influencer community on DouyiN

Podcast transcript #60: The best advice you can hear about leveraging Douyin for marketing

Find here the China paradigm episode 60. Learn more about Fabian Ouwehand’s personal story in China and get the insightful pieces of advice about leveraging Douyin for marketing.

Matthieu David:  Hello, everyone. I’m Matthieu David, the founder of Daxue Consulting, a strategic market research company in China and this is the China paradigm podcast. Today I am with Fabian Ouwehand. You are the founder and CEO of UPLAB. UPLAB is a professional agency in influencer marketing in China.

You are working with brands in order to connect them and work with influencers. So we are going to go more in-depth from this. I think they are doing more than this and it’s actually a bit reduction of what you do, what I’m saying right now. You do more as well in terms of companies. You’re involved in other two companies, one is LivelyCare and one is LHBS. You are going to tell me if I’m correct that you are involved in three different companies with three very, very different objectives and scope of business.

Thanks for being with me, Fabian. Correct me with what I say, don’t hesitate, because you seem very active and I feel UPLAB was very clear for me on what it is. I was a bit less clear about the tools involved that you have and you listed on LinkedIn. Thanks, Fabian, for being with us. What are your three functions today?

Fabian Ouwehand:  Yes, I’ve been always doing a little different kind of stuff. I’ve kind of always hustled around. That’s partly because I’m still pretty young. I never went to university or something like that. So I’ve always had kind of my own stuff and my own company over the last couple of years. I’ve been always doing different things and I also had a lot of different interests. I’m working with a lot of different clients.

I started my company, UPLAB, about two years ago, when I just moved to China at that time. Myself, I have a marketing background, more into marketing technology, growth marketing, growth hacking. And when I moved to China, it was like a totally different type of environment. I wasn’t very familiar with China, so I’ve learned a lot by doing things, a lot by learning meeting different people and stuff like that. I’ve been doing all that for the last couple of years and actually a lot by learning by doing, which is more like the growth mindset too and headed that more into influencer marketing in China, and that’s what we’re doing today.

On the side, in the last couple of years, I have a nonprofit in mental health, where we basically build a community of people who have been suffering from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. in Asia. I have been developing that actually into a platform where Asian people can easily find the right professional health based on how they feel, based on their symptoms, but also finding the right treatments. So if you’re in need, you don’t know if you need to have a psychologist, psychotherapist, etc. That’s mainly what I’m doing actually on the sides right now, just because out of our personal interest.

I’m involved in LHBS – correct – for a couple of months where I do pro-marketing consultancy for European companies, where I take a lot of my experiences which I had from the Asian market, and helping some European companies here. I’ve been kind of involved in different things, but at the end of the day everything comes together again too, so they all benefit each other.

Matthieu David:  Where are you based?

Fabian Ouwehand:  I’m currently in Berlin but I’m traveling all over the place. I’ve lived in Estonia before a couple of months and before that in Shenzhen in China for about a year, Singapore before that. But still, my home base is in Berlin, but I’m regularly in Asia. Almost every month I’m back in Asia, going around, and across Europe.

Matthieu David:  Tell us more about UPLAB. I believe UPLAB is what you spend most of your time on, isn’t it?

Fabian Ouwehand:  Yes, correct.

Matthieu David:  If you can tell us more about how many cases you have worked on, how many clients you had, how many influencers you are working with, a bit of number, a bit of the idea of the size of what you have done to give a bit more substance.

Fabian Ouwehand:  Yes, sure. We started about two years ago, what I mentioned, in 2017. We started actually with the basic things. We started doing marketing for WeChat and Weibo, content marketing, etc. and it worked actually pretty well. We grew fast to about 10 people in just a couple of months when I started out there. But then, yes, it didn’t excite me that much.

Then from that moment we pivoted, we started doing more with influencer marketing in China. We actually have been involved with the growth of Douyin from the early days and I started actively learning how to leverage Douyin for marketing. My girlfriend who’s involved also in our company has been one of the first contracted influencers on ByteDance, for Douyin’s new project at that time. From there, we have been building an influencer community on Douyin. Currently, there are about 500 influencers in our network which we like/know personally and have a close relationship with.

