Over the last few years, the ease with which individuals can share their opinions via social networks, blogging, and microblogging sites has led to the emergence of a new generation of Chinese influencers and opinion-formers. Establishing a relationship with those whose followers fit your target audience is invaluable for promoting brand messages.
But, similar to traditional media, brands need to develop a strategy for managing and nurturing bloggers and KOLs (key opinion leaders) -- based on our agency’s experience in delivering outreach campaigns for a number of global brands, here are some key insights into how to harness their power.
Bloggers can be grouped into tiers based on their level of activity and sphere of influence:
These are the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). They’ve made it to the top of the tree when it comes to influencing and blogging is often their main source of income.
Bloggers such as Han Han (“voice of his generation” and possibly the most popular and controversial commentator in China), Han Huohuo (fashion), and De Day (finance) fall into tier one. They’re usually much in demand to be the "front" of or the "face" of a campaign, and competition for their attention is tough.
Because of this, any approach to tier one bloggers/KOLs should be made in the same way as you would secure endorsement from a celebrity spokesperson or "talent" within your industry. As they’re conspicuously courted by marketers, PRs, and media personnel on a regular basis, they’re in a position to pick and choose which initiatives they will endorse. Because of this, they're unlikely to enter into a long-term relationship, unless the brand or idea is particularly relevant to them.
Characteristics Specific to Chinese KOLs:
These characteristics and behaviors can be unfamiliar for Western brands at first, especially if they’re used to working in a different way with bloggers in other territories. But, if they want to secure content endorsements, they’ll have to adjust their strategy (and budget) to accommodate this.
Tiers Two and Three
Emerging bloggers in tier two (recognized within their area of expertise with a growing number of followers) and three (established with a solid core of followers and on the verge of recognition) are generally not full time writers and are often hobbyists or moonlighters trying to develop and expand their passion.
They’re focused on developing their brands and curating their images -- elebrity, luxury, and lifestyle are central to attracting attention in this market. To make a positive impression on an emerging Chinese blogger, it’s key to show empathy and try to offer them a fair value exchange --access to content which will raise their profile and increase their following in return for coverage of an event, launch or initiative. However, as with KOLs, Chinese bloggers in tiers two and three will still require some kind of payment for their services, so it’s vital to factor this into the campaign budget.
Top Tips for Approaching and Working with Bloggers and KOLs in China
Tailoring Your Message for the Territory
Building relationships with bloggers in China can be time consuming and requires a degree of commitment, but provided it’s done with integrity and gives them something tangible in return, it can bring fantastic success to a brand in the way of genuine advocacy and provide the local "breakthrough" endorsement which is essential for traction in China.
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With a background in running high-profile campaigns for major brands while at Glue, Digitas and now Red Ant, Elisa has spent the past 13 years exploring and developing new ways for global brands including Swatch, MTV, MAC Cosmetics, Samsung, and Ericsson to engage with their audiences. She has worked with clients extensively in the North America, Europe and most recently Asia. Recommended as an expert digital and mobile consultant by market leaders, she is recognized worldwide for her professionalism, integrity and her ability to help brands navigate the increasingly complex global digital landscape.
March 19, 2014