As social media influencers continue to leverage their massive fan bases to command significant compensation from brands in exchange for mentions, marketing departments across the world are beginning to look more closely at the ROI they receive from these promotions. This is especially true in China, which is rife with self-proclaimed key opinion leaders (KOLs) and easily purchased followers and pageviews.

L2’s new China: KOLs Insight Report examines the benefits brands can expect from working with KOLs, finding that top-performing online influencers do have measurable impacts on brands in China.

On China’s most popular mobile messaging app WeChat, KOL mentions led to significant amplification of reach and engagement for brands across multiple sectors. Posts by top beauty bloggers on WeChat mentioning Index Beauty brands generate an average of more than three times the number of views and four times the engagement of brands’ own accounts. These results are even higher for fashion KOL posts mentioning Index Luxury brands, which receive more than four times the views and nearly eight times the engagement than posts by the brands themselves on average.

KOL partnerships can also lead directly to sales for brands. Fashion KOL Becky Li (黎贝卡) collaborated with U.S. fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff to design a special-edition handbag, which was promoted on the blogger’s social media accounts. The brand sold 900 units of the bag within two days. Meanwhile, handbag guru Mr. Bags (包先生) teamed up with Givenchy for a limited-edition WeChat sale of a special-edition Horizon bag for Valentine’s Day, with all 80 units selling out in 12 minutes. When he was previously enlisted to promote a similar WeChat sale of a limited-edition Lady Dior handbag, more than half of the 200 units sold were to his followers.

While Chinese celebrities can still command higher reach and engagement numbers for brands than KOLs, they generally require a greater budget to do so. KOL promotions serve as a less costly alternative that can boost numbers across channels, including not just WeChat but also Weibo, livestreaming sites, and niche platforms such as parenting forums or beauty apps.

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