Blogger Xiaxue makes sensational claims against online marketing firm

She is no stranger to controversy.

And, true to form, celebrity blogger Xiaxue yesterday created a buzz online with sensational claims against local digital and social media marketing company Gushcloud.

Her claims sparked a strong response from Gushcloud and its supporters.

The lengthy blog entry, The Big Gushcloud Expose, has received more than 1,900 likes on Facebook and reached more than 300,000 people so far.

It has also received more than 20,000 likes on her Instagram account.

In her entry, Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, 30, alleges that Gushcloud inflates its earnings, gets its bloggers/influencers to mask paid advertorials as reviews, pumps up its influencers' blog page views, and buys fake YouTube likes and subscribers.

She detailed how she created a fake company to buy ads from Gushcloud and find out more about how the company operates.

She did so, she claimed, to expose them with "evidence".

She also got a programmer friend to track the bloggers' page views to show that Gushcloud inflated the numbers.

Gushcloud's website says it has more than 10,000 influencers. An influencer is someone who supposedly has the power to affect others' decisions to buy or consume something.

Gushcloud's more prominent influencers include model-blogger Yan Kay Kay, blogger Eric Lim and model-blogger Eunice Annabel.

Xiaxue, who is signed with rival company Nuffnang, told The New Paper: "I wrote this not because I hold a grudge against them.

"I felt very sorry for their influencers, and I felt upset that they are doing this to my industry which I am very passionate about.

"I felt very scared before publishing the blog post but it's like a release after holding back for two years.

"I really don't know how they are going to react but I am very curious to see how they are going to refute my points."

Gushcloud has refuted Xiaxue's claims and said that it was seeking legal advice.

Xiaxue said: "It is not repenting at all if it wants to sue me and it doesn't stand to gain anything from suing me.

"But if it ever decides to sue me, I will go crowdfunding."

Mr Vincent Ha, CEO and co-founder of Gushcloud, said: "These allegations are far from accurate.

"As a company, we are shocked and disappointed by the allegations, and have sought legal advice and aid.

"That being said... we are very grateful and thankful for all our clients, influencers, friends and partners who have come forward to lend us support and well wishes within the last couple of hours."

One of Gushcloud's bloggers, Kife Wee, said in an Instagram post: "As a Gushcloud influencer (Nah you probably think that we went hiding but nope), I believe that you guys have eyes to see.

"I also believe that if what (was) said was true, we wouldn't have recurring clients, we wouldn't survive the debts (assumed that we owe) and survive until now.(And yes we are doing very well)"

Why did Xiaxue choose to release the "expose" now?

She said she wanted to rush the post out before January as most of the statistics used in her blog entry would feel dated if she published it in 2015.

"It took me a while to write this and I let three lawyers read through it before I published it," she said.

"It's also Christmas eve, so I guess I would give them a present."

Get influencers who are the right fit

Recent Instagram purges reflect the need to be discerning when claiming visitor numbers and hits, says Mr Lars Voedisch.

The managing director of public relations and social media consultancy PRecious Communications said: "An easy way to get an indication of websites' visitors or page views is to use free traffic estimation tools like StatShow."

Last week, Instagram began shutting down spam and fake accounts.

Added Mr Voedisch: "Companies also have to make sure that the influencers they want to work with are the right fit for their brand."

Without referring to any particular website or blogger, he added: "If a blogger openly offers advertising options on his website, but hardly highlights sponsored posts or informs about paid engagements, then their business is either not doing very well or they might not be truthful to their fans and brands."

Dr Michael Netzley, academic director of executive development at Singapore Management University, said if similar allegations against companies such as Gushcloud are proven true, it could have an impact on their income and business model.

He said: "No advertiser wants to pay for something it isn't actually getting.

"In the networked world, accurate numbers and measurability is very important. Numbers can be both your best friend and your worst enemy."

Dr Netzley added that consumers are becoming more sophisticated, hence would not be influenced so easily.

Could Xiaxue's claims against Gushcloud potentially affect its revenue?

"One of the companies with past dealings with Gushcloud influencer Yan Kay Kay told The New Paper that it is hard to draw a conclusion based on one blogpost.

Said a spokesman who asked that the company not be named: "Whether or not (Xiaxue's) claims are true, we can't comment. "But we would be more wary after reading the information that's posted on her blog."

jocelee@sph.com.sg

lwenqi@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on Dec 24, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.