Wine enthusiasts in China do not believe in the power of mass media but rely on their peers and social media influencers for wine information and recommendations. And guess what, all information is accessed by smartphone on popular social media platforms.
With the world’s highest number of smartphones and mobile internet users, social media platforms such as WeChat, Sina Weibo, livestream video site Douyin, and Zhihu, a Q & A forum, are powerful communication tools for Wine Influencers to freely share wine wisdom and opinion without the usual constraints of traditional media.
China’s famous actors, singers and TV personalities, as well as web celebrities and bloggers make the KOLs or Key opinion leaders. This group’s clout can be felt in China’s massive online retail market, especially in fashion, cosmetics and luxury goods. Based on the number of clicks per post, they command high commissions as payment for their endorsements:
Interestingly, KOL has spawned an industry of agents who train and groom influencers in exchange for a share of their endorsement proceeds. However, KOLs influence is gradually waning as savvy consumers realise their heroes are paid to endorse products.
Hong Kong-based consultant Sarah Heller MW says, China’s online wine community is truly clued-up on KOLs. However, Micro influencers such as bloggers and live-stream video stars carry more weight because they offer genuine opinions from trusted personalities. Heller at Vinexpo Hong Kong 2018 said that Millennial consumers go by their peers’ experiences than blindly follow a KOL.
Where traditional media is plagued by censorship, China’s social media stars are breaking down barriers and creating communities of wine lovers.
Seamlessly playing different roles of journalist, judge and marketer, Kent Tsang is editor-in-chief of The Black Wine Guide, the brainchild of wine critic and sommelier Jean-Marc Nolant.
In the grand tradition of Bettane+Desseauve’s Guide de Vins and La Revue du Vin de France, Kent Tsang publishes wine reviews and ratings of high-end wines for the luxury market which has been published in Mandarin since 2011. To promote their tasting events, Tsang’s team harnessed the power of social media, gaining 130,000 followers (organic) in just three days after it screened videos on Douyin, also known as TikTok, a platform that hosts entertaining, eye-catching user-generated photos and livestream videos.
Chufei Churan Twins
When it comes to promoting wine as a lifestyle, nobody can do it better than Web celebrities ‘Chufei Churan Twins’. Wine Australia invited them for a journey to visit Australia’s wineries and tourist areas, which will be livestreamed to millions of followers, mainly females on Tmall, Alibaba’s retail platform. The social media icons by livestreaming their overseas holidays, high-end fashion and fine dining dinners are influencing young, upper middle-class Chinese women to discover the joys of buying wine online.
Wang Shenghan a.k.a Drunken Mother Goose, a graduate of Brown University and Le Cordon Bleu is the founder of Lady Penguin, a social media channel and online wine retailer. Through Sina Weibo – a microblogging website, her candid wine review videos became popular with more than 430m monthly active users and she now has millions of fans and operates a successful wine club.
Wang’s growing popularity and influence is palpable in her attention-grabbing online Lady Penguin shows. The company has also branched into wine tastings and events, publishing wine guides, and operating a wine bar in Beijing’s Sanlitun district.