In my previous post, I’ve discussed methods of using KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) for China marketing by big brands. Obviously, companies with multimillion marketing budgets have a wide variety of options when in comes to KOLs, especially those involving securing endorsements of celebrities. Most of those methods would be out of reach for small businesses trying to expand their marketing in China through social media.
However, there are still relatively inexpensive ways to take advantage of KOLs on Weibo through a system called Weibo micro task (微任务). My earlier post on brand marketing on Weibo goes through some technical on how to activate this service, so here I’m going to focus on ways to choose a suitable KOL to engage and avoid common mistakes.
Weibo KOL score
Weibo provides some basic metrics on each KOL, that is registered in their database, such as number of followers and 6 star based score. How exactly the stars are assigned is not disclosed but it is assumed to be based on the power of influence rather than the number of followers. There are some KOLs with large fan base but low score and vice versa. The price is ultimately determined by the number of stars assigned to a particular KOL.
Quality of fan base
When KOLs are used for small business marketing, quality almost always takes precedence over quantity. Unfortunately, there are still many fake accounts, created specifically to boost someone’s following. Obviously, working with KOLs with a lot of such zombie fans would be a complete waste of your marketing budget. Doing your due diligence on the fan base is not easy but you should look out for a few red flags, such as low star score (i.e. inexpensive to engage) but too many followers or those that are new but managed to accumulate large fan base too quickly;
Relevance to a product or service you are promoting is the most important parameter to consider when choosing KOL from those that Weibo suggests automatically. It is almost always a good idea to stay way from KOLs whose blog is too general or covers very wide range of topics. Instead you should go with the one that focuses on a niche audience that you are targeting.
In some cases, you may choose to target a specific geography rather than running a nationwide campaign. In such cases, you should make sure that KOL, whom you are considering, covers that region or, better yet, focuses on it. Also, you could simply count the number of followers who come from the area that you are targeting.
KOL’s style and tone
In order to judge whether a particular KOL is a good fit for your brand, it is best to simply read their posts. The style should match the marketing tone that you are trying to convey, be it humorous and lighthearted or serious and corporate. Also, it is worth reading further into the past to determine whether KOL’s style has been consistent;
Although, Weibo’s own scoring system is supposed to reflect this important parameter, it is something that is recommended to check as well. How often the posts are being re-tweeted? Do they generate comments? Does KOL respond to the comments in person? Clearly, it is not easy to go through thousands of posts to determine the engagement level, so I recommend using tools such as Hootsuite which now includes apps for digging into Weibo;
Involvement with other media
Influential KOLs are often present on multiple platforms, such as WeChat or have their own blog site. When determining authenticity and authority of a particular KOL, it is a good idea to check those other channels as well. Are they consistent? Do they cover same or related topics?
Develop closer relationship
As a next step, you can get in touch with KOL and establish relationship outside of Weibo. Encouraging them to personally try your product and write about their experience could go a long way in the long run;
Once you have managed to establish offline relationship with the KOL, invite him/her to your events such as product launches or participation in trade shows. Covering it in their blog could become an excellent piece of PR for your company.
In conclusion, there are ways to maximize your KOL marketing campaign efficiency and navigate around common pitfalls. However, at the end of the day, it is still, to some degree, a trial-and-error process. My advise it to start small first and try few KOLs that look most promising, then measure the return. This way, you will be able to figure out fairly quickly, and with the least cost, which one delivers the best value.