Influencer marketing in the West: What Chinese brands should know

According to the State of Influencer Marketing 2021 report from the American company Klear, collaborations with influencers in the West in 2020 had 57% greater reach and impact than in 2019. The number of sponsored stories grew by 32%. Among influencer posts that use the hashtag #ad, Gen Z’s market share increased by 9% last year. In 2020, influencers aged 18-24 made up 34% of the industry, up from 31% a year earlier.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a strategy for collaborating with content creators who are the leaders of opinion in their communities. Working with them is to co-create content for brand promotion. In the west, influencer marketing is the equivalent to KOL marketing in China.

What are the benefits of influencer marketing:

Increase awareness. This is especially important when you are entering a new market, launching a new product, or just starting a company. Traditional promotion methods do not always work or can take a lot of time. In addition, there are niches dominated by big players. Influencer marketing helps to establish yourself and find your first customers.

Attracting a new audience for less money. Of course, everything depends on the agreements with the specific influencer. Someone has a fixed price for advertising, someone agrees to work on a barter basis. For example, it is common in the beauty industry: a blogger can review your cosmetics in exchange for a set of products. Regardless of the conditions, collaborating with influencers (especially those in the nano and micro categories) is often cheaper than buying regular ads on search or social media.

Most cost-effective online customers acquisition method in the west  influencer marketing in the West

Data Source: Tomoson, Most cost-effective online customers acquisition method in the west

What is the difference between China’s KOL marketing and influencer marketing in the west?

Even though KOL (key opinion leaders) and influencers have the same function, there are some differences. For example, KOLs have a broader impact on their audience. They are not just celebrities, but experts in their field. Chinese consumers trust them because KOLs have the credibility they deserve. Also, there are differences in structure between KOL and Western influencers. KOL has special terms depending on the platform: WeChat, Douyin, Weibo, or Xiahongshu. For example, each KOL has a presence on a specific platform. That means, if a brand wants to conduct a marketing campaign for Douyin, it won’t use Weibo KOL. In the West, influencers often conduct marketing campaigns on different platforms, for example, both on Instagram and TikTok. So when in China, a brand might first think of the platform they want to target, and then choose KOLs from there, when doing influencer marketing in the west, brands first think of the person to represent their brand.

The disadvantages of influencer marketing in the West

It is difficult to find “your” blogger. To find out, you need to ask the influencer for detailed analytical data. Influencer marketing in the West can be suitable for any business, even a highly specialized one, but only if you chose the “right” blogger.

Hitting your target audience

Influencers are called that for a reason: They know what language to speak with their audience in order to earn their favor. In other words, they are already professionals at creating effective content.

Accurately hitting the target audience is what influencers in the West do best. This applies to thematic blogs and mainly nano influencers. Analyzing the beauty industry: instructions on how to apply makeup will only view people who are interested in it. They are your target audience if you have a cosmetic brand.

When approaching the target audience, influencer marketing  uses creative and accurate approach. It does not catch the eye, does not cause rejection and negative reactions, like a regular advertisement in the feed or on YouTube, interrupting an interesting video. Moreover, the ads from influencers look like friendly advice to their followers. Just like KOL marketing in China, influencers are a source of lifestyle inspiration, and give visibility to brands, travel destinations and ideas.

How to start influencer marketing in the West

Before looking for influencers and getting into action, you have to define your campaign goal. Is it to increase brand awareness, increase sales, reach a new group of consumers, or convert an existing group?

Next, you should evaluate your competitors – you can’t go anywhere without analysis. How they build marketing, what scenarios they develop, how they find a response from the audience, etc.

Also, you need to analyze public opinion with some social listening. What do people say about your brand and competitors? This is important for developing an effective strategy and correctly differentiating itself from the competition.

Once you’re clear on these three elements, you can start to think of what influencers you want to collaborate with to reach the western market.

How to choose which influencers to work with

90% of the success of a campaign depends on the influencer. These are the criteria you want to consider when running an influencer marketing campaign in the west.  

