Working With WeChat KOLs
Because KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) are so popular in China, I had to dedicate an entire section just to working with WeChat KOLs because it is important for you to know for a few reasons.
- You can work with WeChat KOLs even if you don’t have a big budget.
- You can work with WeChat KOLs even if you don’t want to set up a WeChat Official Account.
- A good WeChat KOL campaign can potentially get you a lot of sales for a small amount of investment.
- There are all kinds of WeChat KOLs around the world.
- WeChat is a social network first, and endorsement from trusted sources can be a huge source of conversion
Ok… If you’re staring off into a corner and wondering “What the heck is KOLs”, allow me to explain…
Basically, this is just another term for influencers, but for whatever reason in Asia, the term KOL is more popular. So, just imagine Instagram influencers, Youtube Influencers but on the Chinese social media such as WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, etc. and 10X bigger in China.
The reason why KOLs are so popular in China is that advertising is expensive, and some time working with KOLs are a lot cheaper in comparison. For example, you pay KOLs $500 or $3,000 to run a promotion for your product or service while paying for WeChat moment ads you’ll pretty much be spending thousands of dollar every month.
6 Ways To Work WeChat KOLs
Like I said, working with KOL is another way to advertise or promote your product or service on WeChat with the need for approval from Tencent and you don’t even have to have your own official account. There are many WeChat official accounts with 10,000 to millions of subscriber that are location specific and niche-specific with a very targeted audience.
To work with WeChat KOLs you can directly approach these official account owners to arrange some kind of promotion with them. Typically, the most common way for this account to help you promote your product or services is to write a “softcopies” article for you that seems like content but really is there to promote your product or services which is call “软文” in Chinese. You can order to push 1 article to promote your product or services for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars or you can pay for a few articles or few months of drip promotion.
There is really no set rules of how you can work with this WeChat KOLs as every KOL will have their own preferred a way to work with brands and businesses but here are 6 most common ways that you can work with WeChat KOLs.
1 Sponsored Soft Content
“软文” (ruanwen) is a Chinese term for soft copy content which are contents written to promote or sell a product or service without looking like advertising. These are types of contents are probably the most common way to promote products or services on WeChat with KOLs.
The idea of ruanwen is to write entertainment or education content that doesn’t really appear to be actively endorsing or promote any product but it really is. Often time every KOL will have a different version of Soft Content, that is because every KOL even ones that may be in the same niche may have a different style of communication with their audiences.
2 Product reviews
One of the easiest ways to work with a WeChat KOL in China is to simply ask them to review your product or service. There are two methods to go about doing this. First is to ask them to review your product or service and compensate them for the review.
The second way if you’re looking for a more honest genuine review you can try sending them the product and perhaps they will review it. If you’re going to try your luck using the second method, it ideally only sends your products to a WeChat KOL who often reviews products as this will increase the likely hood of them trying out your product or service and doing an honest review for your product.
3 Banner Ads
This is pretty much the same thing as running WeChat banner ads, but instead of going through Tencent you will work directly with the WeChat KOL and you directly negotiate the deal and make sure they don’t scam you.
While it is rare for a good WeChat KOL to scam you there are a lot of WeChat KOLs with fake numbers and purchase view and engagement count. This is actually pretty common in China, for example, if a WeChat KOL shows you that they have an average 10k views per article there is a good chance that 4k of the 10k may be purchased.
So, there is a risk in working directly with WeChat KOLs instead of going through Tencent but you can avoid this by baby-stepping your relationship with the KOL by starting with smaller promotions.
If you’re more of a service-based business or a B2B business then being interviewed by a WeChat KOL. Being interviewed will allow you to gain brand exposures and position you and your business as an industry expert.
5 Contest and Product Giveaways
Running a contest and product giveaways with WeChat KOLs is a great way to increase your brand awareness and exposure to a potential new audience. Most WeChat KOLs love to work with contest and giveaways because this also allows them to engage and build loyalty with their audience and potentially use your product giveaway to attract even more followers for themselves.
6 Exclusive Promote Codes and Discounts
An alternative to running a contest and giveaway products, you can also offer exclusive promotion codes or discounts to WeChat KOLs. This is a great way to collaborate with a WeChat KOL if you’re looking to drive sales and obtain paying customers.
The trick to make this work is to offer exclusive, unique promotions to individual KOLs that you’re going to work with and make sure that the incentive you give them to give to their followers is well worth it otherwise most KOLs won’t be interested in working with you.
Finding WeChat KOLs
There is actually a big problem in China for brand looking to work with KOLs in China. While, it is actually very easy to find KOLs to work with because there are so many of them, but at the same time the sheer number of KOLs makes it hard to find credible and quality KOL that will resonate with your brand, products, or services.
On top of that, there is no clear-cut way to find KOLs in China, the only ways we know of are as follow:
Since everyone in China wants to become a KOL there are very large annual events dedicated to KOLs to learn about KOL market trend and how to become a KOL in China. If you’re looking for bulk WeChat KOLs to work with, KOL event is a good place to start.
