Recently a blogger by the name of Xiaxue (Wendy Cheng) wrote an exposé about an Asian blogger/online entertainer network called Gushcloud. This exposé has caused a lot feathers to be ruffled in the online community/industry but it is so important and such a good read for anyone in the world of online creation and/or marketing.
Gushcloud argued that a lot of her accusations were false or accused her of doing the same dishonest things they practice in their company. I'm not writing this blog post to prove or disprove any of the things she brought to light. It doesn't matter if Gushcloud is doing them or some other network, these things are happening everywhere. They are happening on a creator level, a network level, and sometimes even a marketing level. They are happening all over the world. The acts she explores in her exposé is not limited to Singapore at all.
*DISCLAIMER* This blog post does not contain any names nor does expose the dirty secrets about your favorite creators or networks. I am not here to point fingers. I am only writing this to bring light to the issues and tell you why you should not take part in this dishonest behavior. It will effect our industry as a whole in the long run. I will also teach you what clues to look for if you are trying to figure out if traffic or followers are genuine and share tips on how to prove to brands that your traffic is genuine.
What is happening?!
Many online creators and some networks will do and have done multiple dishonest tactics to squeeze more money out of brands/companies who want to advertise with online creators or personalities. These tactics may include lying about analytics, masking ads, and buying views, subscribers, and followers.
Why are these tactics bad?
There are a number of reasons these dishonest tactics are bad for the creator personally and the industry as a whole. Firstly masking ads is just bad business and unethical. Your audience will stop trusting you if they find out you're masking ads and it's just a terrible thing to do to people who go out of their way to support you and your content. I also feel like some legal action could possibly be taken against you but I'm not 100% sure on that one.
If you are a creator buying fake traffic you will let down the brand you are advertising for if they get little to no sales through your promotion. You may get a few bucks initially while the brand is tricked into thinking you're going to expose them to more people than you actually will. Once you make the content and there is little to no interaction coming from your fake audience they will most likely never want to work with you again. Cultivating an honest relationship with a brand where you deliver more than expected will likely lead to more advertising with them and more revenue for you in the long run.
Every time you take part in these tactics your are hurting the online industry as a whole. If brands keep getting little to no money in return for the money they are paying multiple creators endorse, guess what? They will either not want to work with online creators anymore or they will start offering to pay less and less to creators. This not only brings down the brand deal market for future creators, like yourself, but it also makes someone who is genuine look not as appealing. Why? Well let's take a look at some analytics!
Fake VS Genuine! How to tell the difference!
So I found a random channel with a video that was posted around the same date as an episode of Kigu Time. My video has 100% genuine views and the other video appears to be fake. Let me show you how I figured it out...
The suspected fake's stats (image only altered to protect the identity of the creator)
So let's take a look at the difference between these stats... The first obvious difference is the view to like ratio.
My Stats: My video has 1,384 views and 135 likes and 1 dislike.
The Fake's Stats: Their video has 1,881 views and 9 likes.
The view to like/dislike ratio can easily be an indicator of fake views. For argument's sake let's assume that they get mostly mobile or TV viewers who are less likely to click that thumbs up. Heck I've had some likes/dislikes in the lower 3%-5% before. I don't mind throwing this person's 0.5% ratio a bone. So how else can we investigate this? Scroll back up and check out those cool little graphs.
My Graph: Starts out strong on the day of release and gradually loses the amount of daily views as time goes on.
The Fake's Graph: Flat lined for a few days then has a day or two where all the views took place then immediately flat lined for the rest of time.
This graphs is a great indicator if views are genuine or not. Videos naturally get a lot of views upon the day of release then tapper off. You might see some spikes here or there if they become relevant again. When someone buys views those views are delivered within a day or two. The graph will show when the views were delivered and then there will be no views on any other days. Why? Because people who are buying views generally aren't actually getting any real traffic. Also a good indicator of fake views is no views the first day or two then jumping up to a thousand or more for the next few days.
Let's take a look at a bigger channel!
(Image only altered to protect the creator)
View to Like/Dislike Ratio: 63,715 views and 141 likes/dislikes. That's a whole 0.2%!
Graph: The graph shows the video started out with not many views on release day then jumped up to 21,00 views the next day and down to 7,000 the day after that then dwindling off within a few days and flat lining soon.
Now let's take a look at channel that is almost identical in subscribers and views...
(image only altered to protect the creator's identity)
View to Like/Dislike Ratio: 64,124 views and 2,631 likes. That's 4%.
Graph: Starts out high (doesn't dip then go back up) Eventually dwindles down to a steady amount of views daily with a few spikes.
View to dislike ratio is obviously majorly different between these two channels but the graphs don't look too different from one another. When the video was posted a while ago the graph gets more squishes together so a big slope isn't necessarily a indicator of fake views. What is an indicator is when the views start. So if you notice on the first graph views start much lower on the initial days of release then spike up then fall down almost to a zero view a day pattern. The second graph shows the video starting out strong and eventually falling off BUT the video never flat lines and has a few natural spikes.
