Bots and AI in Social Media
How bots cheat the system in Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing can rocket a small business into the public eye, and expand the reach of ads and marketing exponentially. Normally, it takes time, concentrates effort and persistence. A little bit of luck can go a long way, with the right tweet or post gaining traction and going viral. Most often, viral posts are a stroke of luck and chance rather than skilled crafting. But, bots cheat the game and throw a wrench in the system—and they’re only getting smarter.
New companies are popping up all around the world dedicated to finding and stopping fraud in social media. This problem impacts more than politics and cultural issues, impacting business with fraudulent AI-generated content that tips the scales away from honest, genuine content and credit. Specialists are now being sought out to audit and verify followers and credibility in social media influencer advertising—but, it effects search ranking and scoring as well as public perception as well. We trust the ratings and customer feedback on sites like Amazon or Yelp to help us determine the quality of a product or trustworthiness of a business, but if half of the reviews or comments are fake, we’re mislead in a online and lose trust in a way we haven’t seen online since the nineties. Remember when it was common sense that you should never use your credit card online?
There’s several ways we can spot and identify fake and fraudulent activity. Large social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are working round-the-clock to develop smart tools that monitor traffic and activity for suspicious activity on a grand scale—but this is largely reliant on software and public reporting. We’ve listed some ways specialists have outlined that can help spot automated and fraudulent social media activity.
Spotting Fake Activity
Take a look at any example from The Microtechs Instagram account. We posted a message for Memorial Day 2018 that saw a small amount of normal activity after it was posted. We don't promote our social media, so we have a very low amount of followers and typical user engagement. A month after it was posted, we received over 100 likes all at once from seemingly random users. However, if you look at some of the user profiles, you'll notice some red flags.
- 1. Profiles are foreign or in another language
- 2. Users are new or have few posts
- 3. Media is repeated or stock photos
- 4. User posts are generic
Normal, authentic activity follows a natural curve, with social media post engagement gradually trailing off. Paid promotion and boosts have a more distinct pattern, going up or down depending on the day of the week or time of day the ad campaign is running and getting results. With small businesses, paid CPC and CPM campaigns are often the only way to expand reach and acquire a greater audience, where it would otherwise not be possible to have visibility. Fraudulent activity will have a major spike, and is often one-sided with an objective. Either the goal will be to boost and increase the visibility of your content, or the goal will be to counter-attack. As with SEO where back-linking and outside sources referencing your pages or material gains page-score, credibility and reach (lowering ad cost), the aim here is often to create a buzz for the kind of content these bots and campaigns have targeted.
In April 2017, UK researchers highlighted some of the interconnected Twitter bots they uncovered researching bots. They found over 500,000 fake accounts, interconnected with each-other in a sophisticated network. Here, the social media platform's own algorithm is leveraged. Bots amplify their target message. If something’s generating a lot of engagement, it gets shown to more users, and their efforts yield an enormous return. Then, real users join in the activity and share the bot-created content, expanding the reach of the bot network and attack. User tend to imagine that these efforts have an organic life cycle, eventually dying out. Nothing ever really dies online. Bot-created content and attacks sent out years ago are still bouncing around the web today, ever increasing their reach and expanding their audience.
Twitter’s been developing its machine learning tools for some time, they surely have the capacity to identify and weed out bad actors. The question then, as noted, has been whether they have the motivation to do so. If Twitter does continue this trend, and is willing to take a hit in its overall user count in order to clarify its metrics, that would be a big step forward. It may not please investors, but it would improve the real world results of advertisers, and help non-users get a better understanding of what’s actually popular, and actually relevant within their niche. On Facebook, the situation isn’t much better. More than 60 million automated accounts are estimated to be on the social network. These accounts provide fake follower counts, fake engagement, fake views on YouTube videos, and more.
Fake accounts will effect how popular your business gets on social media, but don't be tempted to buy fake followers to try and counter this. Dummy accounts don't actually increase your reach, and they drastically skew your ad results and engagement, which will drive your ad costs up significantly. Instead, plan out a budget for paid advertising and targeted marketing, hire influencers and talk to your potential customers or clients. Engage with them, and they will engage with you and your content. Need help? That's what we do. Take a look at some of our Advertising and Marketing Services.
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