Interview With Ashley Galina Dudarenok
We are honored today to have talked with Ashley Galina Dudarenok, author, vlogger, influencer, and Chinese marketing expert about her new book release “Digital China: Working with Bloggers, Influencers and KOLs”.
Dudarenok is also a startup wizard, having founded both Alarice, “a Hong Kong-based digital marketing agency with afocus on social media” and ChoZan, “a training and resources company helping marketers and CEOs torealize their marketing goals in China and globally” (from LinkedIn).
Purchase the book now if you want to expand your scope on what influencing outside of the United States is like and become a more informed global marketer. Available on Amazon today!
Nicole Scott: Hello Ashley! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us about your upcoming release. First of all, what are a couple of things our readers should know about you immediately to better understand you and what you’re trying to accomplish?
Ashley Galina Dudarenok: My pleasure. I guess the first thing to know is that I’m a marketer focussed on social media marketing in China. I’m an entrepreneur and I’m an influencer myself. I’m passionate about China and, having lived there, studied there and worked there during a time of great transformation, I have my own special history with and insider view of China.
I love sharing my insights on China and introducing China to the world.
I started vlogging in 2017 to share that expertise, and that brought me amazing opportunities, such as mainstream media asking me to write for them, starting a podcast, being asked to be a member of Alibaba’s Global Influencer Group, being invited to join JD’s influencer group and so much more. All of this culminated in the publication of my first book earlier this year.
Nicole: You’ve already released one book, Unlocking the World’s Largest E-market: A Guide to Selling on Chinese Social Media. How is the release of your new book Digital China: Working with Bloggers, Influencers and KOLs different? How do you feel it will impact the industry in a new way?
Ashley: The second book is on a niche and sexier topic that falls under digital marketing in China. It was touched on in chapters of my first book but we didn’t go into detail the way we can in this book. The biggest difference is that the second book is co-authored so the working process was different and it was great to work with another expert on the topic.
The experience launching the first book helped as work processes behind the scenes and the release went more smoothly.
There’s also more information not just from us, but from other experts, such as Chinese KOLs themselves. Marketers and brand managers now have a place to go and learn from our expertise. We hope it helps them better understand the influencer landscape in China and how to work effectively with bloggers to get even better results. I think through this kind of communication, the standards are getting higher and we’re all getting more savvy.
Nicole: It’s not often we see this side of the digital world since a lot of the attention is focused on American and sometimes European perspectives.
Can you give us some insight into how these KOLs (key opinion leaders) differ from our western perception of “social media influencers”? What’s a day in their life like?
Ashley: Well, KOls in China have been around for much longer than in the West and they have much larger audiences than many Western influencers. Numbers have a different meaning in China due to the large population.
There are also more influencers and more platforms. I guess a lot of the differences come down to that word “more”. More pressure, more content, more money in the market, more sales, different platforms, different ways of working etc.
Nicole: So would you say then that KOLs are just as inherently important to the world of marketing in China as it is in the West? And if so, would you say they influence more or less than our image of a social media influencer?
Ashley: I’d say that they’re more important in China and have more influence. In the West, people have a different relationship with companies and traditional advertising and fewer trust issues in terms of that kind of advertising.
Companies and ads have been regulated for decades. In China, there have been issues of trust in companies and their products from piracy to toxic ingredients. Traditional ads don’t have the power they once did and the market is flooded with them. Influencers, on the other hand, who have a good reputation and close relationship with their fans and followers, are trusted.
Nicole: With this in mind, do you think if Western companies want to extend their marketing into China, should companies, startups, and businesses shift their approach to being more of a KOL themselves or could they use the strategies of a social media influencer? Why would maintaining the mentality of Western e-marketing be effective or not?
Ashley: A typical Western approach wouldn’t be effective, as the market is just so different culturally, economically, content-wise and platform-wise.
Western companies should definitely craft China-specific strategies, like giving more content and format freedom to key opinion leaders, being bold with new platforms like Douyin and so on.
KOL marketing in China is even more important in your total marketing mix. And as Chinese influencers sell, they are also much more expensive and much more picky with the products, content and angles they promote.
Nicole: So you do think Western influencers have a lot to learn from China as far as being effective e-marketers and vice versa?
Ashley: Yes, both can and do learn from each other. Western influencers can learn from the way Chinese KOLs build their own brands and online retail channels all online, without using reality TV, risque content, controversy and without using other channels, while maintaining a loyal following. They can learn from the way they jump on hot topics and always maintain a positive tone. The level of content creativity in China is also high.
There are so many KOLs in China and the competition is fierce, so they need to innovate even more. While Chinese bloggers can learn to use Western channels even more. Few, apart from Papi Jiang, have really given it a go.
They can also learn from Korean pop stars who use Western social media well and are building larger and larger audiences outside of Asia.
Nicole: To wrap this all up, what is the one takeaway you would like readers to carry with them once they read that final page?
Ashley: KOLs in China are crucial for effective marketing
For it to be effective you must step into their world and work together. They should be treated as partners, not as a sales channel.