I met with Juju for coffee in HK last weekend. She is a casual fashion blogger with 140k WeChat followers. In one post, she helped one of our clients sell 75k RMB of products within 24 hours.
How did she get there?
From 0 to 1, grow followers via cross-promotion
Q: How did you grow your follower base from scratch?
Juju: At the beginning, I focused on producing articles with useful fashion tips. The initial followers, who are usually friends and friends’ friends, helped me share those articles. Later, I joined a community of fashion bloggers of similar scale to do cross-promotion. Usually, the view-to-follow conversion rate for this cross-promotion is 10-20%.
Q: Oh Jeez! That’s really high!
Juju: That’s why I would suggest brands to work with smaller KOL accounts for promotion. Their conversion rate is relatively higher. It’s not easy to find this kind of authentic niche KOLs though. You really need to be in the circle.
Fake followers on WeChat
Juju: Lots of the KOLs buy fake followers or fake clicks for their articles. Some of them may just try to inflate the view number by 30%-50%. Because they do have real royal followers with active interactions, and they do drive OK sales, it would be hard to find out if the numbers are partially fake.
Q: How do you know if the account has fake followers?
Juju: It’s really hard to tell sometimes. Sometimes the fake data is mixed with real one.
I evaluate it via collaborations. I would look at how the view number growth curve change. For example, I did a cross-promotion with a fake account, their articles have a strange spike of view number on the second day. When you look at the followers’ location, they are all from small cities that you’ve never heard of, or the follower names all sound like they are from another generation.
When to promote with KOL
Q: What do you think is the best time for promotion on WeChat?
Juju: I think WeChat is very different from Tmall or other marketplaces. Platforms would spend a lot of budget on promotion and driving traffic during the sales holidays such as Single’s Day. If you have a Tmall store, you have to take advantage of all the shopping holiday traffic.
WeChat is very different, it’s a vertical platform. Each KOL controls its own traffic flow. But since all the brands want to promote during the Single’s Day, the cost of KOL would go up by 30% due to the surge of demand. So, I think for brands that sell via WeChat stores, it is best to take advantage of the offseason. KOLs have less request for promotion, the cost is cheaper and the conversion rate would be similar. So try promoting during the summer vacations, or when brands release new collections.
Q: What’s the best method to work with KOLs like you?
Juju: Seeding is very important. Brand should manage the relationship with KOLs on a long-term basis (12 months or more). You can gift KOLs when you release new products. KOLs in return could wear your products and mention your brand on a casual basis.
Another way is to think of creative ways you can work with the KOL. KOLs spend a lot of time creating content. If brands are able to provide good content, that would increase the chance of a better campaign. For example, you can invite the KOL to your factory overseas. This way, the KOL would be able to participate in a factory tour, take better pictures and write in his/her own experience. Brands can then reuse this content in their promotion. The cost of flight, accommodation and the factory tour trip together is similar to what you would pay to a KOL for writing 1 article. The quality of content would be much higher.
Which brand can succeed in China?
Q: How about brands that are new to China?
Juju: For new brands, followers will need to have multiple exposures to finally convert. This makes the seeding period very crucial. Sometimes the seeding process could last for at 12 months before the KOL finally can run a successful campaign.
Brands that are new to China can leverage KOL to define: market fit, product fit, pricing and positioning. You can run campaigns with different styles of KOL to find out which ones work better.
I helped one of WalktheChat’s client to select which product would work best for the Chinese market by reviewing the consumer feedbacks. After defining the star product, KOL campaigns should focus on only one or two specific products, even a specific color, in order to maximize the conversion rate.
Q: You are also running a side business to invest in potential brands. What’re your criteria for selecting brands?
Juju: I go through due diligence of the potential investment targets. Usually I start with working with the brands for KOL endorsement, marketing advisory, or helping them to find an agency/distributor. By working with the brands, you can understand the founding team’s operational efficiency, the culture within the firm, how much they care about each of their customers, etc. Otherwise, you are just running the traditional due diligence process by looking at the numbers and books.
The brand’s concept would need to be new and unique enough. It’s easy to copy a brand’s products, but it is hard to duplicate the brand’s value. I want to invest in brands that have a strong value and a unique story. When investing, I am not just looking at the current or the next product line, which could affect the sales in the next 1-2 years, instead, I am interested in finding out if the brand could succeed in the next 10-20 years. That’s why the strong value behind the brand is the most important. We are looking at brands with around USD 2 million of annual revenue.
Take away from the Juju Interview:
- Aim for small KOL’s: good KOL’s in terms of conversion are usually smaller size KOL’s: aim for influencers with a following between 20k to 200k followers
- Beware of fakes: KOL’s very often mix real with fake views. Do your due-diligence. The best method is getting first-hand feedback from brands who worked with this KOL in the past, or from platforms such as LOOK and Shopbop
- Promote off-season: focus on KOL promotion outside large shopping festivals. Prices are higher and competition for attention fiercer around big promotion holidays such as Single’s Day.
- Bring KOL’s to you: a round-trip and accommodation to visit your factory outside China might be the same price as a normal campaign, but it will bring much higher conversion rates
- Invest in seeding: gifting your products to KOL’s so that they can wear them and expose them to your followers is a very long-term, cost-effective way to promote your brand in China. For new brands, it should be an essential part of your strategy in order to get early exposure and increase conversion rates.