SINGAPORE: The online influencer (Wang Hong) market in China is big, about to get bigger and brands are only skimming the surface of the possibilities it offers, according to industry figures.

"It's definitely not a bubble," said Maggie Zhou, who oversees development and investment in her role as China Media Capital (CMC) Holdings co-president.

"China is a very mature market for Wang Hong, and brands have to make good use of it," she told an audience at the All That Matters conference in Singapore. (For more, including how brands can create effective KOL strategies, read Warc's exclusive report: Building an influencer strategy in China: Behind the US$8 billion industry.)

And she's prepared to back that up with hard cash, as CMC has invested heavily in VS Media, a media network company that works with over 500 online influencers in China, creating more than 300 hours of content and attracting 400m views every month.

Ivy Wong, CEO of VS Media, noted that many brands regarded China as a big and "very scary" market, but argued that influencers can be an effective way to build a brand and generate sales.

"The whole Wang Hong thing gives brands a good opportunity to go in [to the market]," she said and recommended that they first look to work with up-and-coming specialists, rather than the so-called Super Wang Hong who command fan bases of 10 million or more.

"They are focused on one category, for example, a dog trainer, a mum who cooks food only for babies, someone who does hair," she explained, "They are all specialists in one particular interest."

There are more than one million influencers with at least 10,000 fans or subscribers in China, and more than 100,000 influencers with at least one million subscribers.

And such low-to-middle tier influencers can offer more targeting options while also costing less and delivering a better ROI.

The online influencer market is worth an estimated $8bn but such is the speed of its development that Wong estimated it will be valued at $12bn next year.

Data sourced from Warc