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Why Beauty Brands Are Flocking to Little Red Book

June 14, 2021 Franklin J. Chu
June 14, 2021
Little Red Book

Growing international interest in booming social shopping platform Little Red Book attests to China’s dynamic beauty market, valued at $5.72 billion in 2021 Q1, according to ByteDance Ocean Engine.

The most valuable asset of Little Red Book is its users. With 450 million registered users mainly residing in first-tier cities, Little Red Book is one of China's most prominent and fastest-growing social community apps. According to the information publicized by Little Red Book, the platform has over 100 million monthly active users, 450,000 new posts generated daily, and exposure to over 10 billion pieces of content daily.

Chinese consumers increasingly turn to Little Red Book for product reviews. Unlike other platforms where they have to sort through many types of content to find reviews, Little Red Book is a perfect place to easily discover authentic reviews from peer customers or influencers for product research.

Why Little Red Book Matters to Beauty Brands

Starting as a female-centric community that targets women under 25, the platform is now increasingly comprehensive. It is prevalent among Generation Z users born in the internet era who rely on social media as their primary source of information.

There are three main features of the Little Red Book platform: share content, browse product reviews, and e-commerce. The allure of Little Red Book is that users can turn to a trusted, tight-knit community for authentic reviews and advice as they share their experiences. As a platform consisting entirely of user-generated content (UGC), consumers view it as a reputable source for product reviews. According to the Little Red Book official report, over 69% of users rate the content as authentic, and 64% rate the recommendations as accurate. The platform users are accustomed to research product views on Little Red Book before making a purchase decision.

From serums to facial creams, and foundation to lipsticks, Chinese customers now share their own beauty experience and expertise more frequently on Little Red Book's social-sharing platform. In the comments section of many beauty product reviews, it's common to find users directly asking bloggers about their product experience or soliciting solutions based on specific skin issues, such as acne and wrinkles.

Given the increasingly personalized and highly engaged consumer behavior on the platform, many beauty brands are starting to employ Little Red Book as a crucial part of their marketing strategy in China. A brand may not be taken seriously by the consumers in China if the total number of posts associated with the brand is low or lacks popular posts visible from the search results. To many consumers, small post numbers and low post engagement rate means less credibility—and vice versa if the post is famous and earns lots of engagement. It also means the content is more persuasive.

Given this consumer journey, brands now embrace the idea of product seeding on Little Red Book. Product seeding is a widely adopted practice by brands in China. The term refers to influencing target consumers to love a particular product mainly through recommendations. In the typical AIPL (Awareness -> Interest -> Purchase -> Loyalty) funnel, product seeding covers both awareness building and interest inspiring stages of the consumer journey.

According to a recent report by CCInsight, the Beauty & Skincare category accounted for the largest share of content at 67%, followed by premium cosmetics at 21%. And that content is delivering sales and brand search volume at leading online marketplaces in China, such as Tmall, JD, and Pinduoduo. The vast amount of content available at Little Red Book reveals massive opportunities for beauty brands—they need to make themselves visible among the Little Red Book users.

Building Your Brand Recognition via SEO Strategy

With massive searches going on in Little Red Book every day, beauty brands need to systematically curate content to ensure the search results of the branded terms consistently match the brand's positioning and brand image.

Leveraging a wide range of key opinion consumers (KOCs) is a good strategy. KOCs usually refer to independent customers who buy from brands and have a relatively stronger network influence. The KOCs are like mini key opinion leaders (KOLs) who write their own opinions and are often perceived as more neutral, credible, or authentic. By inviting authentic KOCs to review and comment on a brand, beauty brands can generate high-quality content indexed by the Little Red Book search engine and presented on the search results page. Bartering KOC reviews is also a cost-effective approach if a brand budget is small.

The most direct (and often, mythical) way for new brands to create such SEO content is to hire an agency to generate many posts on behalf of the brand. While this approach works to scale up the number of posts quickly, it does not always persuade customers. That’s because the posts are often lower quality and do not look authentic from a consumer perspective.

Brands must determine which keywords they would like to target and ensure the KOL uses them in the title and throughout the content. If your post lacks effective keywords, users won't find you when they do an online search. Keywords must be specific, limited in number, and relevant to your products. Avoid general concepts.

It is important not only to integrate what you typically think of as keywords for your products, but also to see what is trending on Red and connect keywords to your brand. Choosing to work with these trendy keywords, the chance to create a ripple effect will rise where, at the end of it, ordinary users will become the first promoter of your brand.

The first step has been laying the foundation for awareness of new brands and the product seeding stage. A keyword will become a 'buzzword' if it appears in the title and content of 300-500 posts.

KOL & KOC Selection for Little Red Book

Given how crucial KOLs and KOCs are for an effective Little Red Book strategy, discovering the right KOLs and KOCs is the next big challenge for many new brands in the market. Brands need to carefully select ones that work within their budget and will generate a good return for sales.