After some time, the content marketing for WeChat and Weibo didn’t excite us that much anymore, so we kind of downscaled our company. We’re now with about four people that are more involved in the strategy and we execute a lot of content marketing on Chinese social media through influencers. So basically, our influencers in our network are our content marketers, to say it like that. We have influencers where we run promotions to influencers themselves. But we also use influencers to do content marketing on Chinese social media for brands accounts.

We’ve been keeping it small. We have been working actually with a lot of SMEs, small-medium companies from the U.S., from Canada, from Europe, from Australia, and from China itself. I’ve been working with different clients, but because we want to have a lot of focus on our clients, we’ve been working only with maybe four or five a month. We’re at the same time to really give a lot of focus. We’re a very small company and we do a lot of trade ventures.

So that’s the current state of our company and it’s very exciting right now, which allows us to also do different things. We’re doing our conference at the end of this year. We’re helping Chinese influencers expanding throughout China. We’re actually doing a lot of things on the sides which excite us a lot and then benefit the brand back to that too.

Matthieu David:  You say “we” – do you have the co-founder or you’re the only founder?

Fabian Ouwehand:  I started this, I’m the only founder, and then I got my partner from Singapore. He’s still a partner in the company. So yes, that’s “we,” the two of us. But we have a small team around that.

We’re a remote-first company, so we’re kind of all over the place. We’re traveling all over the place. But depending on the projects which are coming in, sometimes we’re based at one location for a longer period of time.

We’re actually working with a lot of young people. So I’ve been working with quite some interns or fresh grads from Chinese universities, mainly from Hong Kong University, because their English was pretty good, which helped us a lot, and some of them have lived abroad for a while and came back to China. So I’ve been really focused on having a young, very agile team, very lean, doing things for the new generation, basically.

Matthieu David:  You said you began with WeChat, Weibo, practically traditional digital agency, and I think you moved to influencer marketing in China. I went on your website and I found that you have a product with a directory of influencers where you can see the name of influencers. I don’t know if it’s a key or price for you. Could you tell us more about what you do for influencers? It could be in terms of selection, it can be in terms of the product. Could you go a bit deeper?

leveraging Douyin for marketing
[Source: a screenshot from China Paradigm interview, “Matthieu David talking about leveraging Douyin for marketing”]

Fabian Ouwehand:  What I mentioned earlier, we pivoted a little bit more to influencer marketing in China. In terms of that, I’m basically, actually helping influencers themselves too. Because we’ve been working with influencers very close, we’re actually looking from their perspective more than we do from an enterprise perspective and see how we can bring as much value as possible to the influencers.

The brand usually already knows what kind of campaign they want to run or they have products, etc. The influencer, however, is a person who’s usually lost, kind of. They know how to create content. They know how to build this audience, engage with his audience, but they’re not always real business people. They don’t know how to monetize or start their own brand or even work with brands and companies.

That’s where we saw a bigger need. So we’ve been doing more from an influencer side and see how we can help them do better brand collaborations or start their own brands or become sustainable for a longer period of time and help them grow in different channels, see different types of content marketing on Chinese social media, and how to make a positive impact with that reach they have instead of creating similar types of content for years. So we tried to have them innovate.

We’ve mentioned the platform we have. Actually, we’ve had a lot of companies coming to us and said, “Hey, we want to work with influencers. Can you propose a list of interesting influencers we can work with?” So we basically built more of this platform for ourselves where we can go quickly to our influencers and directly send that to our potential clients, for example. We use it more as a resource for ourselves. We don’t use it as a competitive product really as a tech, as a product itself. We’re more of the strategy, creative side of that, but we’re using tools more as a support to reduce our time spent finding the right influencers for the brands.

Matthieu David:  You mentioned before that in the traditional agency you build, you scaled up to 10 people very quickly in your team. How do you find your clients to start quickly and to get to have the need of 10 people in your team? Was it through the Internet? Was it through your network? How did you find them?

