What is Influencer Marketing in China: The Future of the World


In China, the term influencer marketing, “网红” (Pinyin: wǎnghóng) is incredibly popular, becoming a hot topic nationwide. The “Influencer” refers to individuals who have gained fame through internet platforms, attracting a large number of followers with their lifestyle, skills, or opinions. Speaking of influencer platforms, the earliest one wasn’t TikTok but YouTube. Almost all Chinese people call it “油管” (Pinyin: yóuguǎn), although YouTube doesn’t officially recognize this name. However, times change, and with the formal emergence of the AI industry, TikTok and Douyin quickly became the top platform, becoming the main stage for influencers. Consequently, a new trend emerged: entrepreneurs, celebrities, and public figures, such as Lei Jun and Zhou Hongyi, started entering Douyin swiftly, while others waited for the right moment. Today, we will explore what influencer marketing in China really is.

Part 1: What is Influencer Marketing in China?

Let’s start by looking at the classification of influencers:

  • Mega-influencers: With over 5 million followers, these individuals are akin to superstars. For example:
    • On Douyin, Crazy Xiaoyangge (疯狂小杨哥) has over 118 million followers, known for his comedic videos and daily life shares.
    • On TikTok, Michael Le (@justmaiko) boasts over 50 million followers, renowned for his dance videos.
    • Andy Lau (刘德华), a Hong Kong star, has 75 million followers on Douyin, loved by audiences of all ages.
    • Li Ziqi, with her pastoral lifestyle videos on YouTube, attracts a global audience and is very popular on the platform.
  • Macro-influencers: With followers ranging from 1 million to 5 million. For instance, beauty influencer Li Jiaqi (李佳琦 Austin) has a massive following on both Douyin and Taobao Live, known for his beauty product recommendations.
  • Mid-tier influencers: With 500,000 to 1 million followers. These influencers are well-known in specific fields, such as tech reviewers focusing on electronics.
  • Micro-influencers: With 50,000 to 500,000 followers. They might not have as many followers as the previous categories, but they enjoy high engagement rates and active followers. Examples include fitness coaches and food bloggers.
  • Nano-influencers: With 10,000 to 50,000 followers. Although their follower count is lower, their relationships with followers are very close, and their followers trust them highly. Examples include artisans and pet bloggers.

An important phenomenon is “influencer marketing,” where influencers promote products to drive sales. This strategy is extremely popular in China because followers trust influencers, and a single recommendation can lead to significant sales. For instance, Viya is highly capable of driving sales through her live streams, making many brands eager to collaborate with her.

A KOL (Key Opinion Leader) refers to individuals with extensive influence and authority in a specific field. Their opinions and recommendations can significantly influence consumer decisions. KOLs usually have a large number of loyal followers, and their endorsements are often more persuasive and credible than traditional advertisements.

In China, Douyin is the main platform for influencers to showcase themselves and interact with followers. Through short videos, influencers share snippets of their lives, from food and entertainment to professional skills, attracting a vast number of fans. So, if you want to understand Chinese influencers, Douyin is definitely your go-to choice.

Part 2: How to do Influencer Marketing in China

Influencer marketing in China has rapidly become a new way to get rich quickly. Through new channels, influencers have quickly captured a vast market. The key to this is Douyin’s algorithm (almost unrivaled by any other platform), which can quickly attract users, just like TikTok in the U.S. Chinese influencers also use this method to quickly establish close connections with people. The reason is that Douyin’s algorithm allows everyone to quickly find content they are interested in and connect with influencers. This personalized recommendation not only increases user engagement but also makes influencer marketing more effective. Over time, this model will continue to evolve, becoming an essential part of e-commerce.

Everyone, no matter how famous, is now rushing to Douyin to become influencers. Although the term influencer has been around for many years, the new approach requires all celebrities to join in, and it’s just a matter of time.

This new type of influencer marketing allows influencers to directly drive sales through product recommendations. Followers’ trust in them means that their product recommendations can lead to a significant increase in sales. For instance, Viya’s ability to drive sales through live streaming is very strong, and many brands are willing to cooperate with her to greatly boost their product sales through her recommendations.

However, during the period from 2019 to 2020, Viya was fined 1.341 billion yuan for tax evasion and concealing personal income. Douyin immediately shut down her account. In fact, her income was much higher than this.

This also shows that many influencers do not understand the law or do not have experts to serve them. They only register multiple companies in China under their personal names without using top lawyers, and they do not pay attention to the issue of company shareholders, only pursuing the maximum tax reduction. This outcome is inevitable. Of course, in the U.S., individuals would not encounter such incidents.

influencer marketing in the future

Part 3: The Advantages and Disadvantages of AI: Influencer Marketing in China

In 2024, Douyin introduced AI, marking a new era for the influencer industry. Douyin launched an AI assistant named “Doubao,” becoming an essential tool for influencers.

Doubao can analyze user data through AI algorithms, providing personalized content recommendations to enhance influencer-fan interactions. This technology allows influencers to understand fan needs more precisely, creating more popular content. Additionally, Doubao can help influencers optimize their live streaming processes, improving sales performance.

The emergence of AI not only affects the influencer industry but also has a profound impact on various industries. Through AI technology, brands can collaborate with influencers more efficiently, precisely place ads, and enhance marketing effectiveness. For example, AI can analyze market trends, helping brands choose the most suitable influencers for collaboration, achieving the best promotional results.

