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The Story of Huawei and 11 Influencers

Mark Jackson

Mar 8, 2024

It’s hard to find a global brand who is truly transparent about its marketing strategy. Huawei is one of these brands. In a recent blog post by Joy Tan, Huawei’s president of global media and communications explained what made the company start an influencer marketing program and what she learned from running the program for a year:

A Silent Leader Seeks a Voice

A bit of background. Huawei is a Chinese multinational communications company with a sales revenue of $60b. The company is the third biggest seller of smartphones after Samsung and Apple.

It’s a huge company but not as known brand as its competitors.

To learn more about the company positioning in the market, Huawei hired a research firm to analyze what people know about the brand. Part of the research was interviewing Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) from all around the world and hear what they think about the brand.

The research found that people were aware of Huawei, but not much about the company’s products and history. And so the company decided to tackle this problem by launching an influencer marketing program, or as they call it, a KOL program.

Tip: Learn how Meltwater Influencer Marketing helped Huawei develop a successful influencer strategy.

The Ideal Number of Influencers

Huawei’s criteria for an influencer was a technology and business social media opinion leader with at least 30,000 followers. The company aimed to engage a maximum of 80 people. They spoke with influencers, had meetings with them, and even flew to meet them all over the world. The company invested good time and effort into creating and nurturing relationships with the opinion leaders they’ve identified.

If the number of 80 people seems relatively small, wait to hear what were Tan’s thoughts after a year. When the year ended, Tan has concluded that “it becomes challenging to do one-on-one influencer marketing with more than about 80 KOLs. In fact, if the KOLs are sufficiently engaged (which is a good thing), the ideal number might be closer to 50.”

The ROI of the Chosen Ones

During September 2016 Huawei hosted the Huawei Connect conference in Shanghai, China. The conference invited 20,000 people and showcased the latest technologies in various fields, like cloud computing, Internet of Things, big data.

To raise awareness for the event and to Huawei, the company invited tech influencers. They didn’t invite all of them, but just a selected group of influencers.

Among the people, there were these 11 leaders:

  1. Travis Wright
  2. Robert Scoble
  3. Adel de Meyer
  4. Peter Shankman
  5. Glen Gilmore
  6. Marsha Collier
  7. Chris Rauschnot
  8. Hillel Fuld
  9. Partick Moorhead
  10. Diana Adams
  11. Bill Cody

Inviting those influencers proved itself to be a smart move by Huawei. Let’s take a look at some of the social updates they shared during the event:

11 Influencers Reaching 4 Million People

For Huawei, it was worthwhile to focus on these highly active and friendly influencers. Here is the social media outcome the group generated about Huawei Connect 2016:

  • 258 Twitter mentions
  • 42 Instagram mentions
  • 51 Facebook mentions
  • 16,900 total engagements: 7.2k on Twitter, 6.4 on Instagram, 3.6 on Facebook
  • 116,000 views of Facebook Live posts
  • True Reach: 4.6 million people
  • Potential ROI: $128,900

Note that the True Reach of the influencers’ social updates is not just a simple measure of impressions (sum of their followers). This number is a calculated estimation of the people who actually saw the content on Twitter and Instagram. For a company that aims to raise brand awareness, that’s a huge win.

Based on the true reach of the content, the exposure was worth for the company about $128.9k (this ROI estimation is based on the average CPM in display advertising, with a 13x multiplier to match it with earned content compared to paid).

“For the first year of our KOL program (Key Opinion Leaders), I’ve been impressed with the quality of professionals Huawei has attracted, their high levels of engagement, and the passion they have for our brand,”

said Walter Jennings, Vice President, Corporate Communications at Huawei.

“We’re looking at long term relationships with each, yet we are thrilled with these immediate results.”

To sum up, having a personal connection with the KOLs, inviting them to China and giving them full creative freedom to share their experiences, proved itself as a great opportunity for the company to get effective exposure online.

Get started with the right pool of influencers

After running the KOLs program for a year, Tan’s advice was to get started with a well-identified pool of influencers and invest the time and efforts on developing relationships with them. If you need any help finding influencers for your KOL program, and later measure the influencer program’s performance, try using Meltwater Influencer Marketing.

As can be seen from the company’s event, having the right pool of social leaders on your side can boost brand awareness with a great return on investment.