6 Influencer Marketing Fails and How to Avoid Them

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6 Influencer Marketing Fails and How to Avoid Them

While we at PARKLU are obviously big proponents of influencer marketing, we can’t deny that plenty of things can go wrong when working with influencers. Many influencer marketing fails stem from miscommunication, mismanaged expectations, insufficient market knowledge, and a lack of clarity from the brand.

Here is the most common influencer marketing fails and how to avoid them.

influencer marketing fails

#1. Influencer Content Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

Sometimes brands aren’t satisfied with the influencers’ content. In many cases, though, this is not entirely the influencer’s fault.

Here’s an example.

A brand is working with a WeChat influencer and expects 80 percent of an article to be about the brand. When it’s published, they discover that the figure is closer to 20 percent. Or with more visual posts, only 10 out of 40 images in an article feature the product.

As a paying sponsor you might be asking, “Shouldn’t the entire post be about us?”

But that’s not how influencer marketing works.

The influencer cannot merely write an advertisement for your product. They must craft a story which involves your product that’s also enjoyable for their audience to read.

If you want a greater portion of the content to be about your brand or product, you must offer the influencer a compelling content opportunity. Is there enough interesting source material for them to use?

As we discussed in a previous article, the majority of content-related issues occur when brands and influencers don’t communicate clearly through the campaign brief. Ideally, whenever you collaborate with an influencer, you should provide a campaign outline with everything from basic info to detailed content requirements. Campaign briefs might seem like a lot of effort up-front, but they prevent headaches in the long run.

Another thing to consider: Sometimes you, the brand, might not like the content. But if the influencer stands behind it, you should consider trusting the influencer and giving them creative freedom. They know their audience better than you do.

Famous China influencer David Gulasi

David Gulasi

Famous China influencer David Gulasi shared a content fail experience.

He produced a video for a brand and the brand didn’t like it. They felt the product wasn’t prominently featured.

They asked David to redo the video and he reluctantly agreed while telling them this video would not do as well as the first.

Sure enough, as soon as he posted the second video (which the brand loved) his followers started posting negative comments. They said he sold out – that he was only trying to make money off of Chinese people.

David immediately removed the post and posted the original video the next day. Fans loved it and the brand – in the end – was extremely happy with the results.

Choosing the Wrong Influencers

#2. Choosing the Wrong Influencers

Even if the influencer does their best, influencer marketing won’t work if you use the wrong type of influencers, or not enough of them.

A very common mistake that smaller international brands make when they first enter China is believing that their limited marketing budget means they should work with several smaller influencers first then build from there. However, in China, smaller brands should work with larger influencers (at least mid-tier) in the beginning to establish their reputation.

If you’re going to go the grassroots-influencer-route, you’re going to need hundreds of influencers to have any real impact. Working with a couple dozen isn’t going to move the needle.

And If you really don’t have the budget, at least give away your product to several hundred influencers in the hope that you’ll get some exposure.

You Send the Influencer a Gift and They Don’t Post About It

#3. You Send the Influencer a Gift and They Don’t Post About It

Product seeding or gifting can be a great way to develop a relationship with an influencer and possibly get some free exposure, but don’t expect it. Influencers receive tons of gifts and they’re simply not going to post about everything.

A couple things to think about if you want to improve your chances: Is the product unique enough that they will want to share it? What about the packaging?

Even if your product is a box of pasta, make it special. Put the box of pasta in a photogenic container combined with other gifts like spices and a recipe book. Make your gift thoughtful. Make it stand out. 

Results Don’t Meet KPIs

#4. Results Don’t Meet KPIs

Generally, influencer marketing KPIs are tied to sales or exposure. However, both can be difficult to measure in China. In many cases, it’s not that the influencer had bad results. Rather, the brand was using the wrong KPIs.

While WeChat mini-programs might eventually make sales KPIs easier to track, they are currently much harder to calculate in China than in the West. Chinese social media platforms are very insular and make it nearly impossible to connect to e-commerce platforms other than their partners. For example, WeChat does not allow links to Taobao or Tmall, while Weibo doesn’t allow links to JD.com.

