China is currently ablaze with discussion about WeChat fake views on articles. The situation is so bad that WeChat team released a rare formal statement. A new update in the WeChat back end system now blocks official accounts from using robots to fake their viewership numbers. Thus revealing many influential accounts to have followings made up mostly of illegal software controlled ‘robot’ or ‘zombie’ WeChat accounts.
Above: The girl is controlling 100’s of robot accounts creating WeChat fake views
Read on to find out Why do accounts fake views? What exactly happened today? What did WeChat team have to say? Plus 6 ways to identify a WeChat account that’s faking it’s views
Anything can and will be faked in China and it’s well documented that fake WeChat accounts views are rife and can be easily bought on Taobao (read our previous article ‘How to Buy WeChat Followers, Friends, View & Likes’).
Why go to the trouble of using WeChat fake views？
Article views and likes are the only public facing metrics to judge the popularity of an account. If a global high end fashion brand such as Gucci or Louis Vuitton published an article on WeChat and only got around 100 views, this would be completely embarrassing.
2. Fool the boss (or the client)
For a marketing manager or agency running a brand’s WeChat account, the number of followers, views and likes are commonly used yardsticks of success.
Marketing: “Look boss, another 100k+ view article on our WeChat account!”
Boss: “Great success!”
3. Gain financial benefit from advertisers
Influential accounts with large and loyal followings (KOL or Key Opinion Leader accounts) are very commonly used by businesses as advertising channels. Companies will pay for accounts to feature their product. More views = higher price.
But until today it was very difficult for people to tell which accounts faked their views.
A scene from 1999 science fiction movie, The Matrix.
No wait, it’s just more robot WeChat accounts
Here is a typical example that the China Channel (ChCh) team found by checking up on some of the official accounts we knew to be suspicious:
Left: Views on the top article for Sept 26th
Right: Views on the top article for Sept 28th
A HUGE difference in both views and likes. The users following this WeChat account are almost certainly composed largely of illegal robot accounts.
To give you some idea of the scale of the issue, below is a list of WeChat accounts released today by NewRank 新榜 (WeChat ID: newrankcn) listing some of the accounts tracked on their system with major and suspicious falls in readership.
WeChat team’s formal statement on the matter
We see that these kinds of practices are difficult to confront and resolve in one swoop. A game of cat and mouse will take place over time. We will continue to strengthen our technological means to protect the integrity and fairness of the platform.
We continue to think any kind of false data will have a greatly harmful effect on those who choose to respect the rules. The platform does not welcome anyone benefiting from falsehood. We believe to maintain the healthy development of the platform the rules of the game must be soundly and resolutely enforced, this also includes the operators within the ecosystem to enforce self-discipline. We hope that everyone can uphold the WeChat platform’s healthy development.
Seems WeChat acknowledges the inevitability that hackers will find a way around the system and start faking views again somehow. A new way to make WeChat fake views is surely only a day or two away 😉
6 ways to identify a WeChat fake views account
N.B. It’s rarely simple to identify an account that’s faking it’s views. Most of these aren’t conclusive methods. They are giveaways or suspicious indicators.
1. Look at the article immediately after it’s published. Sometimes view faking will only start some short time after being published. Check back in on the article at regular intervals. If you notice a sudden large jump in view numbers that’s a giveaway.
2. Compare the account’s different article views over time. Do all the articles from the previous month have a very similar number of views? View numbers on different articles within an account will usually vary considerably depending on the content.
3. Compare average views and average likes. Typical likes to views ratio for a popular Chinese account will be between 3% – 5% with 100k+ view articles jumping to around 7% typically.
4. Compare the number of likes and the number of comments. Comments reflect people’s emotion to the article. There’s currently no way to use robot accounts to leave comments.
5. Look at the account data metrics in the backend (available only to those with account access). Before fake robot account views would often come via the account’s history page. There should be a healthy mix of sources with moments and direct views from the account usually dominating (typical example below).
6. Insert a tracking code into the read more link (available only to those with account access). Use a tool to track the number of conversions through the article read more link.
Is this the end of WeChat fake views and likes? We seriously doubt it. As long as there is money to be made hackers will find a way. But it does seem that WeChat is taking the issue seriously. Rife use of robot fake followers on other Chinese platforms such as Weibo have previously caused major problems of credibility. WeChat seems serious about not repeating the mistakes of the past.