Here’s a typical Little Red Book KOL Matrix for brands:

  • Celebrities/Top KOL (>500K followers): Efficiently maximize online attention, discussion, and brand endorsement.
  • Mid KOL (50K-500K followers): Deepen impressions for the brand, stabilize brand heat, and accurately target potential customers. More voices about the brand from different angles. Creative content.
  • Micro KOL/KOC (<10K followers): Share shopping experiences to build the brand’s narrative, enhance brand reputation, and increase market penetration.

Below, we have pinpointed some of the KOL selection tactics that brands should consider for their KOL strategy.

Fact-check audience quality:

When evaluating a KOL, brands should consider more than popularity. Engagement rates are the key indicator of followers’ activity. Typically, brands can check if the number of likes, favorites, and comments fall within acceptable ranges.

Brands must look to see how the audience reacts to the KOL's posts. When users write lengthy, personal responses to posts, this indicates an active fanbase. Also, observe how many users are writing comments to ask for additional questions about the product. This may be a good indication of whether the followers have a strong intent to buy.

Find the best fit:

Make sure your targeted KOLs are consistent with your business target. Firstly, brands need to research whether a KOL’s persona matches the brand identity and whether KOL followers would be a good fit for the target consumers. The brand should also check the KOL’s previous content to see if they have promoted similar brands, and their respective performance and engagement.

Examine the content quality:

A content review of the KOL account is essential to ensure the brand targets the right audience. The percentage of hot articles within 30 days better reflects a KOL's creative ability and marketing value in this period.

Content Guidance for Brands in Little Red Book

First, the brand should embed trending topics on Red into KOL content and titles. The content should cover the product's unique selling points and users' daily pain points. Present keywords that reflect core components or skincare demand at a glance in the title, and provide an eye-catching, focused image.

The first image must be catchy, impressive, and informational. Remember that your posts will stay on the customer’s screen for a very short period of time—so sometimes having a comparison post or moving pictures works better than a single static image because customers are exposed to a set of skin solutions rather than just a product. The text accompanying photos and videos should highlight product details on the product without verbose descriptions. It’s a good practice to focus on one or two key selling points per post. Brands can leverage the second image to show a step-by-step process on how to use the products.

KOLs that share personal stories of how a product has impacted their life are extremely powerful. For example, KOLs can use the love story as a topic of conversation. The show-and-tell-style seeding process works at an emotional level. Smooth storytelling with emotion while introducing product highlights is a good practice. Also remember that sharing true, real-life experiences is vital to create brand trust.

Case Study

Amala Beauty, a luxury natural skincare brand from Germany, is one of the niche brands that do product seeding on Little Red Book. The high-end brand chose to work with a selected cohort of KOCs and KOLs to boost word-of-mouth and product awareness in the China market. Amala Beauty's KOL-sponsored posts align with consumer demand for both "organic" and "anti-aging" products. In addition, the headline focuses on the needs of different segmented or brand positioning, such as "high end" and "niche."

The brand worked with KOLs with expertise in skincare, fashion, and lifestyle content to publish a number of high-quality graphics and videos, which created rich content that could be repurposed on the brand’s social media accounts. It is essential to note that KOCs cannot completely replace KOLs. Instead, KOLs with influential power on the platform leverage their strong content capability and loyalties to facilitate brand storytelling on the platform.

Amala collaborated with a few top KOLs (>500K followers) on Little Red Book to quickly boost brand buzz. For example, @zujolee (@猪小角, @是丸子啊) featured Amala products in their reviews and skincare sharing notes a few months before the Double 11 campaign last year. In addition, they published exclusive posts for Amala during or before the promotion week. These posts garnered a significant number of favorites, likes, and comments in a short time. Meanwhile, KOLs' sharing has inspired ordinary users to buy the products and share personal reviews, adding long-lasting values to Amala’s online presence.

Augustinus Bader is another international brand good at KOL + KOC combination via Little Red Book. The brand is driving impressive online talk and organic traffic from mid-KOLs and many genuine user reviews to endorse its product effectiveness and brand experience. It includes collaboration with Gen Z-preferred influencers, sharing in-depth professional notes on product views, and encouraging followers to join the discussion.

Augustinus Bader's The Exfoliation Toner is one of the latest trendy products on Little Red Book. The hashtag #AB Blue Diamond Essence# (#AB蓝钻精华#) has earned over 807K views on Little Red Book.

Similarly, Augustinus Bader launched a KOL campaign before Double 11 to promote its new product line. @陶喜儿, @陈一丁 Dingslook, @易梦玲 yimoney and other top-tier KOLs in the beauty and skincare industries were invited to join the branded hashtag campaign. Most KOLs introduced various AB products in their recommendations and videos.

Key Takeaways

  • When brands arrange a "pyramid-shaped" strategy to cover top KOLs, mid KOLs, and KOCs, they need to select the right influencers. Brands need to research whether KOLs' personas match the brand identity and whether KOL followers align with the brand’s target consumers. And, the brand should check the KOL’s past content to see if it is a suitable match for the brand.
  • Build product seeding marketing with KOLs for the long term. It takes time for working relationships to evolve into meaningful, mutually beneficial long-term partnerships, so brands shouldn't rush the process.
  • Find a good agency as your partner. Your partner should be seasoned enough to yield strong marketing capabilities with industry resources to help your brand experience incredible growth in China.
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