How do we manage bots, spam, and fake accounts?
In this discussion, we deep dive into a list of slightly existential questions about the ‘fake’ world we are all living in: social media.
- How do we know what is fake or not?
- What does it all imply for brands spending money on advertising?
- What does this mean for investing in influencers?
- How difficult is it to grow organically, without getting sucked in?
Statistically, 19.5% of twitter’s active accounts (those that have created a tweet in the last 9 weeks) are fake Twitter accounts. Many thoughts are triggered by such a figure. It would seem evident for there to be a policy dedicated to the removal of accounts that haven’t been active in a long time. This would be a first step towards cleaning up the mess that is only getting bigger.
On certain platforms, some policies already exist which contribute towards the management of this issue. For example, Facebook imposes a strict rule of one account per person, which is why most of us are still using the email that our 15 year old selves spent too much energy and time choosing. To consider the magnitude of this fake Twitter world, we take a step back from this in this discussion and take a look at the much wider picture.
How are we and our brands protected in this fake world?
There is great difficulty in spotting the difference and being able to determine which ads are real, which accounts to follow, which comments to believe and which links to click on. Each of these decisions influences our personal world of social media, and ultimately our ‘real’ ones. This is the case for all social media platforms. But Twitter is faced with a unique challenge. It lies in the freedom that everyone has in creating as many accounts as they want. You can switch between accounts easily and tailor each one as you like, which is great.
However, you are ultimately more prone to being the ‘victim’ of bots. This is due to the mechanical design of the platform which is more about text than it is visual, making it difficult to understand the business idea behind what is going on.
→ watch our fireside chat video to find out about examples that we have dealt with personally.
There are two view points to consider. From the customer’s, the question is about the value they get from the money they spend, and whether they get any at all. If getting value means clicking on a few ‘fake’ clicks, is there a problem? From the advertiser’s, the question is about how far they want to swim in this deep sea.
Is it possible to not go all in? Is this a world they want to be associated with? Do they want to be genuine and do the work themselves and create that organic connection with the customer?
Some brands do this well. They are careful with community management, they have acute attention to detail by getting rid of bots for example, and they plant a seed that spreads roots and ultimately creates organic value. However, it is not something that you can let run for itself: it is constant management. It is possible, but the question you need to ask is what is important to you.
Further considerations are the many question marks that appear when it comes to looking at the algorithms that seem to be a realm that is unknown to all. To tackle this question, we asked ourselves: what is a smart bot that adds value?
An example that came up is the one of bots used by flight companies for ‘customers’ who have lost their luggage. The response is instant, value is created, the brand is embellished. But there is simply no end or limit to how this can be used.
How responsible are we to tackle such an issue?
As platform owners and as simple participants in this society, it is important for us to be able to distinguish which bots add value to us, and which ones are toxic and therefore harmful. But whose responsibility is it?
It is a wild fire that is spreading fast, which is why we discuss the idea of whether or not politics should get involved. Indeed, with 3 billion ‘accounts’ out there, there are serious implications involved. They are societal, political, cultural, environmental… But if rules should be imposed, who should impose them? Should there be a ban on the creation of fake Twitteaccounts?
Are fake influencers wasting their fake time in this digital world? Who knows… What is clear is that there is a need for legislation, and collaboration between public authorities and platform owners. Indeed, we believe in education, so mutual learning and problem-solving between companies and regulators is a next step. We have the ability to create a movement in which awareness is raised, problems are tackled and solutions are found.
So how do you make yourself and your brand safe? As for most things, education is the starting point:
- Be aware
- Develop a common practice
- Educate yourself
- Be open minded and ready for changes which are constant and inevitable
- Make a risk assessment in regards to your values and objectives
These are some ideas. But first, begin by reaching out: start by valuing the opinions of those who are part of your community. Make that first point of contact and start communicating. After all, why are we on social media if it isn’t to be social?