KOL marketing is hot in China, and it’s only getting hotter. Local consultancy Analysys International projected that the China influencer economy will be worth over $15.5 billion this year. From frequently talked-about Weibo and WeChat KOLs, to those on other smaller Chinese social media platforms such as Meipai, RED, and Douyin, KOLs have become a necessary part of a brand’s China marketing mix.
Yet, while KOLs are hands-down the best method out there for brands to succeed in China, Chinese social media platforms are not making it easy for brands to work with them. KOL marketing costs are a total enigma, platforms provide very little data, organic reach is declining, and now, on top of that, Chinese social media platforms are starting to monetize off of the success of KOL marketing by charging brands a fee to run a sponsored post with a KOL.
In the past, Chinese social media platforms had very few requirements when it came to sponsored content. Brands merely needed to connect with the KOL, or the KOL’s agent, to arrange the campaign and set pricing (a process which is confusing enough in and of itself). However, now platforms are inserting themselves in the middle of that process, creating their own KOL agency-type channels which brands and KOLs are required to navigate to publish sponsored content.
The two main platforms where this is taking place are Weibo and Meipai, and we will probably see more platforms follow suit.
These sponsored content rules and restrictions are relatively new and have come into effect gradually over the past six months. This has created a situation where many brands still don’t know about them and are running into issues with their campaigns. Sponsored content is now commonly taken down if it has not gone through official channels with the required fees.
So what exactly are the new rules?