Socio-cultural influencers have come and gone from Versailles to Victoria’s Secret. Nowadays, L’Oréal teams up with Chinese KOLs to celebrate Halloween and China tech giant Xiaomi enlists U.S.-based influencers to expand its market presence. The influencing biz is preparing to cross over. What might 2019 have in the app store?
From the in-court incrowd onwards, influencers have throughout history presented onlookers and admirers with a highly exclusive, fashionable and at times wonderfully Clueless clique that enjoyed the favor of emperors and screaming teenage fans alike.
The 21st Century has taken the influencing game into higher online spheres and society’s digital “popularity contest” is increasingly tightening its grip on consumer behavior. Subsequently, we must travel to Instagram and get ready to WeChat — next level style.
There are influencer|KOL lessons to be told and a future to behold.
Lesson 1: Back To Influencer Basics
Social media has in the 2010s drastically transformed how the perimeters of influence work in daily life. Consumer shopping decisions, for example, have become affected by bloggers, vloggers and reviewers. Instead of hearing about that new must-have from friends or neighbors, you find out about it via your favorite Instagram accounts.
Influencer marketing isn’t just another fad. In fact, it’s one of the oldest marketing techniques in the book, reimagined for the digital era.
All potential snickering aside, fashion and beauty aren’t the only realms in which the influencer can wield their posting power. Social issues such as the promotion of body positivity or freedom of sexual orientation, too, are on the agenda. Just for good measure.
Marketeers, according to the experts at social media management tool MAVSocial, are only too keenly aware of the power these campaigns hold. A poll by Tomoson, one online service geared towards micro-
Influencer marketing tech specialist TapInfluence reported that influencer marketing “can increase ROI up to 11 times”. Shifting the focus to the Middle Kingdom, KOLs are instrumental in a large number of China-focused marketing campaigns.
Lesson 2: The Key Opinion Leader
Bluntly speaking, then. The frenzy that is Sina Weibo (微博 or wēibó in Chinese aka China’s Twitter platform and the source of everything KOL) popularity started gaining momentum in the early 2010s with megastar singers and actors such as Jay Chou and Wang Leehom interacting with fans via the platform.
Through that interaction, a little endorsement promo here and there may have filtered through the firewalls and trickled into teeny bopping minds across the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. This is no different from Beyonce and BitBit back in the early 2000s shaking boobs and butts for some Pepsi bravado.
From the platform’s exponentially growing celebrity culture, eventually sprouted the opportunity for John and Jane Wang to get their daily opinions on everything ranging from music to movies and beauty out there. The KOL was born.
Chinese rap star Kris Wu with his 30 million (underage female fangirl) Weibo following recently becoming the face of Chivas Regal whisky, though, is a whole ‘nother beast. Which raises a question mark or two to be tackled in due time.
KOLs may not necessarily engage in the direct sales of the product they endorse, but their opinions heavily influence consumer purchasing patterns. In order to understand why KOLs in China hold such a grip over their followers, one must grasp the digital environment which promotes this type of “social sales”. Many Western marketeers consider China’s censorship of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be the telltale tokens of discouragement.
In reality, these blocked social media platforms pale in comparison to China’s homegrown platforms such as Sina Weibo and Tencent WeChat. These are the hard hitters that make up the nation’s highly integrated digital ecosystem. The four main KOL categories are, in order of importance:
- The Superstar;
- The Niche Professional (fashion, food, travel,…);
- The Internet Celebrity (网红 or “wǎnghóng” in Chinese);
- The Grassroots KOL (“normal” people with strong personal branding and a medium-sized fan following).
Lesson 3: From Weibo To WeChat
China’s most popular, and more than just messaging, app anno 2018 is WeChat (微信 or wēixìn in Chinese; established in 2011). Whereas often referred to as a “walled garden”, an area in which users spend all of their time, the app in fact does not make it easy for brands to achieve visibility.
Consequently, from this walled garden, individual bloggers and content curators in the past two years began to foster highly engaged followers. They went above and beyond to provide a higher level of content and building personal relationships with their fanbase. What lesson can we learn from this? Chinese consumers rely on the opinions of KOLs as well as those of their own social networks,.
Chinese tech brand Xiaomi for its most recent Mi Box launch campaign collaborated with a number of U.S. influencers as to expand the brand’s presence on the American market. #MeetMeInTheBox, a crossover example.
