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To prove that nothing is sacred, social media influencers have scaled the Great Firewall of China and are freely selling their wares.
China’s consumer market (once plagued by counterfeit products) is now a goldmine for internet influencers, who are seen as a lot more trustworthy than brands and website companies.
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in China range from mums, to farmers and even dogs, and made up for $4 billion worth of goods sold in China in 2018. While only a fraction of the 2 trillion-dollar e-commerce industry of China, advertisers are paying attention; Chinese consumers are more receptive to brand recommendations from online influencers more than any other country surveyed, according to consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
The Wall Street Journal has likened the Chinese influencer method of selling to a 21st-century version of the infomercial, with questionable tactics and effectiveness. Still, portraying themselves as regular people instead of seemingly fake, emotionless brands has seen influencers convert 1 in every 5 viewers into customers, far outclassing conventional forms of advertising according to tech research company TopKlout.
Li Jiaqi, one of the more prominent influencers in China, took a hit in popularity this year when advertising a non-stick pan. The search term “Li Jiaqi’s alleged misleading advertising” racked up 700 million hits.
Alibaba, China’s online retail giant, has invested heavily in the trend. Even the Chinese Communist Party have discussed plans to collaborate with influencers for the party’s outreach arm.
All isn’t good-in-the-hood, though; given their success and the trust they have garnered, it can turn ugly for influencers who “betray” their following.
Li Jiaqi, one of the more prominent influencers in China, took a hit in popularity this year when advertising a non-stick pan. In his demonstration, the egg stuck. In September, he pushed a supposed Suzhou delicacy – big and meaty “hairy crabs”. Followers of Jiaqi were upset when they received neither big nor meaty crabs, and they weren’t from Suzhou.
Both incidents went viral and the search term “Li Jiaqi’s alleged misleading advertising” racked up 700 million hits.
A KOL can expect about $50,000 per pre-recorded social media post, per influencer agency Parklu.
The pretty paycheck doesn’t come easy though; many Chinese influencers live stream six or seven days a week, with ample time beforehand spent on preparation and drafting scripts.
During the show, they have to be on point when interacting with fans, and afterward, they run contests and even converse with fans for hours.
“ show high understanding and consideration to us if we can show our sincerity and professionalism,” said Wang Xizi, a 29-year-old influencer.