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Four Things to Know About Influencer Marketing in China

It’s fair to say that 2018 was the year of influencer marketing all over the world, and it is going to continue to be a driving force for brands looking to grow their audience and improve sales through social media through 2019 and beyond. However, there are some substantial differences between Western and Chinese social media ecosystems that brand marketers should know if they want to expand their campaigns to lucrative Chinese markets

1) China’s Live Streaming Industry Is Booming

95% of e-commerce activity in China takes place on smartphones. Furthermore, a large amount of that activity is live-streaming.

In fact, Deloitte estimates that China’s live streaming revenue will hit $4.4 billion this year, up 32% from 2017. Live-streaming is so popular because the experience is interactive and immersive. Furthermore, it can also be particularly potent for niche and new-to-market brands who do not have the ability to generate buzz on their own. Live streaming provides assurance the product is used, accepted and loved.

On the other hand, live-streaming in China has another mode. There are direct cash-in rewarding systems provided by live streaming platform, and influencers are rewarded by audiences by real money. Engaged audiences reward influencers when, for example, a gaming influencer has done good job on live games, or even beauty influencer is simply chatting in the channel. For example, yyf, a gaming influencer on Douyu TV, has a monthly revenue of 580,000 dollars thanks to his audience. In America, social media influencers make money off of ads and endorsements.

ECommerce in china
Douyu TV

Some Chinese stars do sponsored posts too, but most of the money comes directly from fans in the form of gifts — sort of like a virtual tip jar. This demonstrates how fans are willing to spend money on favorite influencers, so they believe them so much that they are willing to use the same products as influencers’.


Every product can be recommended naturally in live streaming. Brands looking to work with influencers in China should lean on live streamed integrations.

2) Purchases can instantly made with integrations on Chinese platforms  

One of the most special feature of the Chinese E-market is that people can purchase immediately on the platform when they are recommended. When consumers in US see something they like on Facebook or Instagram, they usually have to exit the app to search for the product and buy it. However, if Chinese consumers see something they like during the discovery, they can buy it immediately through embedded purchase links. In other words, in China, discovery and purchasing is integrated, whereas in the West, they are separate. This ensures users/ convenience of shopping online, accelerating the expansion of Chinese e-commerce market.

Channel example:

Influencer Marketing in China

1. Douyin(Tik Tok) Douyin has an e-commerce linking deal with Taobao.   A shopping cart logo has been added to the user interface which inluencers can use to link to product pages on Taobao. Douyin has attracted a lot of interest from brands looking to tap into the users’ attention with awareness generating KOL (Key Opinion Leader) campaigns.

2. Xiaohongshu, encourages a “safe space” for like-minded consumers to write reviews and share their shopping experiences good or bad. The App contains an “Explore” section enabling to explore user’s content on topics such as fashion, food and travel. 

When reading a post, influencers usually add hyperlinks to the page of the brand which can contain an e-commerce section. There can therefore be a smooth transition between content consumption and e-commerce. Many celebrities share their experience on it too. Smaller brands can benefit from Xiaohongshu’s growing network of celebrity users to drive brand recognition through KOL campaigns.


Brands can let influencers create blogs or videos on xiaohongshu/zhihu to promote their products and there can be a hyperlink direct to the brands’ website.

Additionally, Chinese E-markets are efficient thanks to one-stop apps such as WeChat, which provide services including online payment, ticket booking and takeaway ordering etc, encourage users to adopt the habit of shopping online, accelerating the expansion of Chinese e-commerce market.

Everyone uses WeChat to purchase both online and offline. As a matter of fact, every store has its own QR Code to scan for payment. It is not an exaggeration to claim that almost everyone in China uses WeChat.

3) Prevailing E-commerce strategy of Chinese influencers

– In China, one of the most common way of traffic monetizing is starting an E-commerce on Taobao. Most of influencers will start an E-commerce when they have accumulated enough amount of followers. The two major business modes include functioning as sales channels and establishing their own brands. The former mode is the most common practice within this industry right now and there are multiple ways of penetrating into target customers.

A simple approach is to do live streaming show and recommend intent products. This way, the influencer profits through both the direct cash-in rewarding system provided by live streaming platform and the advertising fee from the brand. Influencers also take money from brands by uploading soft content articles or images, and lead followers to the e-commerce site to finish the purchase process by distributing links on Weibo. If they establish their own brands, these influencers collaborate with retailers in a deeper way as they sometimes release co-branding collections, bringing in big noise within Chinese fashion industry and boosting sales successfully. 

Ecommerce shops in China Influencer Marketing

There are thousands of online stores run by influencers on Taobao, and the top ten online stores have achieved annual sales of over 100 million RMB.


Brands can cooperate with Chinese Influencers who own popular Taobao shops. The influencers create content like videos and blogs of product reviews and directly became the distributors of the brand and sold the brand products in its own store.

A screenshot of Papitube, an influencer marketing matrix in China

Weibo is the top one prevailing social media in China and almost all influencers in China are on Weibo, so Weibo is the best place to find them, easier than every other platform.

4. Tap Into an Influencer Matrix

As the core of Chinese influencer marketing, Multi-Channel Network (MCN) Model gives birth to an innovative, almost crowdsourced and grassroots network called an Influencer Matrix. 

For example, Papi Jiang, one of the most outspoken influencers, famous for her humorous and highly-qualified criticism on social issues with her sarcastic Shanghai accent, built her own matrix called Papitube in 2016, with second tier influencers such as Zhang Mao(张猫) and Zai Xia Yangshuhui(在下杨舒慧). Papi Jiang promotes these creators in her online show after they reach a certain amount of followers. Basically, if the accounts in matrix are popular, other accounts will also gain enough attention through interaction to sustain their business value. 


-Don’t spend a lot on creators, much like in the US spread your budget over smaller micro-influencers. Weibo is a good place for brands to find “micro-influencers”. Because for example Papijiang, who we mentioned above has a valuation of 120 million yuan, and the valuation for a single advertisement is 2 million. But if you find influencers she promotes within her matrix, then it’ll be much cheaper. 

Grapevine is the world's leading influencer marketing platform. Grapevine helps marketers identify and collaborate with trusted social creators to reach and engage their customers.

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