 Fabian Ouwehand:  That’s kind of a surprise for me too. I was a young guy moving for the first time to China. I didn’t do a lot when I was in Singapore, my time with China itself. So it was all kind of very new to me. Usually what I do when I go to a new place is I start organizing an event just to get to know people and kind of challenge myself to see like, “Can I challenge my knowledge with other people around me?” I’ve been doing first the event in Singapore then I did in Hong Kong right before I moved to China, and through that I actually get to know a lot of people.

It’s really putting myself out there first under my personal name as much as possible. So I started doing things on LinkedIn quite a bit. I started posting quite a bit on LinkedIn and I took it very much of a niche.

I started being very much involved in Douyin when Douyin still had 20 million users or something like that. I have been covering Douyin from the start since they were so small because I saw the potential of them scaling very fast in a very short amount of time, by a shorter period of time. So I’ve been covering that. People all started to know me as the Douyin guy, the guy who’s covering Douyin. And from there, it has been going pretty quick. So we have been starting to leverage Douyin for marketing a little bit, but then these companies also required Weibo or WeChat because they’re already there, and Douyin was something totally uncomfortable and new for them.

So we took the approach of repurposing content for different channels, then build the growth mindset, see what works and what doesn’t work, and then actually put more investment in the channels, for example, which work. In some cases, that was Douyin. In some cases, that was Weibo, basically, depending on the goal and the objectives and KPIs of the company.

I’ve been really putting myself out there, trying to write more, talk more about a certain topic, and try to cover that as much as possible. We didn’t have any marketing budget or something like that and never spent much money on leveraging Douyin for marketing. If we do that, we did, for example, through a conference. That was also the challenge of ours.

We did an influencer marketing conference last year in Shanghai where we secured one of the most exclusive venues, with 30 of our influencers in our network who got brands there. What we did was that we got speakers in the same industry to put ourselves out there, people who’ve already been in the industry for years like PARKLU, for example. We were no one, right? We were around for just a couple of months. But that really brings you on the stage with people who are already very well known in the industry, which helped us a lot in building credibility for our brand.

So instead of running advertisements or whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it through more experience-based things like a conference, to put ourselves out there. So we directly learned from that too when we directly connect with the right people. This is how we’ve been doing that.

Matthieu David:  Indeed, through your website and through what you wrote or the way you have been quoted or the way you have been brought into the conferences, there is a pattern, it’s ByteDance, it’s Douyin. You’re talking a lot about Douyin, which is the Chinese name of TikTok, which in this app where you can share 10- to 15-second video and which has been very big in China, challenging the big tech companies like Alibaba and Tencent. Could you tell us what caught your eyes with Douyin, when it was only 20 million people using Douyin in China?

Fabian Ouwehand:  Could you repeat it, the last part?

Matthieu David:  What caught your eyes when actually very few people were looking at Douyin as a major app, basically, wherein only 20 million people were using it?

Fabian Ouwehand:  Partly, what I mentioned before, my girlfriend has been one of the first contracted KOLs under Douyin. She basically got paid to do content marketing on Chinese social media, like Douyin, which is a very common strategy for the social media platforms in China where they take small or large influencers from other channels. So for Douyin that time, that meant like they got people from Meipai or Weibo, or even from the U.S. where they took Chinese content creators. They paid them the sum of money and they only could leverage Douyin for marketing, but basically it meant people were moving over to Douyin and it was really much in the early days. What they did, they took people from first tier cities where other Chinese people look up to. Because these people are creating content, so it could be, for example, Chinese living in the U.S. or Australia creating the content of their daily life. That’s where a lot of Chinese are looking up to.

Then I realized a lot of growth for Douyin. I started seeing the way of how they ran their marketing, which was totally different from what the usual companies are doing, they had a totally different approach where they actually use influencers to realize their growth in combination with offline marketing. So I knew in some way – or kind of not knowing – but I was predicting it will blow out sometime soon. Because of the way how the content was created, the way how ByteDance worked together with their content creators at that time, they were very close. They were working very close together and these influencers supported a lot of the product development and from their learnings, from all these different types of channels, what didn’t work well. And they wanted that Douyin was doing that well.

