An upgrade to the WeChat system in late September revealed that many of the platform’s top accounts aren’t early as popular as they appear.
Newrank, a big data company tracking new media and user-generated media, studied more than 8,000 WeChat accounts used to promote the automotive, lifestyle, entertainment and other industries. Many accounts whose articles easily had more than 100,000 page views before the WeChat upgrade have lost much of their traffic.
Xinhua Agency reported on October 11 that such public accounts were buying page views and forwards to attract followers. On Many e-commerce sites, 1,000 page views costs 30 yuan, 100 forwards costs 40 yuan and 500 followers costs 20 yuan.
The price of advertising on social media platforms depends on an accounts follower count and page views. To bump their fees and pad their numbers, many public accounts turned to buying page views.
The buying and selling of page views had created a bubble in the social media marketing industry, frustrating viewers and artificially inflating prices.
Yang Miao, founder of Youwen Reporters Home, said advertisers only focus on page views, the most common performance indicator of online metrics.
Xu Da, founder of Newrank, said the September breakdown showed 10 percent of the famous accounts saw a 50 percent decrease in page views, including 124 accounts that lost 80 percent of their views. Xu said fluctuation is normal, but losing 50 percent or more of one’s readers is abnormal.
Thought there are few results for the search terms “WeChat” and “page views,” searching for similar keywords shows a number of shops that sell service from 1 yuan to 100 yuan.
Sun Wei, the founder of Beijing Kuaixia Technology, told Xinhua News Agency there are two ways to generate page views, human clickers and software. Sun said most business accounts with 100,000 or more page views generate their traffic this way.
Xinhua reported that although WeChat has been blocking software to manipulate its statistics, it can hardly keep ahead of development.
A professional page clicker said his company has been recruiting more clickers to keep up with demand. Sun Wei said software has also been updated to get around the system block.
Yang Miao said there are more problems than click sales causing the industry’s bubble.
Yang said that compared with traditional media, where there are professional people to proofread, user generated media on the Internet is never examined by authorities. That lack of oversight has created an environment where fake information, malicious attacks and other garbage articles dominate, he said.
IT analyst Fu Liang said many accounts target special topics in one industry. If their articles and opinions are approved by insiders, 10 forwards by those insiders is worth much more than 1,000 forwards by general readers.
Fu Liang said WeChat states that fake statistics are not welcomed and will be purged and corrected.
Regarding the alleged bubble, Wang Sheng, deputy editor-in-chief of Xinmin.cn, said it is driven by the popularity of new online media among young consumers. While metrics preferred by the advertising industry encourage rampant cheating and price inflation, the platform is still unlikely to perish.
Netizens also weighed in to complain about the prevalence of fake statistics, pornographic content, fraud, rumors, plagiarism, defamation and spam.
The big data lab at Sun Yat-sen University’s found that between April 2015 and March 2016, more than 30 percent of the 2,000 posts suspected to be rumors on WeChat were confirmed false.
An agreement published by Beijing Law Enforcement on Cultural Market and Beijing Internet Culture-Association in June found that 40 web hosts on nine online broadcasting platforms were permanently blocked on account of porngraphic content.
Yiguan Zhiku Entertainment Research Center analysts said that online platforms profit by encouraging content that piques people’s curiosity. In long run, those short term games make cause lasting industry.
Zhou Baohua, a professor of journalism at Fudan University, said user generated media is a new area that needs original and professional content to survive.
Zhou said laws, government supervision and the cooperation of platforms, media practitioners and netizens would help to clean up the market.