Also, in China, user behavior is different. When a user sees a product in a social media post, they often search around for the item on multiple platforms to compare prices. Instead of measuring campaign success only by the influencer’s ability to directly drive sales through a link, brands should look for spikes in searches for the product on Taobao and Baidu around the time of the campaign.

When it comes to awareness-building campaigns, KPIs tend to be heavily influenced by the person running them. A Chinese social media account manager is likely to focus on follower acquisition, while a marketing manager will be more interested in measuring impressions and engagement. These KPIs require different campaign strategies.

The Brand Is Unprepared

#5. The Brand Is Unprepared

Live-streaming is a popular and highly effective marketing tool in China. Brands frequently invite influencers to live-stream at press conferences and events, as well as host e-commerce live-streaming shows. Yet, brands don’t always provide the right environment for streamers to achieve optimum results and so it’s primed for influencer marketing fails.

The most common issue is a bad event location with a poor internet signal. One streamer shared how she was invited to attend a press conference in the basement of a hotel where she could barely get 3G coverage.

The event organizers prepared Wi-Fi, but overlooked the fact their roughly 50 live-streamer invitees plus hundreds of journalists would be trying to use the internet at the same time. They could barely stream.

Antoine Bunal France China’s top food influencers

Top F&B influencer Antoine Bunal shared a story about a very large international brand that hired him for a cooking show. The brand was responsible for the set and equipment. But when Antoine showed up to do the show, there was no electricity to power the cooking equipment that he was supposed to be using and promoting. The show was scheduled to begin and there was still no electricity, so Antoine had to improvise, entertain the audience, and tell stories until the problem was resolved.

Content Gets Taken Down or Reach is Throttled

#6. Content Gets Taken Down or Reach is Throttled 

Over the past year, several Chinese social media platforms including Weibo and Meipai have started adding new restrictions related to sponsored content and external links. Sponsored content on Weibo must now be approved by Weibo’s official influencer marketing platform Weirenwu or risk being taken down. On top of that, Weibo posts including external links, QR codes, or mentioning WeChat will automatically have their reach throttled. It was also recently discovered that Weibo is now blocking users from sharing videos from Douyin, a popular short video app.

Many of these new rules have not been announced publicly. Many brands and even some influencers are still unaware of them. Therefore, it is important for brands to stay up-to-date on platform regulations so content reach remains unaffected.

While mistakes and issues are hard to avoid in the ever-changing world of Chinese social media, these tips will help you elude some of the most common influencer marketing fails.


The Dark Arts of Chinese Agencies and a Plea for Brands to Stop Using Only the Top 1% of Influencers with Elijah Whaley

Want more influencer marketing fails? In the latest episode of China Influencer Marekting podcast, PARKLU’s CMO, Eljiah Whaley, talks about the dark side of Chinese marketing agencies that he has experienced while running an in-demand beauty influencer brand alongside his girlfriend Meilim Fu.

Topics including:

  • How easy it is to fake your way to the top
  • Why brands should stop repeatedly working with only 1% of influencers and give the other 99% a chance
  • Opportunities for brands with mid/micro/long tail influencers
  • The new trend of influencer-run creative agencies

Listen to the podcast HERE


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By | 2018-05-03T17:52:35+00:00 March 29th, 2018|Influencer Marketing, Marketing Strategy|3 Comments

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3 Comments

  1. […] to get tangible results – the faster, the better. However, an expectation of immediate returns is unrealistic for brands that have not laid the groundwork in China. In other words, they need to focus on […]

  2. […] Contrary to general belief, new China market entrants should initially spend a large portion of their marketing budgets to collaborate with top-tier KOLs. As mentioned above, top-tier KOLs can help you lay the foundation and establish a positive reputation for your brand. Once they’ve done that, it will be easier to engage with mid-tier and micro-KOLs who may have been hesitant to work with a small unknown brand. Furthermore, the stronger your reputation, the more effective product seeding with micro-KOLs will be. […]

  3. […] Gulasi, a Chinese influencer, created a video for a brand, but they didn’t like it. They felt that the product wasn’t showcased well. So they […]

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