They had an influencer community on Douyin. And because my girlfriend was a part of that, I got a lot of insights from what was happening, what they were developing, etc. So I put all my efforts on Douyin. I was like, “Hey, this is the next big thing or the big app in China,” and that was when they were still small.

A couple of months later, it actually started blowing up. Douyin was featured in some TV shows in China, and then people started downloading the app and different types of content. Because it’s very short content, it’s very easy to consume. I’m not sure if you’re using it, but it’s a very addictive app. The UI, UX, it’s very easy to use. There’s a very low learning curve, which attracts a lot of Gen Z users through that.

That’s why I was starting to cover and actually featuring new futures, which were not announced even yet because I knew that from that community, at first when I started actually covering that, people were like, “Hey, how do you know these things already?” We’ve been working closely with Douyin team at that time, the influencer community on Douyin, and then ourselves which had more of the marketing side and providing that directly back to the companies.

influencer community on DouyiN
[Source: a screenshot from China Paradigm interview, “Fabian Ouwehand sharing his experience in managing influencer community on Douyin”]

Matthieu David:  When was it? 2018?

Fabian Ouwehand:  Mid-2017. Douyin has been around for one year at that time. They just started going abroad with TikTok to South Korea, Indonesia, and Japan. Mid-2017, they were still very small and they started blowing up in the first quarter of 2018. Our company started growing at that time too.

Matthieu David:  Are you using ByteDance? Are you using Douyin yourself?

Fabian Ouwehand:  I’m using Douyin. Not that much. When I live in China, I use it a lot because I’m still new in China. I’ve been living there only for a year. I am still learning every single day. Actually, through Douyin, I started to learn a lot about the culture and the way how they approach things, like definitely this young generation because it was a specific type of content on Douyin which is very localized to the Chinese market and very unique to the Chinese market. So I’ve been using it a lot, now less because the content changed a little bit. It’s very addictive. The moment you start doing these things, you get very much sucked into that. But yes, I’m using occasionally Douyin.

Matthieu David:  What are the main functions of Douyin that brands can leverage for marketing? The challenges that a lot of brands had and I think still have, is that they know a lot of people are using Douyin but they don’t really know how to leverage Douyin for marketing. That was the same issue with WeChat at the beginning, then it became easier and easier. The path was very clear with WeChat but at some point, you will have ads in the moment, at some point you will have official accounts. It was pretty obvious that it would happen. For Douyin, it’s less obvious, except maybe advertising like YouTube is doing advertising with the insertion of videos, and so on. Could you tell us more about how brands can leverage Douyin for marketing and maybe share some cases of successful companies?

Fabian Ouwehand:  I think the biggest challenge with Douyin and why still not a lot of brands or at least Western brands because there are hundreds of thousands of Chinese brands already using Douyin, but definitely Western brands, what they find very toughest is content marketing on Chinese social media. I don’t think that that differs from trading video content on Instagram or on YouTube. How many brands are actually creating content on YouTube? There are not many brands who are doing that. And the same is how many brands are creating Instagram TV content? Still not many brands.

I think it’s very tough for brands to tell their stories to people like what we feel. I don’t even know what type of content to create or I don’t have the budget to create high-level commercials or something like that. So that’s a very big challenge for brands that I’ve been seeing. It’s not only tied to Douyin. It’s very short video or every video platform actually out there, it’s very tough for brands.

Then for Douyin specifically, it’s very much user-generated content. People are actually consuming a lot of content created by individuals. So if you go there as a brand account, it’s really tough to create interesting content, probably partly because Douyin will directly push you out with their algorithms because it’s not relevant for the users who are consuming that type of content. But on the other hand, it’s really basically boring to consume brand content on an ad that is all created by users.

I see actually a lot of potential for brands. They built their own influencer community on Douyin from scratch and leveraged our platform with just Douyin or they started using influencers, content marketing on Chinese social media for their accounts because people already enjoy that type of content, just leverage on the people who are really big on the platform and use it for your own channels, or create a different type of content.

I think what you see, for example on YouTube, what brands are doing is that they create more web series or short shows or something like that. I think you can= leverage Douyin for marketing way more. Then a specific type of industry like in the educational industry, ByteDance is putting a lot of effort on Douyin to invest more in educational type of content.

