Influencer Marketing in China: How to Find the Right Influencer?

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Influencer marketing has grown bigger and trendier in the past few years. And this growth isn’t over yet: data shows that over 79% of brands will increase their social media marketing budget in 2019, including spending more on influencer marketing.

In China, increased incomes are growing an affluent middle class who are educated and sophisticated consumers. Purchases are no longer influenced only by price - shopping choices are now heavily influenced by social media. Chinese consumers are more likely to consider buying a product if they see it discussed positively on platforms like Xiaohongshu or WeChat.

In the digital world, the web, especially the mobile web, allows information to spread rapidly, opening doors for capable and trustworthy individuals to enlarge their influence. For example, Libeika, one of the top fashion bloggers in China, cooperated with Mini Cooper last year on a promotion campaign. In five minutes, and with just three posts, Libeika and her team were able to sell 100 Limited Edition MINI YOURS vehicles.

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Source: weibo@黎贝卡的异想世界

The rise of influencers in Chinese social media has been great news for marketers, but it also leads to some important questions: as a global brand, how should you find the right influencer for you? And how should you measure the performance of your brand ambassadors?

In this article, we explain what makes the Chinese social media environment unique, and explain how our tools and analysis can help brands find and assess influencers who meet their needs.

Understanding the unique Chinese social media environment

Before we dive in, it’s important to understand the uniqueness of the Chinese social market. As the world’s largest social media market, China is vastly different from its counterpart in the West. There’s no Facebook, no Twitter, and no YouTube: almost all western social platforms are banned in China.

Instead, the Chinese have their own media ecosystem, which might be more mature than that of the western ones. To better understand how companies engage with Chinese consumers via social media, you should read our overview of the Chinese social media landscape in 2019.

But no matter which platform you choose to focus on, social networks have made communications extremely easy. For brands, it is important to understand your consumers. Moreover, influencer content allows brands to strategically place their products in online conversations without being too promotional.

5 main types of influencers in China

So, how do you dig deeper into the vast bunch of influencers in China? Our Insights team categorized influencers in China into five main types:

  • Celebrities: These influencers could be actress, singers, or TV hosts, and are extremely active in the TV and movie industry. They used to be very distant from netizens, with seldom-exposed private lives in order to maintain their celebrity aura. However, many celebrities are now stepping down from their pedestals and getting more and more involved in social media in the current digital era.
  • Top KOLs & Wanghong: These influencers are extremely powerful and instrumental in most Chinese marketing campaigns. Even if the KOLs don’t directly sell the product, they have the ability to heavily influence consumer purchase intents.
  • Experts: These influencers are authorities in their fields, fulfilled with the knowledge about trends and products. They have strong impacts on netizens, and their specialist nature makes them much more convincing compared to other influencers.
  • Micro KOLs: Micro-KOLs could be also experts, potential top KOLs or Wanghong, except that they are characterized by a small number of followers. The range of their followers is usually around one million on Weibo.
  • E-commerce KOLs: Due to the vast price gap between China mainland and other areas, these influencers are both opinion leaders and entrepreneurs. They have their own brands or retailing channels and are the most commercial profile among all types of influencers.

While planning influencer campaigns, keep in mind that you must not only take the type of influencers into consideration but the overall brand image and your objectives of each campaign. This way, you can choose to steer your conversation in a particular direction, and can also find ways to measure influencer performance accurately.

Evaluating influencers with social listening

There are a number of tools available in the market to help you not only track ROI from influencer marketing but to identify who the right influencers are for your brand’s particular needs. Metrics such as impressions and post numbers are a great starting point, and reach can give you a bit more detail on influencer impact.


radarly-influencerInfluencer measurement from within Linkfluence Radarly

In addition to follower numbers, impressions and post reach, social listening data can tell us a lot more about influencers.

With a bit of human expertise, you can find influencers that are associated with values and associations that are essential to your brand image and achieve your campaign objectives.

Maximizing influencer marketing ROI with AI and human expertise

With our hybrid AI software and analyst research model, Linkfluence helps you identify, select, and evaluate the best influencers to reach your brand and campaign objectives.


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It’s hard to say there’s any winning formula for identifying and tracking your influencers because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. How you go about this will depend on your brand and the objectives of each campaign. At Linkfluence, our local insights team can go deeper into analyzing your specific needs when it comes to finding the right influencer.

Here’s an example.

Case Study: Finding Chinese influencers for a perfume campaign

A perfume brand was looking to launch an influencer marketing campaign in China. Since the influencer marketing landscape in China is massive, involving a variety of platforms and cultural complexity, they were not sure where to begin their search for the right influencers that will bring them the highest ROI.

Our insights team in Shanghai took over the project, taking into account the brand image, campaign objectives, and needs, and made a shortlist of potential influencers for the brand. The brand was then able to make a decision backed by social data.   

Here’s how we did it.

Assessing brand image and influencer campaign objectives

First, our team evaluate the brand itself. To do this, we ask you questions like:

  • Who are your audiences?
  • What are your brand voice, personality, and image?
  • Who or what qualities do you want to associate your brand with?

Answering these questions gives us a set of core objectives, which are the starting point of any influencer marketing campaign. There are many different factors that affect how influencer marketing campaigns function, but a goal-oriented influencer marketing strategy will have a much greater chance of success.

For example, if your goal is to drive sales, relying only on traffic or product reviews won’t work. Instead, you need to focus on strategies that can give you conversion. Your goals might be:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Drive brand awareness
  • Increase followers
  • Boost sales
  • Create more engagement

In the case of the perfume brand, we started by mapping out the four features most commonly associated with the brand:

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In this case, we identified that the brand was perceived by consumers with four different features: fresh scent, suitable for the spring-summer season, aesthetic impressions, and fit for gifting purposes. From these four features, fresh scent is the most popular one.

Now that we had more detail about the brand appeal, we were able to consider the different types of influencer personas out there.

Evaluating different types of influencer personas

Taking into account our client’s objectives and brand perception, we suggested four types of influencer personas: “fashionista”, “beauty guru”, “perfumers”, and other types whom we call the “newbies”.

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Four types of influencer personas identified by our Insights team

After identifying these four influencer personas, our team dived deeper into analyzing the pros and cons of each persona type: quantitative analysis of their average reach, engagement per post, but also qualitative analysis of what they focus on when they talk about perfumes.

We then narrowed down the selection to “fashionista” and “beauty guru.” To determine the best type of influencer for a particular campaign, we considered whether they fit with the brand’s DNA, and what the brand wanted from the campaign. After analyzing a range of influencer posts, we concluded that the beauty guru is the right fit, because of their higher levels of influence and engagement within the targeted audience.

Most importantly, the influencer had more conversation relevant to the strengths and needs of the particular brand, as we can see below:

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Social media posts analysis on the different influencer personas by our Insights Team

So, that’s how we went about recommending the right influencer for this project. This demonstrates the value of engaging influencers with a disciplined and methodical approach and the power of data in matching influencers to particular brands.

Of course, this is just one example of the many ways we can leverage social insights to select the best influencers for your campaign and brand objectives.

Want more suggestions? Watch our webinar on-demand:

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