It’s simple to go after the “top 10 Fashion KOLs” on the list, but it takes time and effort to figure out if they’re a natural fit for your company and its target audience.
However, an unconventional KOL choice can work very well when done right. Y-Closet, a high-end clothing rental company (similar to RentTheRunway) established in Beijing, did not choose a fashion or lifestyle KOL to emphasize its outstanding dress cleaning process. Instead, it chose Jiang Chacha, a well-known advertising and marketing KOL, and deployed outstanding storytelling to create a memorable and viral campaign.
Practice KOL Relationships Rather than KOL Marketing
Influencer marketing is effective because it provides authenticity to the brand. When a well-known, well-loved, or well-followed figure tweets about a brand, the KOL lends the brand her genuine charisma — but the value of “real” cannot be overstated. PR departments have always attempted to engage with thought leaders (traditionally the media guys) to develop favorable opinions and coverage for the brand. The growing power of social media has led to the rise of social media influencers. Borrowing the leaf from an age-old principle of building relations with the influencers will offer up many unexpected possibilities and opportunities from influencer relationships. Westwood advises, “there are no shortcuts to building and nurturing relationships. We can only recommend taking a very human approach. When you’re excited about a new product, gift pieces that match an influencer’s personal style.”
Pay Attention to E-commerce KOLs
While platforms like Little Red Book and WeChat are definitely crucial parts of the consumer journey, brands shouldn’t overlook the opportunity to collaborate with KOLs that work directly on Taobao and Tmall. Consider it this way: When a user is logging into social media on WeChat, their plan is usually to engage with family, friends, and coworkers or to pay for a product or service offline. When they check out Douyin, it’s to engage with a few humorous videos in their downtime, but when a consumer visits Taobao or Tmall, they intend to shop.
It’s important to distinguish between traditional e-commerce platforms that have added social network and entertainment features (like Weitao) with social media platforms that include an e-commerce element, like Little Red Book and Douyin. Despite some industry experts’ optimistic projections, Little Red Book only holds approximately 4% of China’s cross-border e-commerce sector, implying that KOLs on the platform is unlikely going to move too much product. ParkLu estimates that conversion rates on non-e-commerce platforms like Weibo are generally around a 1.5% click-through rate, and 1.5% of those users are making a purchase.
Get Smart About Product Seeding
Brands sometimes give products free as presents to KOLs as a way of thanking them for their efforts or as a simple marketing technique. However, when it comes to their product seeding plan, marketers should look one step ahead — in other words, how may that present help build brand awareness in the long run?
Maybelline has delivered several items to beauty KOLs like Melilim (Maggie) Fu, which has resulted in long-term marketing prospects for the company. Maybelline also sent a bag full of makeup to a customer. While the makeup was ultimately the product that the brand hoped Fu would review, the piece of the luggage itself was a good quality item with a large visible logo. The suitcase would be great for a journey to the airport, where passers-by and social media followers would have an unexpected opportunity to interact with the brand. Maybelline also sent out a high-quality branded mahjong set for Chinese New Year, with traditional symbols replaced with beauty symbols like lipstick on the tiles. In this situation, KOL and their friends can continue to interact with the brand in a way that adds value beyond just using the cosmetics.
Co-create, Be open, Be Vulnerable
KOL marketing is sometimes misunderstood as a type of influence distribution, in which brands simply rent the channel and ask the influencer to share content under their control (such as controlling the specifics of captions, photo filters, and the time to post). Rather than micromanaging, encouraging KOLs to have spontaneous dialogues about your brand can be a far more rewarding collaboration. Keep in mind that followers can easily spot the difference between planned and organic content at first glance.
Learn more about how to grow your brand’s influence by following GirlsKode Medium!
LaunchMetrics. 2021. 5 KOL Marketing Tactics Every Brand Needs to Know in 2021. [online]. Tersedia dalam https://www.launchmetrics.com/resources/blog/5-kol-marketing-tactics-2021 (Diakses pada 2 September 2021)
Lui, Natalie. 2021. KOL Marketing: The Key To Success On Chinese Social Media. [online]. Tersedia dalam https://www.dragonsocial.net/blog/kol-marketing-success-china/ (Diakses pada 2 September 2021)