Data shows brands don’t need social media accounts in China


When Bottega Veneta deleted its Instagram and Weibo accounts in February 2021, the move made headlines, leading many to wonder if it marked yet another move away from social media for luxury brands. While no other brand has yet followed suit, Bottega Veneta still garnered a total of 2,000 organic mentions on Weibo over the past year, according to data from the social listening platform. Digimind. That number is high compared to Marc Jacobs, who currently has 251,000 followers on Weibo and just 474 organic mentions since February 2021, or Moschino, with 173,000 followers and just 684 mentions.

These are just a few statistics that prove official accounts are not vital for luxury brands in China. Jing Collabs & Drops’ first Insight report, The Drop: Understanding successful brand collaborationsfound that a large majority of engagement on cross-brand launches on Chinese social media actually comes from key opinion leaders (KOLs).

The way collabs are marketed on social media during their pre- and post-release periods can often be the same as single-brand products. Beauty Brands Grant first access to Chinese beauty KOLs, allowing them to try out their products for their subscribers before the official launch dates. For example, Bobbi Brown offered her Monopoly collaboration in the fall of 2021 to KOLs, who produced over 75% of her original promotional content on Weibo, as seen in chart one (alongside other examples that show how KOL content is still in larger quantities than branded items).

Chart 1: Vfluencer data showing how brands depend on KOLs for promotional content

Archive Editions’ managing director, Karl Cyprien, explained that gifting certain VIPs like friends or family is also a way to create a “halo effect”, boosting a product’s popularity even before he does not come out. “We usually open the channel and give away around 500 pieces to friends and family before a release, and that’s mostly out of courtesy,” he said. “There are many people in our world who have been very helpful or influential.”

Many lesser-known brands rely entirely on KOLs to drive advertising their drops on social media in China. Chinese streetwear brand Peacebird collaborated with Toiletpaper magazine in November 2021, and the capsule’s five million reads and 14 organic discussions on Weibo came from influencers posting about it. Similarly, the Staple Pigeon x FUN collection saw its hashtag gain nearly 10 million plays, all thanks to Chinese idol Xu Jiaqi 许佳琪.

Despite its popularity with Chinese consumers, the first Italian brand Fendi relies on KOLs for its strategy in China. As part of the Fendi x Skims promotion in October 2021, the brand’s official Weibo posts only excelled in featuring Chinese idols. The second graph highlights how heavily Fendi relies on influencers for social media campaigns.

Chart 2: Fendi’s social strategy is based on celebrity-sponsored posts

BBeyond the marketing benefits, social media campaigns that feature KOLs with accessible shopping options directly increase sales. For example, in the previously mentioned Esteé Lauder x SHUSHU/TONG collaboration, each KOL post on Weibo contained a link to the Esteé Lauder Tmall flagship store for purchase.

As fanbases continue to drive the social success of brands in China, the strategy should ultimately focus on high-quality KOL campaigns rather than building brand accounts. So when it comes to China, Bottega Veneta may have the right idea after all.

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