Despite almost seven million views on a video post by Zhang YuHan, a Chinese microblogger, a Shenzhen-based brand generated even lower sales than the day before the KOL’s promotion.

Eefit, a brand for menstrual pain relief, launched its first product campaign on 27 Sep using the popular key opinion leader in the hope of breaking into the market.

Approaching Hive Media, a local multi-channel network (MCN), the startup thought it found the perfect KOL in Zhang YuHan, a Chinese fashion microblogger with a 3.8 million following on Weibo (China’s Twitter-like site).

After agreeing to work with the brand, Zhang created a post generating 3.61 million views, 3000 likes, 943 forwards, and 1261 comments, with just under 50% of the commenters declaring that they had ordered the device.

According to the Eefit entrepreneur who detailed the scam in a WeChat blog post, the company had spent RMB40,000 RMB (US$5,647) on engaging Zhang, and by the indication of the comments, it would have sold 617 units, giving the brand a rough cost-per-click of RMB65.

However, backend data showing the sales made before and after the KOL promotion was disappointing. Prior to the promotion, Eefit had made 91 sales, yet only 48 afterwards despite the claims of purchases.

Zhang’s Weibo account has been shut down after Eefit’s expose of the commercial dispute with the MCN vendor, with Weibo intervening and subsequently issuing a statement confirming fraud on the part of Hive Media after an investigation.

Based on the average viewership numbers of Zhang’s account over the past 30 days, the price of any advertisement should be RMB3070 yuan per post. Of this amount, RMB2149 should be used to compensate the content creator and RMB921 yuan should go to Weibo, clarified the platform, adding that “Weibo never interferes with the pricing of content creation” and “is happy to see content creators and MCN organizations attract customers with creativity and get extra ‘premium’ income”.

“There is confusion about the traffic cost and content production cost, which caused a major misunderstanding about marketing effectiveness on Weibo,” the statement added.

This incident shows how, whether on Weibo or other platforms rife with spam, the shortcomings of influencer marketing are still evident in China, compounded by a lack of accurate external tools to determine if an influencer’s fans are genuine.

In other parts of Asia, huge sums of marketing budgets are being lost to bots and other types of influencer fraud, with India and Indonesia among the worst affected markets. (For more, read WARC's story on the millions of fake influencer accounts across Asia).

Sourced from Eefit, Weibo; additional content by WARC staff