18 May

Influencers – the new faces of the Chinese retail business

By Lucrezia Dal Pra

Following a successful cooperation between Influence Matters and Travel Alberta, the Canadian province’s travel promotion agency, we decided to share a few interesting facts about the relatively new marketing strategy that we adopted to boost their influence among their Chinese audience: Social Influencers.

Since 2015, the term “Wang Hong,” which is the Chinese correspondent of the English “Internet celebrity,” has become one of the most researched keywords among the netizens of the Middle Kingdom. As in several other countries in the world, Chinese Internet celebrities benefit from an extensive sphere of influence over their variegated audience, which has recently contributed to making them become part of an innovative marketing strategy.

Retrieved from chinatechinsights.com


Why are companies recurring to social influencers?

In China there are as many as 680 million active Internet users, who are constantly online through their multiple connected devices. It was also estimated how each single Internet user normally spends a total of 98 mins/day only on social media. It was just natural for companies to figure out that, given the massive influence exercised by the Internet celebrities over the consumers’ buying behavior, hiring these personalities to sponsor their products on social media platforms would have probably been a good investment. And they were right! In the last few years, a growing number of firms has resorted to an influencer as one of their main marketing strategies.

Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2017/2016-nielsen-social-media-report.html


Take Alibaba for example, the Chinese giant of the online shopping. At the beginning of 2017 the company engaged seven Chinese e-commerce influencers to promote the sale of Australian products and lifestyle to Chinese consumers. Alibaba organized a tour to the land of kangaroos to boost the export rates of Australian goods to China. The influencers’ trip was closely documented on Chinese social media, such as Weibo and Youku, and directly sponsored the purchase of a number of popular Australian-made products.

If you think about it, the role of a social influencer really isn’t much different from that of the celebrities portrayed on huge billboards, promoting a new beverage, dish soap, or a modern line of clothing. What has majorly contributed to shaping their perception as the future of the retail business (besides their being on video and directly interacting with their audience) is their being regular people, and not necessarily veteran top-models, singers and actors. Their spontaneity, genuinity and the feeling of familiarity and closeness that they manage to convey to their followers are the most effective cards in their deck. They are literally consumers among consumers, prone at delivering shopping-oriented pieces of advice…and definitely not for free.


Due to their rising popularity and their recognition as a digital asset, major influencers are now taking advantage of their position to exponentially increase their incomes. The satirical influencer Papi Jiang, for instance, sold her first video for $3M. Even though engaging these personalities can dramatically improve the performance of a business, their budget isn’t exactly affordable for every company. An alternative to hiring the best-positioned Internet stars of the Chinese blitz exists, and it goes by the name of “Micro-influencers.”

They aren’t Smurfs’ influencers, the prefix “micro” is there to highlight that the communities built by these opinion leaders aren’t as extensive as those of, let’s say, Fan Bing Bing. Nevertheless, they do have an audience and a very specific one. Micro-influencers normally focus on niche products that only attract a selected group of followers (at least for now), such as wine.

Drunk Mother Goose

 Drunk Mother Goose is a Chinese-born, U.S.-based wine specialist who provides insight into the world of good wine. Through her Weibo account that is increasingly gaining popularity, she is reporting about her journey as a wine lover, actively engaging as many as 52,000 followers.

Another area where micro-influencers can be successfully exploited to attract old and new audience is the traveling business. Beijing Laoxia, a travel blogger particularly skilled at photography, is a concrete example of how 32,000Sina users can simply be presented with new and lesser-known travel destination in China.


Our cooperation with Chinese travel influencers

As a matter of fact, Influence Matters can testify the effectiveness of the influencers-boosted engagement in the travel field. Only a couple of months ago, we were engaged byTravel Alberta, The Canadian province’s travel promotion agency to promote the state of Alberta among their new Chinese audience, in a campaign expertly ran by our lifestyle and travel PR specialist Haijing during which we actively planned the marketing strategy to adopt, identifying the best Chinese influencers to do the job and supervising the organization of the marketing campaign.

After having attentively analyzed their field of expertise and their online followers, we picked HMILY and HUAZI to be our influencers. HMILY is a photographer and backpacker, who’s been publishing his own Lonely Planet-style guide of different Chinese cities; HUAZI enchanted the audience with her well-crafted pieces, thanks to her decennial experience as a blogger.

Once established a marketing strategy, which consisted of a paid tour throughout the most scenic and exciting spots in Alberta, the project started and, according to our latest estimates, it was pretty successful. HMILY and HUAZI generated 62 pieces of content in the time span of 6 days, receiving 2 million impressions (which corresponds to the number of views). The campaign had an extremely positive response: Chinese netizens interacted with the campaign for a total of 13,485 times (liking, sharing and commenting the posts), which all showed interest in both Alberta and the activities that were being organized for the influencers.

HMILY’s post on Weibo


We feel confident to say that, even though we cannot quantify the influence of our campaign on the potential new interest acquired by the Chinese audience toward Canada, we were able to generate recognition and love toward the brand promoted by the influencers.

Thanks to the massive influence that social media platforms are increasingly exercising over the consumers’ behavior worldwide, especially in China, we feel brave enough to admit that hiring an influencer to promote a business could actually be a smart move to take in order to gain visibility in the country. Influence Matters is also currently working on an influencer engagement campaign to support the launch of a new mobile game developed by a major European game company. Stay tuned and you’ll see!







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