Although 2024 marks the beginning of AI’s application in the influencer industry, it undoubtedly lays the foundation for future development. As technology continues to advance, AI will play an increasingly important role in the influencer industry, further improving influencer marketing efficiency and effectiveness, creating more business opportunities.

The introduction of AI technology intensifies competition in the influencer industry. Influencers who can effectively use AI tools will have a greater advantage, attracting more followers and brand attention. Therefore, influencers need to continuously learn and adapt to new technologies to stay competitive in this rapidly developing industry.

However, the widespread application of AI also brings some disadvantages. Many members began using AI technology to create AI-generated characters on major platforms. These AI-generated videos and voices make it difficult for users to distinguish between real and fake. To address this issue, China quickly introduced laws to combat such unethical behavior and protect users’ rights.

The application of AI technology is redefining the influencer industry. It not only enhances influencers’ creation and marketing capabilities but also brings new opportunities and challenges to various industries. Although all this is just beginning in 2024, it will undoubtedly lead the future industry development trend.

Part 4: The Development of Influencer Marketing in the United States

The Chinese term “网红带货” (Chinese language), similar to “influencer marketing” in the United States, has also become a hot topic. In recent years, influencer marketing has become an indispensable part of corporate marketing strategies. Influencer marketing is widely used in the U.S., especially on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. These platforms have a large user base, effectively driving product and brand exposure and sales.

According to statistics, the global influencer marketing market is expected to reach $22.3 billion by 2024, with the U.S. market occupying a significant share. From 2016 to 2024, the search volume for “Influencer Marketing” increased by 465%, showing its growing popularity.

In the U.S., Instagram is considered the platform with the highest ROI (return on investment), while TikTok has rapidly risen due to its high interactivity and popularity among young users. It is expected that influencer marketing spending on TikTok will exceed $1.3 billion in 2024.

Similar to “网红带货” (Chinese language) in China, influencer marketing in the U.S. involves influencers promoting and selling products through social media platforms. For example, live shopping is becoming increasingly popular on TikTok and Instagram, where brands collaborate with influencers to conduct live streams, directly selling products to viewers.

The future potential of influencer marketing in the U.S. is enormous and is expected to continue growing. As technology advances and the market matures, brands will focus more on long-term collaborations with influencers rather than one-time sponsorships. Additionally, the introduction of AI technology will further improve content recommendation accuracy and user experience, but it also brings the risk of fake content, which needs to be controlled through laws and platform regulations.

Influencer marketing in the U.S. has become an essential method for brand promotion, and its development trend indicates that this field will continue to grow strongly in the coming years. If you are engaged in influencer marketing or plan to invest in this area, now is a good time.

Part 5: The Future Trends of Influencer Marketing in China

As time goes on, influencer marketing continues to evolve and develop. Looking ahead, several key trends are likely to significantly impact influencer marketing.

  1. The Rise of Virtual Influencers:With the development of AI technology, virtual influencers are becoming increasingly popular. These virtual characters are computer-generated, able to interact with fans and even endorse brands. A typical example of a virtual influencer is Lil Miquela, who has millions of followers on Instagram and collaborates with multiple major brands. The advantage of virtual influencers is that they can be fully controlled by brands, avoiding potential negative behavior issues in real life.
  2. Long-term Partnership Relationships:More and more brands realize that establishing long-term partnerships with influencers is more beneficial than one-time sponsorships. Long-term collaborations can help brands and influencers build deeper connections, increasing brand loyalty and consumer trust. Brands will be more inclined to choose influencers who share their values and goals for long-term collaboration rather than just pursuing short-term exposure.
  3. Multi-platform Integration:The future of influencer marketing will not be limited to a single platform but will increasingly involve multi-platform integration. Influencers will leverage the characteristics of different platforms to maximize their influence. For example, they can post pictures on Instagram, upload long videos on YouTube, share short videos on TikTok, and interact live on streaming platforms. This multi-platform integration strategy will help cover more audiences and enhance marketing effectiveness.
  4. Data-driven Decision Making:With the advancement of technology, data analysis will play an increasingly important role in influencer marketing. Brands can use data analysis to understand audience preferences and behavior, thereby selecting the most suitable influencers for collaboration. AI and machine learning technologies will help brands more precisely place ads, optimize marketing strategies, and improve ROI.
  5. Emphasis on Content Authenticity:Despite the increasing commercialization of influencer marketing, consumers’ demand for content authenticity is also growing. In the future, influencers will pay more attention to the authenticity and credibility of their content, attracting and retaining followers by sharing genuine experiences and feelings. Brands will also place more importance on selecting influencers who truly love and trust their products for collaboration rather than simply pursuing influencers with large followings.


In conclusion, influencer marketing has become a crucial part of modern marketing, both in China and globally. Through platforms like Douyin, influencers leverage their vast influence to bring significant benefits to brands and products. With the development of AI technology, influencer marketing models continue to innovate, offering unlimited possibilities for future development. However, this also brings new challenges, requiring brands and influencers to pay more attention to content authenticity and legal compliance. In the future, influencer marketing will continue to develop in multi-platform integration, long-term collaboration, and data-driven decision-making, becoming an indispensable marketing strategy in various industries.



Published by: Mr. Mao Rida. You are welcome to share this article, but please credit the author and include the website link when doing so. Thank you for your support and understanding.

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