Affinity to the brand

Influencers have different levels of brand loyalty regardless of the industry. Influencers don’t have to be found on social media, they can also be existing clients, key employees of the company, brand representatives who have a large following. All this will only be a plus: The higher the influencer’s involvement in your brand, the better the result.

How many subscribers do influencers in the west normally have?

Based on the number of followers, there are several groups of opinion leaders:

Nanoinfluencers – up to 1000 subscribers. Low price, good involvement – as a rule, people trust advertising in this case and consider it friendly advice. The disadvantage is small coverage, and therefore not suitable for expanding the audience.

Microinfluencers – up to 10 thousand subscribers. There is a lively and active audience, bloggers are ready to work on barter or for a nominal fee, but the engagement of subscribers is lower.

Macro influencers – the average reach is 100 thousand subscribers. Working with such bloggers is more expensive, but this way you can expand your audience. Collaboration is suitable when you need to increase awareness, as well as when launching a product / service that is in massive demand.

Mega Influencers are celebrities and other influencers with millions of followers. They can generate viral content, they work great for brand awareness, but this method is hardly suitable for driving sales. Firstly, users are suspicious of advertising from celebrities – they just do not trust it because they are aware of the financial incentives involved, and secondly, the engagement is not that high.

How to measure return on Investment in influencer marketing?

Indicators of involvement can be likes, comments, reposts, and even clicks on the link. Analytical systems will help you get these numbers. In this case, you will know the cost of audience engagement. However, the most important metric is always sales.

To measure leads or sales, you can pre-create landing pages with lead generation forms with a unique tracking code or URL from the influencers post. If users fill them, it’s the influencer’s merit. You can track sales using promo codes and affiliate links. But in the case of short-term product collaboration, difficulties can arise, such as promo codes having expiration dates. If a customer comes in on the recommendation of an influencer after the expiration date, you won’t know that the blogger created the lead.  

Most important influencer marketing metric  influencer marketing in the West

Data Source: Tomoson, Most important influencer marketing metric

Trends for influencers in the West

The social aspect of influencer marketing in the West

An analysis of Fortune 100 company profiles on leading social media and a survey of over 5,000 influencers also showed that 80% of brands were socially active and did not stay out of the discussion on important issues. In 2020 globally, one of the most ambitious social campaigns was the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

 #blacklivesmatter on Instagram   influencer marketing in the West

Source: Vulture, #blacklivesmatter on Instagram

The rise of TikTok in the west

Back in 2019, most companies said Instagram was their most important influencer marketing channel, but over the past year, the social network has started losing out to TikTok. In the US, TikTok has already surpassed Instagram in popularity among teenagers, and it continues to grow. In Russia, TikTok leads in the average amount of time spent.

One of the main advantages of TikTok is its high user engagement rates. It can be up to 3.5 times higher than that of a similar Instagram account. The format became so popular that other apps launched copies of TikTok.

Case study: R. VIVIMOS brand from Shenzhen

R. Vivimos dress in influencer’s post

Source: Instagram, R. Vivimos dress in influencer’s post

In the summer of 2019, R. Vivimos dresses became popular when Instagram influencers started promoting them. The sweater dress with a tie at the waist was especially popular. Influencers like @cellajaneblog and @pinterestingplans have been showcasing it in their feeds. So many people bought it that it immediately sold out in all sizes and colors.

Popular American blogger Rachel Moore, the person behind the account pinterestingplans  with about 300 thousand followers on Instagram wrote in her post: “we are headed to NYC today – thank you guys for the recommendations! This $25 amazon dress comes in some more fall like colors and would pair well with knee high boots. The quality is good – I’m wearing small. Heels are true to size – perfect for work or the weekend “.

What can influencer marketing in the West provide for your company

The using of influencers in the West can help your brand to:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Test a new advertising channel
  • Save a little on promotion
  • Increase sales