You want to improve your ROI on your Marketing campaign in China? Identify fake influencers, and only work with real one. Usually real influencers (whatever the price) bring real results.
An influencer can be powerful for your brand – but only if you choose wisely. Everywhere brands have to fight against fake influencers, fake followers and fake engagement.
In China, influencer marketing is more extreme in both the impact of KOLs as well as the faking issue. So how do you spot the real deal?
This article is dedicated to helping you filter out fake influencers as well as providing you effective strategies for your next influencer marketing campaigns.
Social media in China is crammed with fake accounts
Chinese social media is full of fake accounts with fakes followers and fake comments.
On Weibo, one of the largest social media platforms in China, cheating is very common, The same is true for WeChat.
It’s no secret that everyone can buy following and engagement for a cheap price on Taobao.
On September 29th, 2016, a change to the WeChat system communication port exposed the fact that many top WeChat accounts were not as popular as they appear; these accounts included some big-name KOLs and even some official brand accounts.
The difference between the real numbers and displayed information was staggering.
The September 28th total view count for “yinghuanlee”, the WeChat account of an influential Chinese tech blogger, tumbled from 27,000 average daily clicks during the week before to just 1,000. “luochaotmt” – another high-profile tech account, had 200 views that day, far below its weekly average of 10,000 views.
The staggering difference between the real number of page views and the apparent data of articles published by some popular official WeChat accounts. Photo: Tencent Technology
Social media in China is developing so fast. Multiple platforms were born and change the way Chinese people live in every aspect.
Social media gives everyone more channels to share their thoughts, exchange information, and learn new things. It fosters the growth of influencer culture in China.
Thanks to social media, ordinary people can become famous, and make a fortune out of this career.
Motivated by the earning potential and possible fame, many digital-savvy Chinese are joining the influencer ranks.
There are reportedly over 1 million influencers in China who have more than 10,000 followers on social media.
According to a Chinese job survey, 54 percent of Chinese born after 1995 chose “influencer” as their most desired occupation.
With so many content creators out there and common occurrences of fake engagement, it can be challenging to know who is going to bring you a good return on investment.
Step by step to avoid fake influencers and evaluate the real performance of influencers
Brands can apply the following check to control the authenticity of your influencer’s audience and avoid targeting fake followers:
- Account engagement rate: You can quickly calculate the average engagement rate of your targeted influencer based on their most recent posts.
If engagement levels are low, that’s a red flag.
For example, a KOL with hundreds of thousands of followers, but only 20 “likes” on a Weibo post, is a sign of fake followers.
It means they either paid for followers or don’t really engage with their community, both of which are far from ideal when choosing to work with them.
- Post Engagement: Compare between likes and comments. It is unusual if a post gets thousands of likes yet no comments.
Likes and followers are easy to purchase inauthentically. Because of that, the only way to know whether someone is really an influencer or not is to see how their audience interacts with them.
However, comments can also be bought. Therefore, you should take a step further by checking some comments of the most popular posts to see if the comments are relevant to the caption or image. Simple and general comments which can be applied for any topic such as “nice”, “beautiful” or emojis are usually fake comments from bots.
Watch out for Weibo comments written by users with names made up of mostly digits, for example @Inke2090472821998. These are usually paid followers or bots.
- Post Engagement evolution: Check the engagement for several posts to make sure there is no dubious peaks.
Mapping out historical data such as engagement and recent follower activity gives you a picture of how influencers develop their accounts over time.
A comparison of traffic generated by fake and real KOLs account. Photo: Courtesy of Robin8
Above are some pictures illustrating the page view (PV) data of both real and fake KOLs.
We can see that the PV data of real KOLs increases gradually and steadily over time. However, the PV data of fake ones usually witnesses a sharp and unnatural, noncontinuous growth.
- Go with your gut:
If an influencer is only looking to get paid, and isn’t actually contributing ideas to how they can make a campaign successful, I would think that they either aren’t a real influencer, or just aren’t worth hiring.
Recommended strategies for your influencer marketing campaigns
In the past, the conventional wisdom was the more popular an influencer was, the better reach a product could get and thus better ROI.
These days, customers are becoming more knowledgeable and sophisticated, so they demand a more personal experience, more authenticity and more profound expertise from both brands and KOLs to follow and be influenced.
Invest in Micro-Influencers
- Micro-influencers focus on a certain niche and have built around them a small but close-knit community of followers.
- They are not celebrity-based KOLs who possess huge following but can be targeted for any niche or product type.
- Micro-influencers construct their fame on quality content and active interaction with their fans.
- More and more brands realize that working with a niche influencer with a unique point of view about their brand might generate better results than a top-tier influencer who is likely also working with their competitors.
- Moreover, content that performs well among an influencer’s core followers will be promoted to a larger audience pool, triggering a viral effect. Thanks to this algorithm of social media platforms, a micro-influencer’s content could gain tens of thousands of views overnight.
- Brands that invest in small influencers at an early stage are likely to receive a better return on investment.
Hungry for opportunities, many micro-influencers charge a lot less for brand collaborations compared to an established influencer.
In 2016, Gucci worked with micro-influencer Trevor Andrew, who gained an initial following for turning the brand’s bed sheets into a Halloween ghost costume, to create a special collection. The collection became a huge success for Gucci.
Because most micro-influencers started within a small community or region, they tend to have deep connections with their base. Brands could leverage these connections to organize offline events, drive direct sales or collect product insights.
By spreading out the budget that was once allocated to a handful of big KOLs among thousands of micro-influencers you may be able to boost your ROI dramatically.
Leverage your Super fans and long-tailed influencers
A super fan is a person who likes your brand so much, that they enjoy sharing their love for your product or brand with their friends more often than average followers.
By using referral programs or other creative incentives, businesses and brands can reward their most enthusiastic customers for sharing products and services through their own channels.
Even though an individual’s reach can be limited, the voice is authentic and extremely influential to their social network. If you can encourage a large number of super fans to talk about you, this creates invaluable effect.
Long-tail influencers, like super fans, enjoy presenting themselves as knowledge resources on social media. Both types of fans love to share what they know, and they will interact with your brand and with their friends more often than others on social media.
Free Tips : Your employees are also your brand ambassadors
Employee advocacy programs are also becoming a part of digital marketing culture, in many industries.
Staff are becoming influencers themselves for the company brand, and in some cases becoming thought leaders in their professional niches.
Think of creative ways to let your employees show their love and voice on social media about the brands that they are working every day to build.
Look Beyond the Border
Many Chinese consumers find brands that are not available in China to be particularly appealing.
For brands that have yet to enter the China market or are cross-border selling in this country, Chinese influencers who reside outside China are often the best partners.
These influencers, many of whom were students studying abroad, are considered local insiders and trendsetters in their adopted hometown. They can contribute to your early reputation in China even though you are not officially there yet.
When these influencers move back to China, they tend to have a stronger appeal to brands for their early exposure to the brand culture.
Despite its restricted access in China, Instagram has become the preferred social media platform for China’s digital-savvy, English-speaking elite class.
Chinese consumers even invented the term “Ins Style,” a play on the word Instagram, to describe aesthetically appealing content.
Western brands that are interested in the China market should consider getting their product on Chinese Intagrammers’ radar.
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