CIM045: Why KOLs are Replacing Ad Agencies in China with Travel Vlogger Ariel Chen (Part 2)

May 13, 2019

This is part 2 of my interview with Ariel Chen, a top travel vlogger. For part 1, check out episode 44!

In this episode Ariel continues to share some amazing advice and insights into the influencer industry. We discuss the struggle to create amazing content vs. what actually performs well on the platform, the different types of content she creates for Xiaohongshu and Douyin, why she feels Weibo is still very relevant, her tips for tourism brands, and why you should choose a smaller KOL who creates high quality content over a large KOL who creates mediocre content, and why KOLs are replacing advertising agencies.

She also mentions during the episode that she recently gave a talk at a Weibo conference on the topic of Chinese social media marketing and KOLs, so if you understand Chinese, definitely check out the link to that in the show notes below!

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Content tips:

  • Took her a year and a half playing around with content to find what works
  • KOLs are competing against highly skilled professional content creators and the platform algorithms
  • Artistic integrity - The struggle between your personal taste vs. what actually does well
  • “The audience is trained to watch Douyin videos”

Xiaohongshu & Douyin:

  • Tailor-make content for key platforms
  • Xiaohongshu is about product placement, must share products or useful information
  • Users have high purchasing power,
  • She does fun travel English videos and that has been doing quite well on Douyin, also started putting them on XHS
  • She mixes English tips with posts on hotels and travel fashion
  • High end travel is best on XHS 

Weibo is still relevant:

  • Weibo search more used than Baidu
  • Very official, if your brand doesn’t have a presence there Chinese consumers will think it’s strange
  • Weibo is an open platform so a post there can be discovered long into the future
  • Douyin is for short term hype and buzz – Weibo and Xiaohongshu for long term

Fliggy Live streaming

  • Fliggy live streaming can be found both on the Fliggy app and the Taobao live travel tab
  • Very targeted audience, looking to buy, great for sales
  • Japanese tourism board really good case study
  • Brands can create their own account and stream themselves or can work with Fliggy live influencers
  • It’s all about showcasing the travel experience live
  • China economy may be slowing down in some segments, but experiential and lifestyle is growing, especially for travel

Choosing KOLs + KOLs vs Ad agencies

  • How to choose KOLs – don’t solely look into numbers
  • Get good content then pay to drive traffic as opposed to mediocre content and large distribution
  • High quality KOLs better than 4A agencies
  • Talk to KOL directly, especially for smaller brands
  • If KOL doesn’t talk about optimizing distribution they are not professional enough
  • Ariel has an MBA so thinks about and enjoys the business side of being a KOL

Guest: Ariel Chen


Weibo: @人字拖游记

Xiaohongshu: @人字拖游记

Douyin: @TravelEnglish

Recent speech Ariel gave on China influencer marketing

Host: Lauren Hallanan



WeChat: H1212118514

Check out my book: Digital China: Working with Bloggers, Influencers and KOLs

Thanks to our sponsors PARKLU: and The Meet Group 

For additional information and show notes head over to

If you like this podcast and know someone who might find it interesting, please share! 

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