social media, Tips

How to work with KOLs on Red

Little Red Book, Xiaohongshu, or simply “RED”, is a social media and eCommerce platform for millennials to share product reviews and their life experiences ranging from cosmetics and beauty, to fashion and fitness, to food and travel. With over 85 million users, over 80% of them are female, under 35 years old and living in 1st and 2nd tier cities (CBN data). This platform is a perfect channel for beauty, baby care and fashion brands looking into targeting similar demographics in China.

Unlike WeChat KOLs that charge ridiculously high prices, working with KOLs on RED for content seeding is more affordable. Similar to Weibo and WeChat, working with the right KOLs to produce engaging content is the key to a successful campaign. Below are a few takeaways from my experience:

1. Due diligence is important for KOL selection

Whether you work with an agency or find KOLs yourself, it’s important to do your due diligence. While a KOL’s content style should fit your brand positioning, it’s also important to make sure the KOLs you work with have authentic data. (Yes, just like Weibo and WeChat, there is fake data on RED as well.)

As a rule of thumb, the number of likes should be between 3-5 times the number of followers. If the KOL has more followers than number of likes, it’s likely that some of the followers are fake. A healthy amount of comments is also a good sign.

Red also has fake data, be aware!

For further validation, you can and should ask the KOLs to show you the number of views for a few articles, which is not displayed in public. For authentic engagement, the number of likes an article gets is usually between 1%-3% of the number of views.

2. More followers doesn’t necessarily result in high engagement

Unlike KOLs on WeChat or Weibo, having more followers on Red doesn’t guarantee lots of engagement, while medium-sized or micro accounts can bring high engagement if the content is done well. What does it mean for brands? Prioritize your energy on guiding the right KOLs or KOCs to produce quality content and don’t always go for KOLs with lots of followers. If you don’t have a big budget, choosing a mix of KOLs (with 5k-50k followers) who are interested in your product and are capable of producing engaging content can also result in great engagement at a much lower cost.

More followers doesn't necessarily result in high engagement on red

3. Gifting and price negotiation

Due to RED’s nature as an open platform for product reviews and recommendations, product seeding is a great way for brands to gain awareness on the platform. Gifting is particularly great for brands to engage KOLs and KOCs for product seeding, especially for brands first testing the market. There are always KOLs who will say no to non-paid work, but given enough effort, brands will always find KOLs that see value in your product or brand and are willing to do free content seeding in exchange for gifting. If the co-operation is smooth and the content is engaging, then consider working with them for the next paid campaign too as their content will be much more authentic than a paid cooperation.

If you pay for content, the usual price range should be between 500RMB-8,000 RMB per piece. If you’re paying more than 10,000 RMB per piece, the ROI is likely to not be great so ensure you’re getting other value (brand equity, assets for other channels, etc.).

4. Discussing with KOLs on what content works best for their audience

After the due diligence and negotiation are completed, it’s time to start working with the KOL. Experienced KOLs have ideas about what kinds of content will do well on the platform and on their own channels, as well as what time is the best to publish content. Each KOL also has her own style and strength. Some are good at writing brand stories, some are good at product comparisons and reviews, and some are good at video hosting. Compared to Weibo and WeChat, even average users on Red are particularly good at producing original content with great videos and photos. Make full use of their advantages and expertise instead of imposing your own ideas first. Give them some space to create and they might surprise you.

A fun video about a father-child competition racing each other to solve a rubik's cube

One of the micro KOLs I worked with recently used a unique way to present a client’s product. She published a fun video from her daughter’s perspective about a father-child competition racing each other to solve a Rubik’s Cube, with funny phrases and fast-paced music. The post generated over 4400 likes and over 500 comments within a couple of days at no cost to the brand other than a couple of products.

5. Giving a clear brief and managing expectations to ensure smooth co-operation

While it’s important to respect the KOLs’ own style and opinion, it’s also key to set a clear goal and brief for the campaign. Sometimes brands and KOLs have different expectations about the content and capability.   

A cooking oil brand asked a food KOL to share some recipe content using the oil ingredients. After the KOL finished content for 2 recipes, the brand asked her to do 10 recipes instead of 2. The brand wasn’t wrong; they wanted to gain maximum exposure because they found that the more recipes each post included, the higher the engagement rate. However, the problem was that they didn’t communicate this clearly before the production process.