Spotlight is a regular series where we feature a prominent person in the style scene. This month we speak with Kim Leitzes, founder and CEO of PARKLU.
Influencers, or more widely known as KOLs (key opinion leaders) in China, are an essential element of the customer-centric marketing ecosystem today, but how can marketers differentiate the good from the bad? Kim Leitzes has been helping companies sift through the cluttered marketplace with PARKLU, a platform that pairs brands with KOLs based on a comprehensive database of influencer and brand profile analysis and performance data. Here, she tells us what brands should look for when working with KOLs, and offers an important piece of advice for aspiring content creators looking to establish themselves as influencers.
Tell us why you started ParkLU.
I moved to Shanghai from New York in 2010, and I was working in finance at a hedge fund at the time, with a focus on retail and fashion companies. The following year, I started a fashion blog called PARKLU, where I’d write about cool things that I found on Taobao. A few months into blogging, some American fashion brands started approaching me to do some sponsored content. One thing led to another and I started building a team of copywriters and graphic designers. We were not only creating content for brands that was tailored to the China market, but also connecting micro- or mid-tier influencers with these companies for similar collaborations. By 2015, PARKLU morphed into a platform that makes it easy for marketers, designers and brands to discover the right influencers or KOLs to work with.
“Having a thousand super fans is more important than having a million followers”
How does the pairing process actually work?
We took what we were doing manually, and built a whole platform – the website and an app – around it. The matching process is based on the content and engagement data of 15,000+ KOLs across 11 social media platforms (including WeChat, Weibo and various live streaming sites). To make sense of it all, we depend on our own bilingual, proprietary database that includes profiles of 80 fashion, beauty, lifestyle and travel brands – these comprehensive customer profiles drive PARKLU’s recommendation engine.
What are some qualities of a ‘good’ KOL?
Regardless of the size of their following, good KOLs tend to have high engagement and a loyal following. They bring value to their followers with their consistent, authentic and quality content. Having a thousand super fans is more important than having a million followers.
How do you measure the effectiveness of collaborations with KOLs?
That depends on the goals of the brand. Besides click-through traffic data, marketers should also be looking at whether their organic search rate has increased on Tmall, WeChat or other relevant platforms, meaning whether the collaboration has generated more awareness and if it has prompted people to do more research. Or, a more direct way to track conversion rates is to offer a discount code for the KOLs’ fans to use.
What are some common missteps in these collaborations?
There’s often a mismatch in expectations regarding how much creative freedom the brand is offering the content creator. It’s important that these details are clear and upfront before the collaboration starts. Marketers should trust that the KOLs know what their audience wants, but at the same time, they must offer some guidance and instructions to the content creators in terms of what they are looking for. The blank slate of ‘do whatever you think is best’ doesn’t work well either, as most people don’t really mean it when they say that.
What advice do you have for people who are becoming a KOL or starting their own content creation business?
Pick a format and platform that you’re able to create content for and post every day – consistency and frequency matter more than perfection in today’s digital world.