Social Networks have become an essential tool in the strategy of companies as well as political parties and candidates, since they serve as a complement to other means to transmit messages almost immediately. The problem comes when instead of talking to people, the conversation focuses on false accounts; today I’m going to explore the topic of Bots which include what is marketing bots, types of bots and many more.
Before continuing, it seems appropriate to define what a Bot is to facilitate its detection:
The word Bot comes from the word Robot and is the way it is called in technological jargon to accounts that pretend to be people in a social network and are created for a specific purpose, completely different from the normal or usual of a user who seeks interact or live with others.
In the beginning, Bots were accounts that created the same users to publish things that would not show in their original account and sometimes serve as an escape valve for compromising or even scandalous content. It is common for celebrities to have a parallel account in order to publish something without compromising their reputation.
Types of Social media marketing Bots:
Although all Bots pretend to be people, there are different types depending on what they are used for and usually they only fulfill one function, which makes their detection a little easier.
Hardly there would be consensus to catalog all the types of Bots that exist but for something it is necessary to begin, so next I include the different types of accounts that I have detected and the name that I consider could describe them better.
Bots have many uses, and not all are negative, some developers use accounts created and managed by themselves to test the interaction of their applications between multiple accounts, thus reproducing a controlled environment for testing.
This type of Bots are created with the sole purpose of following other accounts and are those that use the services offered by the sale of followers or friends. They are used to inflate the numbers of followers, generally to give an idea of popularity. In political campaigns they are widely used.
These are the most complex and looking to generate traffic on sites web artificially. Some of these Bots even click on advertising to increase the profits of the site owner. Currently they are not so common because Google a few years ago fought them improving their detection methods so they do not affect their advertising services.
In Social media Networks these Bots are used to simulate likes or clicks in links within Facebook or even used to increase the number of visits in a YouTube video.
These Bots are dedicated solely to generate volume of conversation artificially around a subject or Hashtag, with the intention of turning it into Trending Topic on Twitter, although Google+ already has these trending topics and Facebook is trying them to launch them very soon. These Bots are widely used in political campaigns with the intention of simulating popularity in a candidate.
These Bots are the ones that attack or defend other accounts or topics, they are widely used in Facebook pages to simulate movements against a brand, seeking to generate a negative idea of the company among people. They are also used to counteract these negative opinions. Some of these Bots are programmed to attack in certain periods of time to do as much damage as possible.
Bots o Trolls:
Another term that has become popular with Social Networks is Troll and is often confused with Bots when in fact they are very different; A Troll is a person who criticizes and systematically attacks another or others, exercising and even abusing their right to expression in social media. They are usually annoying as they hide behind their own account to say what they do not dare in person. The main difference of the Trolls against the Bots is that the first if they are people, unlike the others that are accounts that are not who they say they are.
Among Community Managers there is a very popular phrase that says “Do not feed the Troll” and it refers to not paying attention to the one who is dedicated solely to attack.
How to identify a Bot:
Bots have certain characteristics that allow us to identify them so as not to confuse them with real accounts, some follow one or several of the following options, the important thing in this case is to analyze them based on their behavior. In Digital Mind we designed a methodology to detect Bots that includes more than 12 parameters, then I include some of the ways that we currently use to identify them:
- Follow-up radio:
An average user follows other users and is followed by many others, in the case of Bots several situations happen, whether they follow many people and almost do not follow them, or follow nobody but publish much.
- Intensity of publication:
Bots, mainly those created for Trending Topics or for Crisis, have a volume of publication much higher than what is seen in an average user. These Bots publish a lot of messages in a very short time and all with the same message or hashtag. These Bots can also be detected because they send several messages to the same account in a short period of time.
- Consistency in the profile:
As the Bots are currently created by dozens, it is difficult for the creators to pay attention to two details mainly:
- Biographical profile information:
It is very common to see Bots that do not even have a basic description of who they are in the profile.
The Avatar is something that real users care a lot because it is the image that describes them. In the case of Bots, most do not even have an image, and those who do often use stock photos that do not look natural or what would be expected from a common user.
- Mapping of properties:
In general, people have at least two profiles created in Social Networks, the most common being Facebook and Twitter. For its part, the Bots are created in the Social Network where they will be used and logically they do not have accounts in other platforms. Using Social Graph tools you can detect if an account has other profiles to be able to determine according to the behavior that follows in all if it is a Bot or not.