Digital Marketing in China: The Importance of KOLs in Social Media
April 22, 2015 | Alex Duncan
Running an effective digital marketing campaign is one of the trickiest steps in the vast number of issues faced by Western brands and agencies seeking to enter the Chinese market. Western firms often fumble as they try to apply their tried-and-tested advertising tactics to Chinese social media channels such as Sina Weibo. At KAWO, we’ve found that the use of a KOL can work wonders for a digital marketing campaign. Digital advertisements in China are just not as effective as they are on Western platforms. Despite there being an abundance of users, the average value-per-user on Weibo is much lower than on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. Simply put, the average user on the Chinese cyberspace has significantly less money to spend than the average Facebook user. This leads to a low ROI for money spent on an online ad placement. In the absence of familiar digital advertising channels such as Google Adwords and Facebook being impossible to use on this platform, Western ad firms are often befuddled by Weibo users low interaction with online advertisements in general. Although an ad may have an impressively high amount of impressions, click-through-rates are generally low, leading to a cringe-worthy high CPM. This is largely due to a Chinese cultural phenomenon that can only be described as a distrust for formal institutions. This is especially relevant to a highly-censored cyberspace such as Weibo. This is where the value of a KOL comes in. Due to this lack of trust for formal institutions, users disproportionately value advice from friends, be it virtual friends from their social network or their co-worker two desks away. For example, the phrase “google it” is not valuable advice to your average Chinese internet user. Instead, they look for advice from tangible sources such as their friends and idols. In this sense, your best option for a KOL isn’t necessarily the celebrity with the most followers. The optimal KOL in China should be a relatively down-to-earth idol, with a far-reach and a high rate of interaction with their fanbase. In many ways this also relates back to Chinese society’s safety-in-numbers way of thinking. TL;DR KOLs are crucial to effective digital marketing in China. Hopefully this information breathes new life into your Chinese digital marketing campaign.
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