Bryce Whitwam
Jul 4, 2022

One size does not fit all when selecting China influencers

SHANGHAI ZHAN PODCAST: When it comes to selecting China social influencers or KOLs, brands should recognise the unique differences between brand building and performance enhancing KOLs. That’s according to leading China fashion and beauty KOL, Mia Liu.

Mia Liu
Mia Liu

“The market is moving towards both performance and brand KOLs," says beauty and fashion KOL, Mia Liu. "Brands are starting to realise they cannot just live on performance alone, and the achieving quick sales is just seen as short term. Ultimately, a brand needs both performance and brand KOLs."

Liu describes a misunderstanding of the Chinese influencer industry, overshadowed in the media by the likes of successful live streamers such as Austin Li, who primarily drive sales and not brand.  “People forget about the ‘O’ in KOL, and that’s ‘opinion’, says Liu, “and without one you can’t really call yourself a KOL.”

Having already represented brands such as La Mer, Jimmy Choo, L’Oreal, Tom Ford and Louis Vuitton by the age of 32, Liu sees herself as a veteran of the China influencer industry. She is primarily a Weibo-focused influencer, having amassed over three million followers.

Mia sees competition not only coming from younger influencers, but the challenge of China’s increasing social media fragmentation. “It’s enormously challenging to be popular on multiple platforms because of the nature of the content.  A RED influencer isn’t normally popular on Douyin or Weibo and vice versa, so influencers become specialised to the platform,” says Liu.

While Liu advocates brands to build long-term partnerships with KOLs, she also suggests that they play the influencer field.  “Using different KOLs will enable you to attract different target audiences,” she says.

What’s the secret to achieving three million Weibo fans?  “Emotional attachment is the priority for successfully building of your fanbase,” according to Liu, “and be genuine and don’t try to simply copy others.”

Despite being considered old in the youthful China influencer business, Liu sees a KOL as a lifetime job: “As long as I can still write, I can influence people."


The full interview is available on the Shanghai Zhan podcast, a "raw, lively, and regular debate about China tech, advertising, creativity and the intersection of it all", hosted by Ali Kazmi and Bryce Whitwam.

The podcast is now available now on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogleStitcherAmazon Music, Xiao Yu Zho and via RSS.

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