KOL, Key Opinion Leaders IN CHINA

Influencers are extremely well known in the West but, in China we are talking about KOL (Key Opinion Leaders). Let’s find out who they are

In China, influencers are more often called KOL, which stands for key opinion leaders. In addition to Western ones, they can be bloggers and in general people with high influence and a large audience in the context of social media.

Who are KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) in China?

The most important characteristic for an influencer / KOL is not only the number of followers, but how much these followers trust him / her due to the strong and long-lasting relationship that has been created.

In the articles we wrote earlier, we have highlighted over and over again how in China purchases are increasingly made through social platforms.

It goes without saying that if KOLs are important here in China they really represent a sales support SYSTEM whose influence is often considered FUNDAMENTAL within a digital marketing strategy.

The history of KOL began together with the birth of Chinese social media in the late 1990s with Tianya Club 天涯 社区 and Netease Blog 网易 博客. Most of Tianya users have had a very good education and write articles on various topics. It was used as we use social media today: sharing images, reviews and all kinds of content.

One of today’s prototype blogger examples was Shi Hengxia, known as Sister Furong 芙蓉 姐 姐. Videos and photos of herself were posted wearing skimpy clothes in sexy poses; she was very self-promotional, similar to today’s bloggers and influencers. This personality led to controversial discussions in the forums, which is why people started following her; they wanted to know everything about her. Even though Tianya still had 85 million users in 2013, the birth of Weibo took over, and most of the followers left Tianya.

5 steps to being a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) in China

A good Chinese social media KOL must have certain qualities to be successful.

  1. he/she must be specialized in a specific area of expertise that he is passionate about and, most of its contents, must be related to this field. A good influencer isn’t about partnerships with brands that aren’t aligned with their core themes or values.
  2. The KOL must have professional experience in the subject it deals with. Experienced photographers, journalists, make-up artists tend to be considered very trustworthy.
  3. KOL must be perceived as unique. Successful KOLs do not follow any random trend, but remain consistent with their personal style. This is becoming even more influential, as Chinese Generation Z consumers, young people born between 2000 and 2009, have developed strong individual personalities.
  4. KOLs in China need to turn their full attention to their relationship with their followers and take the time and effort to interact with them daily. As young people spend many hours a day connected on social media. The KOL must do the same by trying to respond to as many comments and messages as possible, building and reinforcing their sentiment day after day.
  5. A good KOL does not have to move from one social platform to another randomly but must grow at a steady pace in a long-term vision and be present on social media platforms in line with the topics they cover. This way, they can reach a wider audience and mitigate the risk of failure. They usually have a support team and, when they are at the peak of their fame and success, they sometimes launch their own brands (see Chiara Ferragni).

The most famous KOL in China

One of the most important characteristics of Chinese consumers is that they rely heavily on word-of-mouth advice. A 2018 research conducted by Azoya Cosulting found that 50% of cross-border consumers are influenced by reviews from people online, 32% by social media account content, and 25% by search engine results. This means shoppers value the opinion of influencers, as well as that of close friends.

Mr. Kevin Chou, a Taiwanese stylist well known also in China. Chou is a regular on the “Wqueen” variety, and is now known by the industry as the “king of makeup”. Kevin Chou has created his own brand and has around 55 million followers on the Weibo platform.

With over 5 million followers on Weibo, “包 先生” (Mr. Bags in English), real name Tao Liang, mainly writes content recommending various luxury brand bags and posts reviews/critiques on bags worn by various celebrities.

KOLs are present everywhere: from food and wine (Mi Zijun 19.1 million), to travel (Mr. Shenwei 9.69 million), to sport (mr .JJ with 9.7 million).

A final important factor is related to the fact that the influence of KOLs has also exceeded the discounts on products, which held 65% in the purchase factor and the recommendations of the e-commerce platform 58%.

It is important that brands understand the right strategy to adopt for influencer marketing in China, to cope with times of crisis that could occur over the years as the 2020 pandemic has been.

Long Advisory digital marketing agency in China

Long Advisory supports American and European companies in China through digital marketing. In fact, our experience has led us to believe that today, the best and most convenient approach to make your brand well-known in China is through a digital approach. Furthermore, thanks to our know-how we know how to make your brand known to potential Chinese consumers. With the effective coordination of Long Advisory, your company will see a new rise in the largest market in the world: China.

Interested in expanding your brand in China? Contact us for more info and details at


 Luigi & Matteo

In recent years, the Chinese economy has experienced significant growth and development. Following the global crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, China made