The following are excerpts taken from the second edition of theINSIDER KOL Marketing Magazine. theINSIDER KOL Marketing Magazine contains featured articles from some of the top travel KOLs in China and includes more than 250 KOL profiles across fashion, beauty, luxury, fitness, travel, child & parent, F&B and foreigners. The Travel KOL Catalogue has articles from China’s top travel influencers and gives access to 20 travel KOL media kits.
Yao Shun: Stories from a travel experiencer
I have a pretty strong character. Before graduating from university I took a gap year and travelled to 42 countries, and even made several thousand dollars. This is when the second chapter of my life started – being a travel experiencer.
Because I love travelling so much and have visited countless places, I started writing a blog. To show destinations and different ways of living one’s life holistically, I started merging travel with other topics like sports, lifestyle, and food.
I also have lots of interests and hobbies. I might go to the U.S. to parachute, the kind where I can jump solo. I also know how to paraglide and am a certified scuba diving instructor. When time permits, I love to go surfing, kite-surfing, skiing – anything that’s badass, really.
Despite all my years of travelling, my favourite trip is still my first 100-day voyage on a train from Beijing to Rome. This trip turned out to be a key to a whole new world for me. At that time, I was young and inexperienced going through unforeseen challenges in distant lands. Although quite poor, I was very happy and found joy in simplicity.
As a blogger, I have a consistent feed of new content where I explore new worlds and learn skills continuously. My daily posts are inspired by my life and travels. In short, what I share is who I am – I do not brag or exaggerate.
What’s your most memorable experience working with brands?
My most memorable experience was retracing the Silk Road, which I did when working with Chow Tai Fook. Having been selected by them, I felt that I could do what I wanted to do and go to places I wanted to visit anyways while making some content along the way. The cool- est thing about working with brands like these is that they give you lots of trust and freedom.
Any brand collaboration horror stories?
Of course, there have been some collaborations that went less smoothly. Once, I worked with a brand that had a very weak operational capacity. The accommodations and food they arranged were very poor and, while the itinerary was all planned out, the planning was uncoordinated. The journey ended up being stressful and highly uncomfortable.
Grace: Travel KOL and PARKLU’s Chinese Editor
Although I have a very busy full-time job, I have dedicated every spare moment I have to following my dream. In doing so, I have given up almost all of my downtime.
Once, I wrote an article entitled “What Is It Like to Be a KOL? A Day in the Life of a Celebrity Blogger”. In it, I said this: “Many people try to create an official WeChat account or post on Weibo because they have seen the beautiful side of the KOL industry, but becoming popular is a difficult and lonely process”.
I can only double-down on that now.
To take a social media account from 0 to 1, you not only need to make high-quality content tirelessly and think creatively but also have an exceptionally business-oriented mind and promotional channels. Establishing and running a social media account is actually not an easy business path.
The people you admire are those that have persevered.
Fashion blogger Doufu525, who I once interviewed, said, “Before I became a freelancer, no matter how busy I was, I would continue writing once I got home. It was normal for me to go to bed at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and get up again at 6 or 7 in the morning to go to work.” Another fashion blogger, Eve, said, “The one thing that’s shared by every successful KOL is the tenacity – our relentless learning in our professional areas, our maintenance of social circles, and our rigorous management of our bodies and look.”
So, forget about serenity or glitzy extravagance. Behind the bright lights, it’s mostly a mundane picture of drafting and editing copy, along with trying to keep up with industry news. And all this comes after getting off from your full-time job.
Each time I post, I get new fans. They express their approval and appreciation in all kinds of different ways in their comments. I am overjoyed every time I read their comments or read that they gave in to temptation and bought something I recommended.
Helen: Travelling with her husband for 10 years
What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers?
First, make sure you have a profession and abilities to establish yourself in society, and only then talk about becoming a “professional blogger”. Don’t put money above all else, don’t be shortsighted in only pursuing financial gain and fame. A blogger’s job is to bring positivity to society and to fans.
I think it’s not very healthy that being a KOL has become a “career”. I hope that KOLs have other skills to help them get a foothold in society besides making income through product recommendations and business collaborations. Only once you have stability, can you do recommendations and reviews objectively. This is what it means to be truly accountable to fans and the industry.
What was your favourite trip?
My honeymoon trip with my husband. Later, we went to many more – perhaps even more beautiful – places, but it’s really not easy to match the unique happiness of a honeymoon.
For my husband and I, travelling is something quite ordinary and insignificant, and not any different from other hobbies. We don’t flaunt it or give it some special significance. Rather, it has become just a part of our lives – a way to be happy. If, in the process, we can also bring positivity to society and show a new side of Chinese people to those from other countries, these would count as additional perks.
Because I focus on what I’m good at – strategic travel journals – and have a deep understanding of difficulties and struggles professionals encounter while travelling, I have attracted a group of readers who follow in my footsteps when they travel. They copy my routes, activities, and even go to the same hotels and restaurants. This saves them a lot of time and energy on doing their own research. In the long run, I hope to be able to help more people enjoy the pleasures of travelling outside their busy work schedules.
Are you happy in your life as a travel KOL?
Producing content requires a lot of time and energy. In fact, this has had quite an impact on the natural and relaxed way of traveling that I personally prefer. However, nothing is perfect, and we need to make sacrifices sometimes. So, I can’t say I’m not happy.
Because I also have an income from another profession, I consider being a travel KOL mainly a hobby, so I haven’t become overly commercial. Also, I don’t need to advertise any products I’m not on-board with or that I don’t use my- self. My business collaborations don’t over-consume the trust of my fans.
Because I choose collaborations carefully and because I have been lucky, communication with all the clients I’ve had has been marked by mutual respect and understanding. We have completed all collaborations smoothly.
Xiao Mo and A Hou: The key to making the most of your travels is having fun
What led you to want to become a travel KOL?
I was born with it. My parents always asked us who we wanted to be when we grew up, and my answer was that I wanted to travel around the world.
What do you write about in your blog? What are your thoughts about this industry?
I’m a travel KOL. Travel for me means finding oneself through the exploration of the world.
What kinds of fans do you have? How do you usually interact with your fans?
My fanbase is mostly female, born in the 80s and 90s. One way I interact with them is by giving out gifts.
What makes you different from others in the industry? What’s special about you?
My motto is this: The key to making the most of your travels is having fun!
What is the secret of your popularity among fans?
I can boil my popularity down to my travel stories and travel anecdotes.
Which trip was your favourite?
My trip to New Zealand.
What brands have you worked with? What brand would you like to work with the most?
I have worked with a lot of brands – a few hundred. I choose to work with big, international brands from different industries like fashion, beauty, sports, hospitality, food, cars, mobile phones, airlines and travel. I would like to work with Sony the most.