I think there are a lot of different opportunities. But the same is for repurposing existing content you already have in 10-15 seconds and use it in different parts. The same is the idea when you record a podcast for an hour, cut that in different parts and post these things on Facebook or whatever to at least get traction and then different types of content. Gary V is doing that a lot. He published something on YouTube and then he’s cutting these things in small parts.

So I think there’s a big opportunity still for brands to at least get started to leverage Douyin for marketing. But it’s also how far you want to go as a brand in terms of your type of content, what you’re creating on the platform. Do you want to have that in the terms of the type of content which is consumed on Douyin? It’s very down to earth, sometimes stupid content, and not all brands want to associate their brand with this type of content. So it’s really tough.

I think a good case study is what Alipay did is they started editing Jack Ma in a funny way from conferences he’d been back to 15 seconds with a funny song under that, and then they posted in the description like, “I hope my boss doesn’t see this. Otherwise, this might be our last post on the channel.” This is actually the type of content a big company like Alipay is basically publishing on the platform.

For brands that are like, “What type of content is interesting for us? And how can we make that in 10 to 15 seconds?” I think that’s a very big challenge for content marketing on Chinese social media, but I think that counts for more platforms than just Douyin. I definitely believe you can repurpose that for different channels but just leverage on what’s popular right now on Douyin. And can we do something in 10 to 15 seconds? Because that new generation, the younger generation, you have to trigger in 1 or 2 seconds because they can swipe you up and you’re gone. It’s really important to execute good content marketing on Chinese social media in 10 to 15 seconds.

Matthieu David:  Besides getting more views or getting more people watching your content or your name or your logo, is there a way that you have found that you can convert in sales, you can convert in subscribers, you can convert in something more tangible from Douyin to Tmall, to Yihaodian, to followers on some channel to create a stronger community? Because I’m not totally sure that is easy to actually build an influencer community on Douyin compared to WeChat and all the other platforms which are built actually to get followers.

Fabian Ouwehand:  This is the China ecosystem. You have this Tencent ecosystem. They have this Alibaba ecosystem. And now you start getting this ByteDance ecosystem too, right? Because ByteDance is a very new company, it doesn’t have a lot of different types of platforms where they can benefit each other. I think WeChat does it very well. Also, Tencent does it very well. Alibaba does that very well, too. But ByteDance doesn’t really have that. And Tencent is like, “We’re not providing you anything because you’re a competitor on some areas of ours.”

So I think that’s what was very tough for Douyin at the beginning. I think it really depends on what type of company you are and what is the story you want to tell to see if Douyin is actually the right channel for you. I think if you’re selling products like beauty or fashion or even F&B, then Douyin is, I believe, a great channel to do that because there’s a lot of content, a lot of products from content which is consumed on the app.

Then Douyin integrates for e-commerce purposes with Taobao, JD, and Tmall. Basically, it can connect your store to Douyin and sell directly without basically leaving Douyin itself. Or sometimes you get referred to Taobao, but even that the steps are very easy. That could be interesting. In terms of if you’re selling a product, it’s very interesting to leverage Douyin for marketing. Or if you’re, let’s say, the educational industry and you have an English school or whatever then I think it’s very interesting too because you can generate a lot of traction.

Douyin has these short videos of 10 to 15 seconds, which is basically their core feature. But they also have live streaming, they also have stories, they also can post pictures and all these different types of things.

I think for product companies, Douyin is the right channel in a way like you can convert to sales because it’s relatively easy compared with, let’s say, WeChat to generate traction because it’s a very random app. ByteDance is a very strong AI machine learning but basically filters out the right people for your type of content. That’s why you see a lot of influencers grew very fast in a short amount of time because they directly got the right audience proposed to them.

I’ve been seeing influencers who are selling hundreds of thousands of lipsticks with just a couple of videos because they have that right audience and directly the e-commerce integration is great. But I think if you want to get more subscribers on whatever then it’s enough because it doesn’t integrate with anything yet in that sense. It only stays in that ByteDance ecosystem.

