Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 30, 2016

Updated: WeChat influencers caught faking article views; TripAdvisor among affected

WeChat is clamping down on zombies that inflate exposure numbers.

CHINA - A security update in the WeChat back-end system now blocks zombies that fake readership numbers, exposing at least eight such "influential" KOLs. 

So far, affected accounts from WeChat's clampdown on 28 September include those of technology and finance KOLs, as seen below from the table provided by Tencent Tech (WeChat's parent company) comparing average reads of eight accounts before and after the security update.

One of the most high-profile accounts affected is American travel review site TripAdvisor. Before the crackdown, the majority of TripAdvisor's article statistics reached "100,000+", which is the maximum number visible to the public. 

Table provided by Tencent (translated from original below):

Official account name (in Chinese) Account ID Average ‘read’ rate one week ago Average ‘read’ rate on 28 September
李瀛寰 yinghuanlee 27,000 1,000
金融街李莫愁 LadyRenaissance 37,000 6,000
首席娱乐官 yuleguan001 13,000 2,000
王冠雄 Wang-guanxiong 15,000 2,000
罗超 luochaotmt 10,000 200
互联网那些事 hlw0823 30,000 6,000
万能的大雄 zn10961242 15,000 4,000
TripAdvisor猫途鹰 daodao_trip 100,000 20,000
 
 

Campaign Asia-Pacific has reached out to TripAdvisor for comment.

Update at 8:33pm on 31 September from Leo Lin, chief of staff at TripAdvisor China:

"We are currently conducting a comprehensive internal investigation to get to the bottom of this matter. At TripAdvisor, we are absolutely opposed to the use of bots to boost social media views and we fully support Tencent’s efforts to clamp down on this practice."

WeChat, as a closed platform, has a reputation for being more reliable than Weibo in influencer marketing and KOL management. The company seems to be moving to avoid having this reputation put under strain by questionable tactics.

In addition to publishing the pictures above, WeChat issued the following statement, which we have translated from Chinese:

We see that these kinds of practices are difficult to confront and solve in one swoop. This game of cat and mouse will continue for quite some time. We will also continue to strengthen our technological means to ensure that the platform is fair and equitable.

We insist that any kind of false data are greatly harmful to those who respect the rules of the game. The platform does not welcome any false prosperity.

At the same time, 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 exercise common self-discipline. We hope that everyone can jointly maintain the WeChat platform's healthy development.

Fake impressions have been available for purchase for some time, with an underground industry on Taobao selling WeChat followers, views and likes in various combinations, such as 100 followers via ID searching for 12 yuan, 1 follower via QR code scanning for 1 yuan, 1,000 article views for 10 yuan, or 100 likes for six yuan. 

The screenshot below was captured during a cursory search this morning. The 'one yuan' list prices seen below seem to be the lowest-possible list prices that ensure these merchants appear first, when Taobao search results are filtered and sorted by price.

 

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