In evaluating influencer effectiveness, awareness and engagement metrics are typically cited as benchmarks. However, consumer intelligence firm Bomoda found a prominent disparity between the ability of many Chinese celebrities to build awareness and engagement and then to correspondingly turn those into purchases.
Many KOLs, it turns out, are able to spur social buzz, but fail to motivate consumers to buy, according to a Bomoda report that looked at over 40,000 KOLs in China in the first half of 2017 using named-entity recognition technology (NER) to identify them.
Here are 10 KOLs whose reputations don’t measure up:
Bomoda assessed the quality of the content on these KOLs' social-media content based on a weighting system. Low-quality content was defined as posts driven by external fan support, or posts that only contained a combination of hashtags regarding an endorsement, or posts of recent activities that did not provide any additional details.
In total, the company examined more than 51 million Weibo posts, 2.3 billion related reposts and comments, and more than 3.4 million WeChat articles.
Xu Wei Zhou (许魏洲, pictured above) is at the bottom of the barrel, with 99 percent of his content labelled as low-quality. His posts were either not related to his endorsed products or brands, or just polls initiated by his fans, states Bomoda.
The irony is, Xu does possess social influence. As one of the most well-known 'little fresh meat' (Chinese slang to describe handsome young men), Xu has been called '流量王' (roughly translated to 'king of traffic') before, thus achieving a full score of 100 for social influence on Bomoda's ranking. In contrast, his actual commercial influence score was 11, and purchase intent score only seven.
Why so, when Xu has an "overwhelmingly large" amount of dedicated fans? The problem is, they are mostly teenage girls, who ultimately lack purchasing power, according to Bomoda. Furthermore, most of the brands he endorses are high-end labels, such as Louis Vuitton (see example above) and Tiffany—unattainable for a majority of his fans.
Jackson Wang (王嘉尔, pictured below), another star with a substantial number of fan girls, fared better than Xu, with 40 percent of his content rated as high-quality by Bomoda.
Wang’s recent endorsement deal with Pepsi China attracted a tremendous amount of fan interest, comprising two-thirds of social conversations. However, Bomoda pointed out that a vast majority of his own content was "meaningless posts" containing the hashtag #王嘉尔百事代言人# ( meaning 'Jackson Wong: official spokesperson of Pepsi') without prompting any purchase intent, contributing negatively to his commercial value, which scored a 12.
Another low-impact influencer with the same commercial score of 12 is Zhao Li Ying (赵丽颖, pictured below). Similar to the two celebrities mentioned before, Zhao lacks the power to drive product-related discussions for her brand clients; 58 percent of the content on her personal social accounts resulted in fan approval of her sweet, ‘girl-next-door’ image and down-to-earth, straightforward personality. Even in a July post tagging Chinese sportswear brand Xstep, the most upvoted responses included those that praised Zhao's beauty by detailing her soft hands, lily-white skin and crescent brows in poetic language ("手如柔荑，肤如凝脂。领如蝤蛴，齿如瓠犀。螓首娥眉，巧笑倩兮， 美目盼兮。赵丽颖啊！真是越来越美了") and those that expressed eagerness to seeing her in the next episode of Chinese drama Princess Agents in which she has a main role.
Scenarios similar to the above lead to costly engagements for the brands that hire these influencers, who may only be effective promoters of themselves, but not effective promoters of the brands. In partnership with any KOL, Bomoda advises marketers to ask: "Will fans likely be talking about my brand and products, or merely their love for the KOL I have contracted?"
And what data points reflect real commercial persuasion? Percentage of consumer willingness to purchase products among mentions and comments, and percentage of 'daigou' (buying agents), Taobao sellers, malls or shopping centres separately leveraging the KOL with third-party promotional content.