Key opinion leaders, or KOLs as they’re called in China, are a primary touch point for brands in China, where the average internet user spends 27.7 hours per week online.
Knowing the latest trends amongst KOLs helps brands and marketers that are engaged in influencer marketing. Being on the same page helps collaborations go smoothly and makes them more effective.
That’s why marketers should note the trend for down-to-Earth bloggers in China. It’s a style that has risen alongside rural social media usage, the development of online grassroots culture, and an increasing desire for authenticity.
Let’s look at two examples, and then take a closer look at the reasons for this trend.
Example 1: Remote farmers the Huanong brothers go viral
The Huanong brothers raise bamboo rats for market in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province. They made a series of short videos with one brother shooting the video as the other narrates.
The videos show them in their picturesque village, talking about life on their farm and telling viewers how to make various bamboo rat dishes. Their accented Mandarin, unaffected ways, straightforward style and the beauty of their natural surroundings are attracting more and more viewers. Now, they have nearly 1 million followers on Weibo. The rate for searches of “bamboo rat” on Baidu increased almost 1000% and searches on WeChat have increased by a factor of 45.
Example 2: Chef Wang Gang redefines social video
There’s a saying that’s popular on the Chinese internet these days: “Hot pot makes you feel satisfied in a way that avocado and kale can’t, and Wang Gang creates a happiness that a Michelin-starred chef can’t.”
Chef Wang Gang’s videos are another example of down-to-earth stylings attracting attention online. With no elaborate plate presentations, no filters and no nonsense, Wang Gang’s videos instead feature large chunks of raw meat, rapid vegetable chopping and two foot high cooking flames. There are no excessive embellishments, only straightforward tutorials, and the cooking process is filmed during one session with no second takes.
Wang Gang’s videos have more than 110 million views on Toutiao with around 5 million followers. He’s also racked up a huge following on YouTube.
Three major reasons for the popularity of down-to-earth content
1) The rise of social media users in rural areas:
Emerging social media platforms like Toutiao encourage users in lower tier cities to create their own content and let viewers decide on its popularity. There’s a huge demand for diversified content and people are willing to try different styles.
There are also 700 million rural people and 210 million rural internet users in China who want to see content related to their lives. Advances in technology mean that most people now have access to highly portable, internet connected, photo and video making equipment in the form of a smartphone which levels the playing field and gives everyone a chance to become an internet celebrity.
2) The development of online grassroots culture:
Online grassroots culture, as characterized by content first seen on platforms like Kuaishou, was often tasteless and gross. It was heavily criticized in the mainstream media for this reason. But it also included content featuring things that were very real and simple that made an impression.
Now, that kind of content is finding its place, progressing and has even attained a level of cool. This is especially so for content that shows a fresh perspective, a behind-the-scenes look at previously unknown jobs and lifestyles, and when a sense of humor and sincerity is on show.
3) A new mindset: Real is king
Authentic content also reflects a mindset, especially among the young. They’re tired of artificial posing, obvious makeup, impeccable food shots and afternoon tea in hotels. They want something honest and genuine. They’ve seen every kind of image that aims for aspiration and represents the “exquisite life”. They’re also very well aware of the work that goes into creating an impression of effortlessness. They’re looking for something that presents itself more honestly and with a greater sense of reality and practicality.
This down-to-earth content isn’t only popular in smaller cities. It’s also popular in bigger centres. This seems to show a yearning among middle class city-dwellers for a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people who don’t live there. People seem curious about what an average day is like for people who work in jobs and places they aren’t familiar with.
With this simpler style of content attracting more and more attention on social media platforms, the era of Wanghong supremacy may be fading away. Brands would do well to pay attention to this type of content and cater to its current popularity and the needs it seems to be filling for its audience.