When I was in fifth grade growing up in South Australia, my friend introduced me to MSN messenger. (Equivalent to AOL messenger in the US, but long live MSN!). It was the first time I encountered social media. In my faint memory I remember there was a chat room full of random MSN-ers and one account that replies only when someone says something inappropriate or rude and threatens to kick that particular user out of the chatroom.
This was the also the first time I was introduce to a bot. TechTerms.com define Bots as “an automated program that runs over the Internet.” Some bots run automatically, while others only execute commands when they receive specific input.” In specific, I was introduced to a type of bots coined Chat bots. I remember having this bot was constructive to the chatroom because it make sure people are not randomly saying inappropriate things etc. However, as I move along from being a child to a teenager and now as a young adult, bots are becoming more destructive rather than constructive. There seems to be a lot of bots for spamming purposes.
At Social Media Measurement and Monitoring 2013, Lutz Finger from Fisheye Analytics says that 7% of Twitter users are not human. We can only assume that the numbers have gone higher since 2013. MIT Technology Review actually wrote an article about how to spot social bot on Twitter. These spam bots accounts can be commanded to retweet, follow back and favorite a tweet. They can also be purchased if you’re in need for a social or moral boost. This “bot account” culture is not limited to only Twitter, it is across the board on almost every social media outlets you can think of! Facebook in Feb 2014 estimates that around .4-1.2% of accounts are ‘undesirable’ and most likely malicious spam bots. With Facebook passing 1.23 billion monthly active users in last quarter of 2014, that’s quite a lot of spamming bots out there.
Does these bots really provide any real business value for the people using them? Nick Bilton of New York Times believes that these bots are. Bilton believes they are creating values for the people who created them (to sell as a product) and also the people that buy them. With the wealth of brands paying individuals thousands of dollars to post something about their product on their Instagram etc, the more followers you have, the more chances brands will decide to ask you to post about their product. This in terms means profit for that particular person. According to Nick Bilton’s article, even A-list Celebrities often buy more followers to increase their influence and ultimately profitability. However, if you’re a company that is trying to increase engagement rate by employing bots to post frequently, it might not work in your favor. In Hutspots’ social media benchmarks 2015, They did not find correlations between posting more frequently and engagement rate, an important metric to evaluate does the customer interact with the initial post after viewing it.
It might be possible that these bots are creating some sort of business value, but to many social media users, they are just of sheer nuisance. As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day (I don’t think I am the first one to post about procrastinating through FB) , I came across this news article that I found fascinating and I think it showcase an extremely creative advertisement using a spamming bots. At the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference/festival in Austin, TX, a friend of Tim Nudd, a writer for Adweeks was swiping on Tinder and saw this beautiful girl and decides to swipe right. The writer’s friend got a match with her and they begin conversations.
Everything seems to be going well and eventually he has passed “her tests” and she invites him to go to her Instagram account @meetava to see if she has also passed his test. Little did he know, he was actually talking to a bot. Ava, the beautiful dreamy girl on Tinder, is actually Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. The Tinder profile is actually the artificial intelligence ava, a character Alicia plays in the upcoming movie – Ex Machina. I thought it was a fantastic advertisement but users may not think so.
Imagine you’re a user of Tinder and you see this beautiful lady and you decided to swipe right. It’s a match. Not only it’s a match she decides to message you first! (A consistent dialogue in which she seems generally wanting to know more about you so she can’t be a bot right? Apparently they can.) After a few exchanges she gave you her Instagram and you excitingly goes and check it out, only to realize that that girl is only a promotion bot. That manipulation perhaps is too ingenious that it becomes extremely difficult to take in. Some people may laugh it off and think of it as a great promotional technique for a movie about an AI, but it can potentially be extremely devastating to that user and that person may decides to stop using Tinder. Tinder would have lost some business value because of bots. However, the movie may get extra publicity because of this creative use of spamming bots.
To conclude, I think that bots does create some sort of business value but it seems that often it damages one party while simultaneously benefits another. Let me know what you think about bots and whether they do provide any business values or are these spam bots just a nuisance to all users alike and creates no business values.
P.S. the advertising stun makes me dying to watch Ex Machina, I have attached the trailer in this blog for you guys and I think it will be a very interesting movie.