The recent controversy over a case of an alleged KOL and a multi-channel network (MCN) agency manipulating account data has caused a stir in marketing circles. The MCN agency helped the entrepreneur get a verified “Big V” influencer account with over 3 million followers, and the KOL’s campaign video received several million views and was shared thousands of times. In more than a thousand comments, purported Weibo users declared they had bought the product, which stirred the topic of fake followers.
In spite of all this, the campaign achieved total conversions of… zero.
We’ll say no more about that particular incident since everyone’s probably familiar with the details. Everyone likely also knows that this entrepreneur’s product is really simply a deliberate attempt to exploit unwitting consumers.
Sales Take Being In The Right Place At The Right Time
For the time being, let’s not discuss manipulating the numbers. In our previous article, What Marketers Need to Know about Live Commerce, I talked about the skills influencers need in order to deal with brands.
Whenever I come across a brand using influencers to sell goods, I tell them, there is so much to learn with influencers. Even if a blogger has promoted someone else’s products, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be the right fit for you. First of all, consider whether the blogger’s tone matches your brand positioning. Secondly, is the product itself attractive (considering vitality, packaging design, originality, and so on)? Next, are you offering the product at a competitive price?
If the product itself is not attractive, even Li Jiaqi (and no, Li Jiaqi’s not going to work with you) will not necessarily bring you sales.
I recently encountered a relatively unknown brand that did not want to make concessions on the price of its product, yet still wanted bloggers to promote them. The brand said, “We are targeting high-end users, we don’t want tight-fisted customers”. Meanwhile, one of the brand’s competitors offered heavy discounts every time it teamed up with bloggers on promotions. This fosters not only brand awareness but also a steady stream of new customers, leaving the brand that is unwilling to promote, with a bloody nose. Even brands like Starbucks have offered unprecedented discounts in their recent live streaming promotions.
How To Spot Fake Followers
False data is really nothing new in the industry. Top-end influencers are too expensive, and that encourages the emergence of a crop of fake influencers. This phenomenon is caused precisely by brands paying excessive attention to data when in reality the bloggers who achieve the most effective sales interact with fans frequently and have a high “stickiness” factor. This phenomenon is not limited to Weibo—the fakers exist on every social platform, from Douyin to Xiaohongshu and Meitu.
As a brand, if you can’t discern bots from real followers, you’re neglecting your duty.
So how can you spot an account’s bot followers? There are numerous ways a brand can find a suitable KOL to work with by identifying fake followers before it’s too late.
Tactic 1: Use the blogger’s content to observe the quality of their fans
1) Quality of followers’ comments: Observe the blogger’s previous posts about products with similar brand positioning to yours and read their followers’ comments. How many hardcore fans do they have? Do they frequently interact with fans? Do they respond to every question? You can also use this to see what that blogger’s followers’ demands are for products featured in similar campaigns.
A few tell-tale signs of a blogger who pads his/her account with fake followers include: comments on posts are often perfunctory; most of the comments are blocked; all the comments about the product are positive, and very few comments are related to the KOL themselves.
2) Observe their engagement over time: Not every post is going to have the same level of engagement—they’ll likely vary depending on whether the image is a photo of a person or a product. If engagement is extremely consistent throughout, it’s may not be real. It’s also worth observing where the engagement is coming from. Could it be from other influencers or industry contacts? If so, this engagement is likely garnered through this KOL’s connections to give viewers the illusion of engagement, without any return to back it up.
3) Check the number of daily posts that are sponsored: If most of a blogger’s posts to their personal account are sponsored by brands, then you can pass on them. Most people don’t want to spend every day following an advertising-based account. You can identify sponsored posts by spotting features like mentions of a brand account using the “@” symbol, e-commerce links, or coupon codes.
Tactic 2: Judge whether a blogger has the ability to help you sell
1) Figure out if KOL has a wide reach: Check the blogger’s social media platforms to find out whether they have their own sales channels (Taobao, Weidian, mini-programs, and so on). If the blogger has the necessary distribution channels and capacity to sell, most of their content will lean in this direction.
2) Find KOL case studies for sales of similar products: In the comments, we can see whether responses from followers mentioned things like price or the brand name, or asked for links. From this aspect, we can discern the KOL’s ability to inspire purchasing desire in their followers.
Tactic 3: Use a social listening tool
In order to solve this problem that concerns all marketers, PARKLU has developed an “active fans” algorithm.
First, when you log in to enter the PARKLU back-end page, click on “search,” type in the name of the blogger you wish to find, and pull up the detailed page about them. You can choose one of the blogger’s active social media platforms and see their post history and other metrics for the past 3, 6 and 12 months. The blogger’s follower number is accompanied by the “fan activity” tag, and PARKLU’s algorithm ranks the level of activity from “A” to “E” (“A” being most active).
From the chart below, we can even observe how the KOL’s analytics have changed over a certain period of time, and we can see how much real activity is going on against the backdrop of overall growth. For example, in the chart below, the blue columns represent the number of followers, and the curved lines represent the various indicators of follower engagement (shares, comments, and likes). When the curves representing follower engagement hit rock bottom, how is it that the follower count continues to climb?
Similarly, you can also see engagement rankings for each blogger. PARKLU divides this ranking into five levels, from “A” to “E” with “A” representing the highest engagement.
When a post is published, PARKLU can also monitor user engagement at all times. For example, how does an account instantly generate 10,000 interactions in 1 minute, but then nothing in the next five minutes? PARKLU can also let you spot this.
Every industry has its own rules, and no matter which industry you’re in, there will be unavoidable pitfalls and bumps in the road. Whether you can avoid them depends on your professionalism in the industry. If you don’t try to glean professional knowledge in the industry, you can’t expect sympathy when you fall prey to industry scams.
But don’t worry—PARKLU is here to teach you how to play the KOL marketing game. If you want to learn and put that information into practice, register above to try PARKLU’s China KOL intelligent marketing platform.