The media and marketing sphere in China is being digitalised and socialised, potentially providing brands with more marketing channels while fostering online competition for user acquisition. To run an effective marketing campaign today, it is not enough to simply invest a big budget in extensive advertising and then wait for the traffic to increase. Key Opinion Leader (KOL) marketing is a booming industry in China’s social media revolution. The development of a KOL strategy is essential and complements other forms of digital marketing to be more closely connected to a segment of the audience. However, few companies are able to demonstrate real capabilities in this area, especially Western brands doing business in China, and they always encounter three problems: low engagement, low level of shares and conversions. So, how can brands achieve the best Return on Investment (ROI) while ensuring the proper reach?
• Encourage user-generated content
The key to a social marketing campaign is real-time interaction and the wider dissemination of content.
A personalised campaign can spark users’ desire to express themselves. The first difficult step is to find a social media influencer who can best portray your brand. A personal account is better in terms of audience than an official news and information account. Instead of a normal launch of products, consumers are more likely to love a true story and specific personal experiences. Absolute praise makes it less trustworthy and credible. Once users have found an emotional connection with the topic, they will be willing to share it through social media, and that leads to a positive word of mouth.
In social media in China, various forms of deep vertical and light entertainment platforms thrive. This new dual-layer social media environment makes it necessary to advertise across multiple channels if you want to impress the vast and diverse audience. A common approach is that KOLs are paid to create content and distribute it to their audiences. However, to maximise spending and ensure that content fits into various platforms, brands should seek to negotiate the rights to republish and optimise KOL’s creative content and materials.
• Increase exposure
A post can quickly gain exposure in social networks after it has been widely reposted by both ordinary users and KOLs; the latter has a greater impact. KOLs are willing to share high-quality branded content, even if they are not sponsored, because this can help them to strengthen their following by building a more authentic profile, and they do not have to worry about the brand risks. But this method is just a bonus that benefits mainly the big brands and should follow an initial marketing campaign. For little known brands, it is almost impossible to become famous by the mere spontaneous promotions of KOLs.
• Convert the traffic into sales
For e-commerce companies, a marketing campaign is only seen as a success if it brings real sales. Let’s take a closer look at some practical ways to boost sales after the campaign has started.
带货(Daihuo), is a recent e-commerce buzzword, which refers to the ability of online celebrities to sell products and monetise their followers. Another new online shopping trend is called 种草 (literally translated “plant the grass”). This means that users want to purchase items/services through reviews, recommendations or other content on social media. The currently most popular post format to “plant grass” is a combination of image and text that provides a better visual experience. Key elements include the introduction of product features/functions, reasons for recommendation as well as some useful information like where to buy it, discount code, etc.
Users often browse the comments after reviewing the KOL posts, and this is very important to their purchasing decisions. Not only do brands have to guide the direction of comments in order to attract potential buyers, but they also invest in monitoring and tracking KOL’s posts by engaging with consumers and responding to relevant comments and inquiries. Guidance and support services can turn hesitant users who may have difficulty completing the transaction into valuable customers. Such efforts are crucial for video channels, where the audience does not get enough information due to the length limitation and raises more questions in comments.
Social marketing, especially KOL marketing, offers brands the opportunity to increase their presence on social media and generate brand awareness through messages that resonate with Chinese consumers. The success of KOL marketing depends on the ongoing relationship in which brand and KOLs work together to provide quality content and consistent flow of traffic.
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