Which one of these last two channels would you think is maybe buying views? I feel like it's obvious. Another clue is the amount of engagement driven. These videos almost have the same amount of views yet one has 4 subs driven and one has 794. Also one has 1 share and the other 40 shares.
There is no way for sure we can tell a channel is buying views unless the creator comes out and says it. We can find these little clues by looking at a few stats. Do these clues mean that person is 100% buying views? No. Some channels may have low engagement and maybe they got shared on some popular twitter account one day? Possibly? I don't mind giving people the benefit of the doubt but engagement and statistics are something brands should be looking at when looking to hire a youtube creator to promote them. Not just follower/subscriber counts! This goes for all social networks! Let's say someone has 100k twitter followers and get's one or two favorites or retweets a tweet or 30k followers on instagram and less than 100 likes. Something is probably up there and they aren't worth the time and money from a marketing standpoint.
*Note* When it comes to graphs there are a lot of varieties you may stumble upon. for instance if a video is a topical video it may have a ton of views the moment that topic is trending and then it may fall and spike up a lot as that topic becomes relevant. If I make a Christmas video and you look at the views over three years you may see it spike up every December because people are searching for Christmas. If a video is evergreen or something people are always searching for it's more likely to have more steady views in general after the initial release. If someone has a smaller channel and break out often the graph will be opposite and show growth in views as their channel gets bigger.
*Note 2* I am sharring these stats to show people who are looking at channels key data points to decide if they have marketing potential or collaboration potential. Please don't go to channels and try to call people out because you have no idea what their situation is.
How to prove your views are genuine.
There are many ways to prove your views are genuine to brands/companies. I keep my stats private but I will gladly send a brand current screenshots of my analytics and stats upon being asked. Actually I send them the moment a brand contacts me so there is no questions as to what I have to offer them. Sure I have a press kit with fancy info graphics but I still send those screenshots! Here are some helpful screenshots you can send a brand/company on top of your analytics.
These bad boys can be found under audience retention in your analytics tab. Audience retention shows how long your viewers stick around to watch your videos. It's all on one page but I took two separate screenshots so they would be easier to fit in my blog layout. Make sure you include the part that has your channel name and icon on it and the video titles so they know they are actually your screenshots.
Some other great screenshots to send brands are your audience demographics. What gender are they? How old are they? Where are they located? All of this can be found on your analytics page.
Of course there are a lot more stats in your analytics section of your creator studio and of course you can share those with brands but the most important thing to a brand is your engagement and if your audience will be into what they have to sell. For instance if you have a 88% female audience who is 13-21 advertising for Men's Health magazine probably wouldn't be a power move.
Another great screenshot you can share with brands is link tracking. If you have worked with other brands before or tracked links before this gives a great idea of how well your links perform. You can use link shorteners like goo.gl and bit.ly and they will track how many people click through, where they came from, what browser they were using, and what operating system they were on. I like to make a separate goo.gl url for each of my social networks I am promoting an item on so I can track how each one is performing. If you don't have a brand deal and you want to experiment with this you can always use them with amazon affiliate links of products you use in your videos or your social network links.
What if you have terrible engagement but you aren't buying any of it?
So let's say your stats look like one of those graphs above that seems a little fishy. You know for a fact that you are not buying views but things still look a little weird? There could be one of two reasons.
1. Your MCN/Network/Someone is buying views for you.
If you suspect someone is buying views for you without your permission I encourage to reach out to whoever you think it is and ask them to stop. If you don't know who it is you can reach out to youtube and let them know of the situation and ask them to investigate. If you let them know they generally will look into it especially if you mention that you are going to turn off your ads until it is figured out because you don't want it to affect your ad revenue. They don't want to screw over their advertisers either. Trust me.
2. You actually have crappy engagement.
If you actually have crappy engagement you probably should not be making brand deals as that will do very little for the brand. If a brand insists just be completely honest with them about your engagement levels and don't try to hide it. Maybe they want to hire you for other reasons.
Don't get caught up in numbers!
Don't let all these numbers become an obsession. They are simply reflections of your traffic and audience if they are genuine. Getting caught up will often lead to people purchasing views or subscribers to try and make their numbers look better or make more sense or match up to someone else's. That's no good! Please, please, please, PUHLEASE remember that your content is king and all other things should fall behind that. If you are making good content and working to make your channel the best it can possibly be the audience will come. As long as you are honest, have integrity, and make content you are passionate about above all else you will enjoy your time in this new media world.
If you would like more info on how analytics work and how to better your channel please check out the youtube creator academy: HERE (seriously everything you need to know is there)
I hope you guys enjoyed this long ass blog post and maybe it expanded your understanding of why honesty and integrity are not just good for us personally but good for the industry as a whole. If you're a brand reading this I urge you to look into those stats or ask creators to send you screenshots. I don't want you to be taken advantage of either.
If you have any questions please feel free to use my blog's contact form. I will try to answer as many as possible but I may not be able to.
Keep creating! ヾ(^_^)