There are many agencies in China that work with KOLs exclusively. These are essentially model agencies but for KOLs. Chances are if you want to become a KOL in China you’ll likely join one of these agencies to learn about how to succeed as a KOL and get paid.
KOL Matching Sites
There are sites out there that are dedicated to helping brands find the best fit KOLs, that being said these sites, in general, are more like a directory and search engine of KOLs in China but knowing who to select and how to work with the KOL is still up to you.
- http://newrank.cn/ is the leader in the field
- http://www.parklu.com/ is a great platform as it provides a bilingual interface and access to influencers across WeChat, Weibo, Instagram, Youku, and Meipai
- http://wemedia.cn/ is a platform with a mix of accounts their run by themselves and influencers they represent. Quality is uneven though, so have a careful look.
Finally, you can search for WeChat using the search function to find contents and official accounts that are relevant to your product or services. The downside is there isn’t really an easy way to get in contact with the owner of the account because there is no contact information and you cannot ad the owner’s personal WeChat account. The only way is to leave a comment and hope that the owner will get back in touch with you.
How to Select WeChat KOLs to work with
To me selecting WeChat KOLs is more of an art form rather than a scientific approach. The reason is while on the surface it is easy to look at follower numbers and view counts, in reality, there are more underline details that make one campaign a total success and another a total failure with the exact same KOL promoting it.
The reason if you take away all the logic and numbers there is an underline human element to working with KOLs after all the KOLs are human and their audience is human.
They Love Your Product or Service: Personally, I believe by far this is probably the most important element to a successful KOL campaign especially if you’re working with live streaming or videos. With WeChat, it is not as important but it will reflect in the article if the WeChat KOL genuinely love your product or are simply promoting it to earn money.
Chinese consumers are so used to KOLs and them promoting products and services that many of them are kin to detecting KOLs who are distinguished. That being said, not all WeChat KOLs that you want to work with will absolutely love your product but at the very least they themselves should have used or tried your product or service before they promote it.
Relevancy: The second is relevancy, in my opinion, this trumps followers numbers and view counts. Too many international businesses make the mistake of looking only at follower and view counts. You can have a million people view your KOL campaign or promotion if your product or services are not relevant to the target audience then you campaign won’t do very well.
Follower & Subscriber Number: Numbers do matter and obviously the more followers and WeChat KOL have more exposure and brand awareness you’ll have. That being said the numbers matter more if you’re looking to only get as much brand exposure as possible for as cheaply as possible where sales, revenue, and leads don’t matter.
But if you’re after more business KPIs then numbers don’t matter at all in away and here is why…
Let’s say you find a WeChat KOLs who has only 100 followers and another with 1 million followers. But the 100 followers while small but all 100 of them are engaged with the KOL, completely trust the KOL and are looking to buy a product or service like yours. While on the other hand the KOL with 1 million followers are engaged but do not share any commonality other then they find the KOLs content entertaining to read. Which one do you think will yield better results for your business?
Most business here will think will even if I get 1% of the 1 million followers to buy my product or service that would be 1,000 new customer which is still better than 100% of the KOL with 100 followers. While this may seem logical on the surface but in reality is that there are many 1 million follower KOLs that cannot even sell 1 product or service to their followers.
The truth is you’re far better off to sell 80 product or service to the KOL with 100 followers than the KOL with 1 million followers that are not interested in your product or service. Of course, I’m generalizing this, in reality, there needs to be a lot more thought that goes into this and selecting KOL is a case by case artwork.
Audience Engagement: In my opinion engagement is way more important than follower and view counts. An engaged audience usually indicates trust & relationship between the WeChat KOL and his/her audiences.
WoWs are a good indication of engagement but comments are a much better indication because it actually takes effort and time to leave a comment verse just click the WoW button.
Cost of Working with WeChat KOLs
The cost of using WeChat influencers for advertising can vary widely because every KOL will have their own cost to work with them. Usually, KOL will charge you based on their reach, this is why they’re always trying to show you big numbers. My advice is to read my advice from above and take baby-steps with any WeChat KOL, run a few small campaigns with them to see what kind of results you’ll be getting before running a big campaign with them.
But if you must know the cost of working with WeChat KOLs, it can typically range anywhere from $500 USD per article, all the way to hundreds of thousands per campaign. Like I said there are many factors that determine the cost of working with KOL but unlike running WeChat ads which is a minimum of $6,000 USD investment you can start working with KOLs for a few hundred dollars.
That, in a nutshell, is how you can work with WeChat KOLs but working with KOLs is only one small cornerstone of your entire WeChat marketing strategy. In the next chapter, I’m going to show you how to leverage advance WeChat automation to engage and convert all the new subscribers you’ve acquired from your WeChat KOL campaigns.