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Key Opinion Leaders (KOL): Leading Figures of Social Media Marketing

W4 | W4 / January 26, 2022

KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) are social media influencers that are especially popular in the Chinese marketing field. We may hesitate to think that KOLs are synonymous with the influencers we Westerners are used to seeing on social media, but their influence is greater than we can imagine.

Most are people aged 18-30, followed by the new generations (Millennials and Generation Z). They are content creators, own ecommerce businesses, and lead enterprise communities. Of course, many brands prefer to work with actors, singers, athletes, etc., but the popularity of KOL as a testimonial for a brand is growing. When KOLs share their opinions about a product (usually in the form of short videos and live streams), they influence the purchase of thousands of buyers. This is because Chinese buyers trust the reviews of people who have already tried the product much more than the simple description of the product.

Types of KOL

It is important to understand that the numbers of KOL are not all the same. There are four types of KOL, which are different from each other. We offer here a simple and clear distinction of the 4 types:
KOLs: With millions of followers, this type of KOL generates tremendous financial value with their comments, lives and interactions with users. They specialize in a specific area and can provide the details needed to make a sale.

  • Micro KOLs: They are more like Western influencers, have thousands and thousands of followers, have more direct interaction with users, and their costs are much lower than KOLs. They are therefore much closer to low-budget brands, which means they are more willing to work with you.
  • KOC: They are the Key Opinion Customers and unlike the other KOLs, they are normal buyers who give a sincere and neutral product review. This straightforwardness is very popular among Chinese buyers, which is why KOCs are best suited to promote the brand and to create buzz online. It is still a small group, but it is gaining importance in brands' marketing strategies.
  • Celebrities: This is the category of singers, actors, models, athletes, etc. that first comes to mind when we talk about influencers, such as rapper Cai XuKun, actress Guan Xiaotong and athlete Eileen Gu. You have to keep in mind that they are brand ambassadors rather than actual influencers, but some of them are active on social media as influencers. They work for international brands like L'Oreal, Dior or Chanel and are loyal to only one brand.

Why KOLs are important for your marketing strategy

KOLs are considered professionals in China's social media sales market. With their special personalities, they have these skills of selling and presenting the product and thus the unique brand. Each KOL is different and can easily reach different audiences, an incredible number of potential buyers. Many Chinese consumers rely on word of mouth when they need to buy a product, and nowadays they directly search for their favorite KOL on social media and are easily influenced by their opinions and comments on the brand and product. For your brand awareness, collaborating with a KOL is the smartest and fastest way to make yourself known among Chinese people.
KOL with their enormous influence on their online communities can help your company enter the Chinese market and professionally increase your online sales thanks to their skills and direct knowledge of their target audience.

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Tags: E-Commerce China Marketing

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Sarah Wilhelm
Sarah Wilhelm
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