WeChat has evolved rapidly since 2011, especially within the last two years following the release of the app’s Mini Programs (check out China Channel’s Top 10 picks right here), favoring KOLs and the social selling aspect of e-commerce. Many KOLs have Official WeChat Subscription Accounts, for which one officially speaking must possess both a Chinese ID as well as a Chinese business license. These coveted Official Accounts can now seamlessly link to the in-app different e-commerce Mini Programs.
What does this mean specifically? A consumer can be reading a piece of content from their favorite KOL and one screen tap gets them into this KOLs WeChat Mini Program where they can browse products, share these with friends and purchase whatever they desire.
All the above can be accomplished without leaving WeChat. Another brick in the Tencent wall, some might say.
What Will 2019 China Marketing Have In Store?
Influencer undertakings from East to West are set to increasingly cross the lines between pure brand promotion and actual product selling. The only way is up, number-wise, and cross-border, product-wise. General opinion holds that the 2019 key word is, indeed, “cross-border”.
Taking note from ultimate China influencer marketing go-to ParkLu, we hereby include a quick 2019 preview of Temper’s favorite Top 3 Chinese social media marketing apps to watch:
Xiaohongshu (小红书| “little red book”)
Exploding exponentially. The original intention of Xiaohongshu was to provide users with a platform to review products bought overseas and to share their shopping experiences with the community. Xiaohongshu by June 2018 counted over 100 million registered users and reached 30 million monthly active users, with 60 percent of them being under 30.
What’s more, RED Mall is Xiaohongshu’s cross-border e-commerce service that retails luxury, beauty and fashion products from around the globe to users in China.
Weitao (微淘 |the merging of micro and macro)
A joining of favorite forces. The character 微 (wēi) literally translates as “tiny” or”micro”. In other words, taking into account there’s a Weibo, Weixin (WeChat) and now a Weitao, mobile e-commerce is operating on three interconnected micro-levels. And there’s more. Macro more.
Weitao is Chinese online shopping Walhalla Taobao and Tmall’s native social media platform. Weitao allows its regular users, influencers and brands to post product-related content in Taobao and Tmall in a bid to accumulate followers, drive traffic and generate sales. Consumers use Weitao to discover and research products through educational and entertaining content. Cross-borderly so.
Meitu (美图 | “beautiful image”)
No newcomer, but growing in hotness by the click. Meitu is image editing software that provides tools for the editing and digitally altering of all your photos: Filters, retouching, frames and photo decorations. Meitu caters to your every (OTT) photoshopping need. A major initiative for the app is to take the tech from mere editing tool to what it calls a “photo-social platform where users can share their photos and follow the latest trends,” the app creators in April 2018 told Celia Chen of the South China Morning Post.
Meitu also plans to continue adding more AI into their apps which will help recommend beauty products to their users. The app as of late 2018 boasts some 455 million monthly active users. Three in five of those who use Meitu are between 18 and 30 years of age, with women making up 81 percent of its users.
Women heart beauty. From Versailles to Victoria’s Secret.
For extra recommendations on must-download Chinese apps in 2019, take a look at China Influencer Marketing Platform ParkLu’s full-fledged pitch right here.
Furthermore, stay tuned as Temper Magazine prepares to get up close and personal with one of our favorite influence(r)s: Scarlett Hao. Halooo!
Featured Image: #MeetMiInTheBox. Chinese tech giant Xiaomi enlisted the help of U.S. based influencers in its latest Mi Box campaign to expand its presence on the American market. Photography by @cohlab_photo. Image via Scarlett Hao (@scarletthalo_)
Find out more about ParkLu or get your China Marketing game on via their website.
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After tackling Beijing for some six years where she worked for China International Publishing Group, she spent a moment in time moseying down steep alleyways and writing about their fashionable and underground features in Hong Kong.
Van Paridon most recently managed to claw her way through a Europe-based academic endeavor called "Journalism". 'Tis in such fashion that she has now turned her lust for China Fashion/ Lifestyle and Underground into a full time occupation.
Van Paridon hunts down the latest in Chinese menswear, women’s clothing, designer newbies, established names, changes in the nation’s street scenery, close-ups of particular trends presently at play or of historical socio-cultural value in Chinaplus a selection of budding photographers.
Paired with a deep devotion to China’s urban underground scene, van Paridon holds a particular interest in the topics of androgyny, the exploration of individuality and the power that is the Key Opinion Leader (the local term for “influencers”) in contemporary China.