Demystifying Chinese Influencers

There is no doubt that Chinese consumers are some of the most connected and highest spending of consumers in the world. In less than a decade consumer spending has more than doubled and retail grew 8.6% in the last year, nearly double that of the US. For many international brands, gaining access and marketing to this audience of consumers is complex, expensive and very risky. One of the most important and impactful ways to connect and communicate with this market is through the engagement of Chinese speaking influencers and bloggers. While many brand owners are aware of and recognise the power of Chinese influencers, understanding how to find and engage them without a knowledge of the market and language can present significant challenges.

Which social channels?

The most important thing to understand is that Chinese influencers almost exclusively exist on Chinese language social media apps of Wechat and Weibo among others, and the vast majority of these are based in China. In the early days, influencers were primarily big-name film and tv celebrities, sports stars and singers but as the industry grew and diversified, it created millions of individual influencers and bloggers and livestreaming apps promoting a huge range of consumer products to audiences of tens of millions of fans.

China and beyond

Access to the top tier China based celebrities and celebrity influencers is often via agents and can be incredibly expensive due to the high demand and often more expensive that English speaking influencers. It is not unheard of for relatively unknown influencers to charge 50K for one single post on a single platform. Many influencers have their own staff and creative teams to write and manage content on their behalf.
Influencer incubators have sprung up in major cities in China to foster, develop and promote new influencers. Becoming an influencer or a blogger is now a very desired career path for many Chinese millennials and many of these millennials have travelled and studied extensively overseas including Australia.

Outside of China, there is a growing group of Chinese speaking influencers who are creating big follower bases and doing incredibly creative work with a variety of brands, products and events. Most of these young influencers came out to Australia, the UK and US as students and the proliferation of Chinese social media, and newly acquired spending power, sought out opportunities to show off and share their personal style.

One of the most influential of the group is an influencer called Mr Bags. A student at Brown University in New York, Mr Bags started a blog to document his love of designer handbags. In the last few years, he has designed limited editions for Bally, Longchamp and Fendi as is one of the most sought-after Chinese speaking influencers.

While Australia does not yet have the equivalent of Mr Bags, there are a small but high-quality selection of travel, lifestyle, fashion and beauty influencers in Australia that brands can easily engage with for sponsored posts, product gifting and event appearances. This is a fantastically cost and time efficient solution for brands who are new to the China journey and looking to get some brand recognition with the Chinese market without the expense and difficulty of going through the many hoops in China.

Many of these influencers many have a smaller number of followers on the English language socials, but their reach on the Chinese socials and the engagement is very high and rather than just posting passive images, are expert at creating stories that integrate your brand and brand story.

Once a brand has established a level of recognition amongst the home-based Chinese speaking audiences, stepping up to working in the mainland can be a lot less daunting.

By Jennifer Spark of Spark Communication