Many of you are probably familiar with Kevin Kelly’s famous business concept that to be a successful creator, all you need is 1,000 true fans or super fans. These fans are customers that will buy anything you produce, and if you can just make $100 from each fan each year, you’ll make a pretty decent income of $100,000. It is an extremely simple and practical concept that has been applied by hundreds of creatives and business owners around the world. Interesting but not surprising, it’s also proving true that China social media influencers only need 1,000 true fans.
China social media influencers are applying it exceptionally well, especially this one aspect:
“focus on the super fans because the enthusiasm of true fans can increase the patronage of regular fans. True fans not only are the direct source of your income, but also your chief marketing force for the ordinary fans.”
Main Method: Fan groups and fan-only WeChat accounts
In China, fan groups are not just organizations created for followers of a huge celebrity like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. Here, as soon as an influencer starts gaining momentum and a decent sized following (maybe 10k or more) they will create a fan group either on the platform they are using or on a separate messaging platform, most often QQ and WeChat. While marketers in the West promote the idea of developing an email list which can then be used to sell directly to your audience, email is not popular in China and instead, people use ‘fan groups’.
Depending on the platform they choose, these groups can have anywhere from 100 to 1000+ members and many China social media influencers will have multiple groups. Instead of creating groups, some influencers will purchase new phone numbers and open up a new WeChat account which fans can add. Since WeChat accounts are only able to add up to 5,000 contacts, the influencers will sometimes create multiple fan accounts.
China social media influencers create this group, now what?
Depending on the type of influencer there are many ways that these groups can be used.
Many influencers will use the groups to share their content and encourage members to like and repost it. They will spend a little bit of time in the group every day, answering questions, encouraging conversation and developing relationships with the group members. Often they will share exclusive, ‘behind-the-scenes’ photos of themselves and their daily lives that they don’t share on social media. This makes group members feel like they have a closer connection to the influencer.
Live streamers in China are especially effective at using groups of super fans to earn money. In fact, agencies will coach live streamers on what types of groups to create, who to let in each group, and how to interact with fans in the group. For example, a live streamer might have two groups, one larger group for regular fans and a smaller VIP group for big spenders. To get into the VIP group (or to add the live streamer’s Wechat account) the live streamer will create requirements, for example, the fan must be ranked as the top gift giver during a stream. This encourages fans to give more gifts in the hopes of having an opportunity to have a more personal connection and access to the streamer. Streamers will even use this tactic to pit multiple fans against each other in a gift-giving battle to see who will win the honor of joining the group. Once they are in the group, the streamer will be careful to give these super fans attention, remembering personal details about their lives and treating them particularly well by giving them shout outs and chatting with them when they come to watch a live stream.
E-commerce influencers will use the groups a bit differently. Like we mentioned above, they will often use it in the same way that a Western brand would use an email list by offering exclusive access and first dibs on new items, announcing sales and special promotions, etc. Some fashion influencers will live stream and try on new items, mentioning “if you want the item, just message in the group” and they will sell out of the item during the show.
The added benefit of doing it in a group is that a group can provide social proof. People can see what items other people are buying and see them sharing photos and reviews of the products once they’ve received them. With rampant fake reviews on Chinese e-commerce sites, consumers feel like they can trust the comments and opinions of these real people in the group.
The feedback from these groups is also extremely useful for the seller, with this direct access to customers they can better understand reactions towards various products. They can also use these groups to beta-test a new product before releasing it to a larger mass audience.
Consumers love these groups because of the feeling of transparency, authenticity, and exclusivity that they provide.
Why Brands Should Care
Brands should not overlook the value that these fan groups hold.
Super fans are real people with wallets and friends. They also make up an important core of influencers’ influence.
An influencer who has direct access to 1,000 super fans will be able to sell your product and spread your message much more effectively than one with 300,000 regular fans (especially since 1/3 or more of those “regular fans” might come from China click-farms).
Furthermore, people love being insiders, they love being special. Brands should consider working with the influencers to have exclusive promotions or campaigns just for the people in their fan groups.
China social media influencers are experts at achieving business success through cultivating 1,000 true fans.