Little RED Book (Xiaohongshu) is one of the Chinese social apps we never tire of recommending to marketers, and 2021 is set to be a big year for the platform. As of November 2020, the platform’s user base stood at 150 million registered users and 30 million monthly active users. It is not the largest social platform, but Little RED Book KOL marketing certainly is a powerful driver of social commerce and a hub of commerce-related user-generated content in the form of product reviews and recommendations.
So how can brands get the most out of Xiaohongshu KOL marketing in 2021? We’ll take a look at what types of content goes down well with users, what doesn’t work and how brands can optimize these insights to achieve impactful collaborations with KOLs on Little RED Book.
In the simplest terms, consumers value Xiaohongshu KOL marketing content that is authentic. They want reviews that are genuine and honest, and frown on content creators shilling for brands. But there’s so much more to unpack than this, so let’s dig in a little further.
For brands co-operating with KOLs, the form of the content will be different according to the nature of the partnership agreement. For a direct collaboration via text-and-image posts, the content should focus solely on the brand and its product or products. The images should provide the user with detailed insight into the style and features of the products.
If the co-operation is more of a “soft ad”, the content may feature multiple brands, with the KOL discussing their opinions and experiences using each product. However, note that the sponsor’s brand should typically account for around 40 per-cent of both text and image content. The creator should steer away from using technical jargon and any other points that may be too “in the weeds” for the casual Little RED Book user.
The text accompanying photos and videos should provide details on the product without being overly long, focusing on one or two key points. The creator can call attention to the brand within the text by tagging the brand’s account as well as dropping in any brand hashtags.
Videos should be brief – around one to two minutes for a single featured product, and perhaps three to five minutes for a video highlighting multiple products. Soft ads should be limited to around three minutes. Best practices for text and tagging are essentially the same as for text-and-photo collaborations.
Brands and KOLs should approach content and tone slightly differently depending on the purpose of their collaboration. For example, if the intent is simply to showcase a product – a newly launched item, for example – both visuals and text will be pretty straightforward and descriptive of the product’s various features. Influencer Super_Candice’s collaboration with Chanel demonstrated this approach, with the content a true reflection of both the KOL’s and the brand’s style and visuals and tone conforming to that standard.
If the goal is to demonstrate and evaluate the product’s effectiveness, the KOL is expected to be more subjective. However, this arguably demands a more sober, serious tone. The KOL should avoid exaggerating the product’s virtues, for example. The visuals should not look like a promotional shoot with the influencer posing with the product, and if they use devices like before and after photos they must be really careful not to invite accusations of faking results.
Min老师在东京’s collaboration with skincare brand Pola was one good example of a product review collaboration. The video is well shot and underpinned by tight scripting, with the KOL talking about her own skin type to share a genuine, personal experience of using the product.
Regardless of the content format, brands should strive to work with KOLs who adhere to certain high standards of quality. Images should always be high quality and colorful. Shots and backgrounds should be clean, whether in photos or videos. KOLs should appear in photos and video – users always relate to the content on a deeper level when it is fronted by a real person. In terms of appearance and manner, the KOLs themselves should strike a tone that aligns well with the brand’s values and goals for the campaign.
There are also clear lines brands should try to avoid crossing in their Little RED Book KOL marketing collaborations. Unsurprisingly, false recommendations and reviews are a huge no-no. Remember that this platform’s users are avid consumers, savvy enough to know a fraud when they see one. Shallow reviews based on half-hearted trials, exaggerated, doctored or stolen photos, poorly informed opinions – these are all signs of content that won’t live up to the standards Xiaohongshu consumers expect. Naturally, it follows that brands should not work with KOLs whose work suggests they are taking shortcuts or just not up to the job.
Even if a Xiaohongshu KOL marketing collaboration seems aesthetically pleasing, users will find the content jarring if the tone seems at odds with their own preferences, or if it clashes with the type of tone usually associated with the brand. This often comes down to bad matchmaking – brands have to find KOLs who are a good fit for their brand, not just hire the most famous KOL they can afford to collaborate with. It falls on the brand to research potential collaborators and check out their past output before identifying the most suitable candidates. Of course, agencies like PARKLU can offer support in guiding brands through this process.
Finally, Little RED Book users also take a dim view of brands and KOLs using dirty tricks like driving up engagement figures with fake comments and likes or running campaigns to smear rival products and brands by leaving negative reviews on their pages. These activities may seem tempting, but the blow-back will be ferocious, so just don’t.