A lot of work goes into KOL management, and because of that, brands and KOLs often experience a little boost of adrenaline when they scroll down to the end of a post and see that magic number.
Whew, 10K views! The post about our newest handbag collection made thousands of impressions among our followers!
But, there’s a trove of information that, in the long run, could be exponentially more beneficial for a brand. It’s hovering below that magic “view” number, in the comments section.
The comments are where followers reveal their true feelings and impressions about a product or a post. Many of these followers are ready to engage even further — should brands be willing to listen and reply.
“Brand affinity is developing in the comments,” says Elijah Whaley, chief marketing officer of PARKLU. “Most brands doing KOL marketing are missing one of the most valuable opportunities of KOL management and that’s communicating directly with KOLs’ followers.”
KOL Management Starts & Ends with Communication
Social media engagement and the ability to share thoughts and comments is a key factor in what drives online communities in China. One of the more recent social media platforms to enter the scene, Douyin, makes a strong case for this.
Douyin, a leading short-video app, has its entire algorithm based on comments and interaction. Videos that receive more likes and comments are shared to exponentially larger audiences. Users are especially drawn to the format, where they can comment and interact with their favourite influencers on the platform in real time, and influencers can respond in real time.
Of course, Douyin is only one example of a social media platform where commenting is both prevalent and encouraged. Some of the most successful KOLs are interacting with their followers on WeChat and Weibo through their comments all the time. Chengdu-based stylist and fashion blogger Sam Triplett spends about 10 to 15 minutes per post engaging with his followers, and spends longer if more detailed replies are needed.
“Through frequent and effective engagement with comments on posts, a KOL takes down the barrier between them and the audience, developing a stronger connection towards the KOL, which leads to more effective marketing,” he says. “Many of the cosmetics influencers that I work with need to keep up with comments on their posts because that is what makes or breaks a sale.”
Say a makeup artist is using a new contour stick or a highlighter and a follower doesn’t know how to use it or when to wear it. “If the KOL doesn’t answer, there’s a sale gone,” Triplett explains. “But with just a quick answer, it can ensure an increased trust between the commenter and the KOL, while also increasing the likelihood of this sale and future sales.”
Makeup artist and top ranking Weibo beauty KOL Melilim (Maggie) Fu echoes that sentiment. She said she spends around one hour a day chatting with her followers in the comments, not only explaining to them how and when to use certain products but also talking to them about their daily lives. “All of my fans become my friends,” she explains. “I know about their life—some fans are students and I care about their schooling, some fans have kids and I’ll care about their families.”
Fu says she believes brands can learn a lot about consumer behaviour just by reading the comments below her posts and learning about what makeup styles her followers are open to. Many readers express to Fu how they never thought they could try certain looks but would do so after seeing that Fu pulled it off—showing just how important the element of trust can be for KOLs and their fans.
“Fans also help me a lot to look at myself—to me they’re like a mirror,” Fu says. “If you’re a makeup artist, when you go to school, your teachers always tell you, the mirror is your best teacher. The same thing applies to my fans too. Sometimes they tell me, ‘Maggie, I really don’t like you doing this,’ so I listen to them. My fans are my friends. I treat them really well, and they’re really honest with me, and they really care about me being honest with them.”
Aside from providing feedback, pushing a sale, answering a question, or simply saying thank you, paying attention to and encouraging interaction in the comments section of a blog post can also lead to valuable data. Fu takes data and feedback from her commenters and turns it into new content. She reserves an entire column featuring questions and requests from two of her fans—and the feedback is always enthusiastic, she says. “It’s like if your best friend tells you they want something and you do it for them. I do this, and the fans know I love them.”
Last summer, Tod’s collaboration with fashion blogger Mr Bags was a perfect example of top-notch KOL management. Mr Bags launched a 200-piece capsule collection with Tod’s, one of the reasons they collaboratively chose various shades of blue for many of the featured bags—down to the leather stitching—was because his blog posts featuring light blue handbags garnered more comments than any of those featuring other colours. The Tod’s collaboration proved a success; the bags sold out in hours, and the hashtag Tod’s x Mr Bags saw nearly 600 percent rise in mentions on WeChat.
But there’s a possible downside to brands engaging with the comments, warns Triplett. “The KOL engaging brings a more personal touch, and feels more authentic, with more wiggle room to talk pros and cons of the product or brand,” he explains. “Any kind of engagement by the brand itself may be misconstrued as just product pushing.”
Brands Must Be Approachable
This means that for a brand, finding a way to be authentic and approachable is key. One of the more notable case studies in the U.S. where a brand has managed to create a genuine connection with their fans in the comments section—resulting in the brand appearing more “human”—is Netflix’s interaction with its Twitter followers.
“Netflix excels not only at replying to certain comments and queries with witty responses, but they also have a beautiful way of advertising their procedure,” columnist Ioana Sima writes in Social Media Today. “They pay attention to their customers, and they make sure their clients know that they’re being considered. It’s important to let your customers know that their input is not simply thrown under a rug and ignored.
In one instance, Netflix won the Shorty Award for Creative Use of Technology by creating a special pair of socks that detected when a viewer is falling asleep and pauses their Netflix show. This was their response after people were complaining about the issue on Twitter, and it resulted in “incredible” brand awareness, “but, most importantly,” Sima writes, “it highlights Netflix as an innovator in the entertainment industry and showed the world that they pay attention.
Ultimately, brands shouldn’t rely solely on KOLs to do the legwork when it comes to interacting with followers in the comments. Proper KOL management requires brands to spare a staff member to monitor KOL posts and engage where appropriate.
KOL management check list:
- Utilise the comments section for multiple ways of engagement—answer questions, say thank you, look for trends, and encourage feedback.
- Don’t only stick to one platform. Comments on short-video platforms like Douyin can be especially important because the limited format of the content doesn’t leave a lot of room for information. This may mean a brand’s followers are left with even more questions for the comments section.
- Try to be authentic. Remember it’s not always about making an immediate sale, it’s about being approachable and transparent.