What to make of Papi Jiang, and tips for making the most of KOLs

CHINA INNOVATION 2016: Papi Jiang is arguably the top KOL in China at the moment and even has venture capital behind her, but how do three firms rate her?

Papi Jiang's latest video, sponsored by local cosmetics e-commerce brand Lily&Beauty, pokes fun at the "faithful" shoppers who made Jack Ma who he is, but had to "eat soil" after spending all their food money on Singles Day.

Shoppers participating in the Singles Day mega-sale last week saw at least 300 live broadcasts. And many no doubt encountered popular influencer Papi Jiang, who reportedly charges RMB 20 million (US$3 million) for one "appearance", according to industry insiders.

Before you splash out that kind of money, here's how three KOL tracking firms advise companies to think about, and potentially work with, Papi Jiang.

Robin8: Papi is measured by her large follower base and average clicks she receives when sponsoring a post on a social channel or another advertising channel. But how does a brand measure her value? It would need to measure success by type of campaign. Most large KOLs like Papi (or their managers) provide only overview data on a single campaign's success. You have to ask if her general reputation will work for your overall campaigns. Measuring and following the actual results for Papi overall and by campaign type is the only true way to assess her value.

Parklu: We don't believe in a one-size-fits-all results for Papi. Does her audience have your targeted customers? Does she have credibility for your vertical? If you are an online dating service or an app, you would probably benefit from her mentioning - or making fun of -  your app, because of her focus on relationships. Whereas if she was wearing a certain shade of lipstick, would it influence buyers?

Bomoda: She is strong at generating organic buzz, but her value to businesses is uncertain. For instance, she temporarily shut down her Taobao shop, which carried only one product (a teeshirt tied to a game) at that time. Many top KOLs have burgeoning Taobao shops that may benefit sales of sponsoring brands. Unlike fashion bloggers or real celebrities like Yang Mi, Papi is still trying to find her place in the commercial world.

See all of our annual CHINA INNOVATION features

Advice for brands - what to look for in KOLs:

  • Have long-term KOL relationships, but don't get stuck
  • Use the right data for stakeholders, not data overwhelm but not silence either
  • The important numbers are not individual numbers like how many followers, they are ratios (engagement / followers) and comparisons over time (growth rate, etc).
  • Really spectacular results are usually to be treated with great suspicion. Look for steady and organic growth.
  • It's now typical to work with many KOLs, both to spread risk and also to be more effective. But they need to be a match for your brand.
  • Speed rules. Use technology and trusted partners to ride the wave.

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