KOL Marketing: Taking Advantage of the Convergence of Social Media and E-commerce

    Here are five takeaways from recent TechNode's "Tech After Hours" event in Shanghai on key opinion leaders (KOL) marketing in China.
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      Published   in Retail

    Influencer marketing is nothing new. Celebrities—both real and created—long ago began gracing the celluloid frames of TV commercials, the pages of fashion magazines, and the airwaves, lending an extra something to a brand’s image.

    The rise of the internet and the resultant democratization of the creation of media have led to the emergence of a new breed of influencers. These generally self-made individuals, with their millions of followers, represent substantial new opportunities for companies to leverage their influence and content creating skills to better engage with potential customers.

    Online influencers, or key opinion leaders (KOLs), are huge in China, particularly in today’s changing online landscape. Traditional e-commerce platforms like Taobao and JD are becoming increasingly social, while social platforms like WeChat and Weibo are more focused on e-commerce. And because of this convergence, the presence of KOLs has become ever more noticeable.

    At TechNode’s Tech After Hours event, held recently in Shanghai’s Jing’an district, ParkLu's chief marketing officer Elijah Whaley highlighted how KOLs can aid companies in increasing customer engagement and creating more meaningful marketing campaigns. Here are five takeaways from the event.

    KOLs create value#

    KOLs have vast numbers of fans for a reason—they are talented content creators, understand the inner workings of the social media platforms on which they operate, and know their followers well. Companies should not approach this sort of marketing with the sole goal of making money—the returns are relatively low. Whaley says that when engaging with a KOL who has around a million followers, companies can expect around 22 sales. However, KOLs can create marketing content that is valuable to those viewing it.

    KOL marketing is not a silver bullet#

    While KOL marketing is useful in creating valuable content that is relevant for select groups of individuals, it is not the solution to every marketing woe. It is useful when combined with already existing marketing campaigns.

    In-house KOLs#

    Whaley advocates for companies to create their own in-house KOLs, even if the persona is fictitious. While it requires considerable effort, the payoffs are worth it. When teaming with already existing KOLs, companies help to build someone else’s brand. Their campaign results in additional traffic going to the KOLs social media accounts, more followers, and eventually, higher fees being charged for future projects. Instead, companies should focus on creating a KOL within their company that can advocate for their brand.

    Bots aren’t necessarily bad#

    Bots get a bad rap when it comes to social media. But their influence is not only negative. Even when a KOL has millions of followers, a post will only appear in the feed of 10 percent of their followers. However, traffic created by bots can trick the system, allowing for more exposure. Companies should be upfront when negotiating with KOLs in order to understand how they use bots to drive traffic.

    Repurposing KOL content#

    A high-profile KOL can charge up to 25,000 per campaign. For a startup with a modest budget, it’s a considerable investment. In order to make the most of the content, companies should negotiate with KOLs to make sure they have permission to republish and repurpose content as they see fit. This content can then be used repeatedly on different platforms in order to drive traffic to a company’s own social media accounts and ensure constant engagement.

    This story by Christopher Udemans originally appeared on TechNode, a leading authority on technology in China.

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