Matthieu David:  You mentioned several times education as a sector that could leverage Douyin. I understand that one of the concepts could be within 10 to 15 seconds to teach something very efficiently, very directly, let’s say for instance, how to use your iPhone, how to increase the light on your iPhone, how to put a new password on your iPhone, and to learn a lot from it. Do you have some examples that had been successful in the educational sector? And it’s successful for what? Because they may have got a lot of views but then what for?

Fabian Ouwehand:  I haven’t seen many brands out there. There were a couple of English teaching apps out there on Douyin or even English schools who are trying to promote their brand for Douyin through that very short time of content. But the most successful still have been influencer marketing in China. I think that’s what a lot of brands forget because they don’t know how Douyin could scale that fast and they created that influencer community on Douyin from the start which basically has been the main reason of growth, at least how I see it, in terms of the growth of Douyin. I think you have to leverage Douyin for marketing, especially on these people who understand the app and basically realize that whole growth for Douyin and the reason why Douyin is as big as today.

I think influencers have been very successful in it and they have been doing a lot of different brand collaborations because they already have that audience. But I think if you’re, let’s say, the school, just get an influencer to start creating content for you. Hire them as content marketers and start growing your own channel on Douyin. But yes, again, this doesn’t directly convert immediately to new clients or something like that.

I think that’s something, in general, that’s missing in China. I think growth marketing and growth hacking, being more analytical in that sense, and to follow building and customer journeys. That’s still very tough in China. There’s not a clear funnel. You cannot see a conversion rate at every funnel stage was this and that. So I think that’s something that I’m generally missing a lot in China. But yes, I think that counts the same for WeChat sometimes, or Weibo. It’s still very tough to create a clear funnel at the end of the day to conversion.

You can create a lot of awareness, which will probably lead to indirect sales. But if you want to sell and you want to get immediate results then you have to start selling products like in the beauty/fashion industry, for example. Otherwise, probably Douyin is not the right channel, but I think Douyin could be a nice challenge for your brand to see, “Can we actually make sense in 10 to 15 seconds to our friends or our consumers or something like that?” You can use it as a channel to challenge yourself if you can provide a lot of value in these couple of seconds.

Matthieu David:  I feel Douyin could be equivalent to billboards when you buy space in airports or in a metro station to gain awareness, for your message to be seen, even if you cannot convert immediately. You mentioned that you know about Douyin because you are close to the influencer community on Douyin. But aside from that, how do you stay informed? How do you stay up to date? Because it’s a very Chinese ecosystem? A lot of things are in Chinese? How do you stay up to date to know all the stories and how it works?

Fabian Ouwehand:  We started building our own influencer community on Douyin. We have a WeChat group and different influencers are in it. So if we have new brand collaborations, we will post it there. But we will also discuss certain things. Besides that, there are a lot of different influencer communities on Douyin, categorized per industry, where also Douyin is involved. A couple of people from the Douyin team are in that group, some MCNs (multi-channel networks) are involved, and then you have influencers who are involved.

Because we have that close relationship with influencers community on Douyin, we hear a lot from them very fast but also because we still have strong ties with some people at Douyin itself, we can just send them messages like, “Hey, does this work? Does that work? Hey, this and that.” They can see how we stay involved, so we can trigger ourselves basically on the database because this app is developing so quickly. They have all the time new features and stuff like that which they don’t even announce. So we try to stay ahead of the curve when talking to these different stakeholders basically involved in the whole product development and who are using the app every single day.

Matthieu David:  One last topic I’d like to talk with you is something you mentioned at the beginning actually, is that you want to help or you’re already helping Chinese influencers to go outside of China. What does it mean? Because most of them speak Chinese, I believe most of them don’t have very good English. How do you want to help them to go out of China? Is it to influence Chinese travelers? Is it to actually give them feasibility with foreign brands to go outside? What did you mean by saying helping them to go overseas?

Fabian Ouwehand:  We work with a couple of influencers very close, where we work on a daily basis with them. Some of them want to work with more foreign brands so they want to get their presence out of China. Just to get more these opportunities, but also see what they can learn from the Western social media, their behavior, etc. and apply that back to the content marketing on Chinese social media, but also more for their personal experience and personal development. They’re very Chinese, most of them indeed don’t speak English at all, but they’re still very interested in what’s happening in the U.S., what’s happening in Southeast Asia, and what’s happening in Europe.

