In China, the term KOL is commonly related to celebrities who advertise their collaborations with renowned brands. But more recently, a new form of influencer— Key Opinion Consumers —has emerged, claiming to be more favourable to building a brand’s image. With the latest feature such as Instagram Checkout, we believe the Western social media will gradually adopt this new model as well.
Introduction to Key Opinion Consumers (KOC)
KOC is a new type of influencers in China, who essentially focus their expertise on testing products and giving reviews. Although they have a smaller number of followers, KOCs have a powerful impact on the decision-making process of readers due to their authentic and reliable content. This rising KOC marketing model is pushing marketers to adjust their strategy and test the new model.
While Europeans tend to separate their social media from e-commerce, the approach is quite different in China. For instance, WeChat was often described as an “all-in-one platform” which goes beyond an app merely for communicating with friends. You can buy goods, order a taxi, or even have online training classes.
Another indication that KOC originated and is commonly embraced in China is Little Red Book (aka Xiaohongshu). LRB is the go-to-platform for China’s netizens for product reviews and recommendations. The app does not favour accounts with huge audiences but instead ranks post according to its quality. We often see posts from accounts without a huge number of followers showing up first in the main feed. This encourages users to produce authentic content and eventually become KOCs.
In the meantime, Instagram is also evolving toward a similar ecosystem, integrating a new function called Checkout. This enables businesses to create shoppable tags and allow direct checkout within the app, essentially combining social media and e-commerce. With this new update, we believe that the future Western social media landscape is inclining towards the Chinese social commerce model, and potentially taking a step into the Key Opinion Consumer model.
What are the differences between a KOL and a KOC?
- KOL: Most of the time, KOL collaborates with brands and agencies as they are paid to promote a specific product or brand.
They have a larger audience size and can range from micro-KOL to Celebrities.
However, considering their large audience size, they do not always have total trust from their audience.
Since followers are aware they do paid sponsorship, their credibility and authenticity are not as strong as Key Opinion Consumers.
- KOC: On the contrary, KOCs are first of all consumers who decide themselves which product they want to try and review.
The size of their audience does not matter for this type of influencer. In most cases, they do not have a large audience.
However, since their expertise is to give reviews, their voices are more credible and readers actually refer to their reviews.
Western models similar to KOC marketing
As we observe the emergence of this new trend in China, we can already point out a few brands that are already on track with a similar model.
OnePlus is a mobile device brand that aims more than delivering great quality phones. The company wants to build a community of people.
In their strategy, they explicitly announced that their focus will be on the community and are planning to continue to put this community of people at the center of everything. They launched a new app called OnePlus Community, with the objective to bring together fans from all over the world. Through the app, fans of the company can chat about new OnePlus devices and software builds, voice requests or concerns about their phone, or just chat with others who like OnePlus.
This program invites the most trusted reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-released items to help customers make an informed purchase decision. They invite customers to become Vine Voices based on their reviewer rank, which is a reflection of the quality and helpfulness of their reviews judged by other Amazon customers. Amazon provides Vine members with free products that have been submitted to the program by participating vendors. Anyone who is a member of the Vine Program will have a badge on all the reviews they leave on Amazon distinguishing them as Vine Voices.
Although the concept of KOC is recent in China, the Vine program from Amazon has actually been running since 2007, helping thousands of customers to make decisions.
Why should you implement KOC marketing?
Expecting a rapid increase of KOC, here are a few reasons why you should adopt this strategy for your business:
Key Opinion Consumers are a perfect bridge between CRM and KOL marketing.
CRM strategy is necessary for all companies, as it will help to improve your business relationships with customers. It is also particularly effective for customer retention and driving sales growth. Additionally, some companies also partner with KOLs to boost the brand’s image as they can have a great deal of impact on consumers. In the future, why not qualifying customers according to their influence, their authentic reviews, and their creativity?
Consumers’ reviews have a strong influence on your future customers.
More than two-thirds of consumers agree online reviews are either a “fairly decisive”, “very decisive”, or “absolutely decisive” part of their decision-making process. Hence, this is why you might need their voices. Considering that reviews can have a strong impact on the qualification of customers, it can be beneficial for your business to work with some KOCs as part of the marketing strategy. This can help to boost your brand’s image and also influence purchases.
How to start KOC marketing campaigns?
A few steps to kick off your KOC campaign:
- Capture: Before starting all operations, we highly recommend to integrate Social Media connect functions on your website to start capturing social media insights about your customers on your website. Hence, you can collect information about your audience, the type of content they publish and consequently turn them into future KOC. Another way to connect with your audience is by giving them the opportunity to submit reviews. In this way, you will get the chance to interact with your audience and build a community around your brand.
- Qualify: After connecting with your audience, you will most likely collect enough reviews to identify who can stand as KOC. However, bear in mind that KOC will remain authentic in the writing of each review and can also post a negative, yet constructive comment.
“Active Client + Creative Social Media content + Relevant audience size = KOC”
- Invite and Listen: While you identify these high-quality KOC, it can be resourceful for the growth of your brand to organize a collaborative focus group sharing hot news about coming products. During these sessions, you will invite these KOC with the objective of understanding their feedbacks. Hence, improving your brand or products.
- Activation: As you collect valuable comments, we recommend to synthesize them and shortlist the best recommendations for your brand. Therefore, you can optimize your product marketing plan by involving new KOCs to review your latest product.
Now you have all the fundamentals to kick off your next influencer marketing plan. If you are interested to know more about KOC, contact us here!