We’re actually helping them to grow on these different channels. We’re helping, for example, one influencer right now on Instagram, and in a couple of months time, she grew from zero to – I think she’s now on 70,000 fans on Instagram, just in a few months by repurposing her Chinese content and putting English descriptions on the posts and stuff like that. We’re helping her with that.

But what we’re also doing is we’re creating journeys for influencers right now and actually focus on Western brands focusing on Chinese tourism. In a couple of weeks, we’re flying two influencers over to Europe and have a two-week trip around Europe or even different brand collaborations where they can learn from Western brands and how to work with them but directly create content for their Chinese channels. We’re doing these journeys now. We’re planning different types of journeys for them. So that is the other way around. We’re helping them grow in these Western channels and we’re helping them with YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, but we’re also doing these journeys and actually leveraging more their Chinese channels but working with Western brands out of China.

Matthieu David:  With your client, is it the influencer who is paying you or is it the city for tourism who’s paying you?

Fabian Ouwehand:  The clients are paying, not the influencers. What we basically do with the influencers – because we have this influencer community on Douyin and other social media, we have the luxury to see who has the most potential in our opinion. We’ve been working with influencers for the last couple of years, so we know who has the potential to also grow out of China. Because I’ve been doing some marketing in Southeast Asia, so we know different markets. I’m from Europe myself, so that makes things also easier. We do get commission-based.

For example, now with the trip, we’re doing a trip to Europe for about two weeks, right? Usually, brands don’t want to spend all their budgets on flying someone over, paying for a couple of days to create maybe one or two pieces of content. But what we’re doing now is we fly people over for two weeks and we’re working with 20 different brands and create 20 different pieces of content, then the brand doesn’t have to take all their budget out. They basically just pay for the content that is created, because we can cover it because we’re working with multiple brands at the same time. That basically lowers directly the costs and the budgets the brands require.

Plus, at the same time, you’re giving a great experience to the influencers. It’s their first time in Europe, they’ve never been to Europe. They work with luxury brands across Europe. They have nice experiences. They will visit the castles in Germany, all these different types of experiences, which influencers value a lot in terms of it’s not always about the money, it’s sometimes also about the experiences. And if you can offer both, it’s basically the perfect solution for that. Then they’re way more willing to collaborate with you but also with the brand. We are trying to create experiences around basically our collaborations.

Matthieu David:  Congratulations on everything you achieved. I feel that you have achieved a lot for influencer marketing in China within a very short time, like two years, two years and a half.

Fabian Ouwehand:  It goes really fast. It really goes fast. It’s really cool. I think it gives us so much opportunity definitely when we work very closely with these influencers. We actually have now very big influencers from the West contacting us like, “Hey, I want to get into China. Can we do something together?” So it’s super interesting to actually see also these Westerners who want to get into China. We’re going to do these collaborations now.

As I mentioned earlier, we’re doing that conference. We’re actually doing three conferences, one in Hong Kong, one in Amsterdam, and one in Toronto. We basically localize it, but we get influencer marketing in China to every city, but also Western influencers, we get them together with the brands too. Basically, talk about how to become a better influencer and how do we want to work with brands, and what do brands expect from influencer marketing in China. It’s really cool to see how this is developing, also with more influencers who pay instead of just content marketing on Chinese social media and running promotions through them. How can we get way more out of them instead of just these advertisements through them or something?

Matthieu David:  Very interesting. I feel especially interesting, Fabian, is that you have been able to understand Douyin people and influencer community on Douyin, and that’s a very unique positioning you have, unique access. It’s very impressive. Thanks, Fabian, for your time. Thanks for taking part of your Sunday to talk to us, and I hope you enjoyed. I hope everyone also enjoyed listening to talk. Bye-bye.

Fabian Ouwehand:  Awesome.

China paradigm is a China business podcast sponsored by Daxue Consulting where we interview successful entrepreneurs about their businesses in China. You can access all available episodes from the China paradigm Youtube page.

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