Brands are aware it is very easy to inflate the numbers of a social media profile, and now they are much more cautious…they are “more reluctant to pay someone who they do not have the certainty will give them a return on investment”, according to Gemma Vallet, Director of Innovation, PHD Spain
In April 2017, Jack Dorsey – executive director of Twitter – said that behind 5% of the profiles of this social network there was not a person, but bots: accounts programmed to tweet and interact with other accounts automatically. At the end of the third quarter of 2017, Twitter declared 330 million users, so – according to Dorsey’s calculations – there were 16.5 million bots. Although in October of this same year a study of the universities of South Carolina and Indiana estimated that the proportion of bots was between 9% and 15%, and that the number of profiles controlled automatically was between 30 million and 48 million.
All social networks are aware of this phenomenon and periodically clean and suppress many of these remotely controlled profiles. Instagram did it in 2014 when it eliminated almost 19 million accounts between bots and fake profiles – Justin Bieber lost 3.5 million followers and Kim Kardashian lost 1.3 million. Twitter also did it last weekend, when some users with enough followers began to explain in the social network that they were losing followers at the rate of tens of thousands per minute.
As a rule, this is not something social networks do as proactively as eliminating accounts that are dedicated to harassment or promoting extremism and hate speech.
It is estimated that in 2017, the number of non-real profiles in the social network was between 30 and 40 million.
However, bots do not necessarily have to be something bad, it all depends on what they are used for. Many companies interact with their customers in social networks and although there are examples of malfunction – like Tay, the Microsoft bot that made racist and Nazi comments on Twitter – in general, they do a good job. The problem is when they are used to post spam, follow accounts automatically or like and favourite automatically.
On the other hand, another phenomenon social networks struggle against are false followers, which can be bought by companies offering this service. Simply enter “buy followers” in any search engine to find them. And it’s not expensive: the price of 1,000 followers is between 10 and 15 Euros. Getting 10,000 more people to follow us costs less than 100 Euros.
These companies ensure not only that their activity is legal, but also say it does not contravene the policy of using social networks, which is questionable. For example, Twitter policies expressly prohibit the sale and appropriation of user names, as well as “the creation of accounts with the purpose of selling them”.
Brands want users with fewer followers, but more adjusted to their target audience
The purchase process is very simple. In many cases it is not necessary to provide our credentials, but nobody will ask us to show that the account for which we are buying followers is ours. This allows anyone to acquire followers for an account that is not theirs, in order to denounce after that profile has a lot of false followers and thus unleash a campaign against the digital reputation of that user.
According to Gemma Vallet – director of Innovation at PHD Media and director of the Master in Social Media Branding & Digital Strategy of La Salle-URL – “the followers grant notoriety in terms of market, coverage and reputation”, and that is why the brands continue to give much importance to the volume of followers. Not so long ago the fees that an influencer could charge were based on the followers he had, not on the quality of them. “The brands did not take into account how many of that mass of followers fit the profile of their target audience that could turn into sales. That created an inflationary market, where anyone with 250 thousand followers could charge a lot of money,” explains Vallet. Anyway, brands are aware that it is very easy to inflate the numbers of a social media profile, and now they are much more cautious, since every time they are “more reluctant to pay someone who they do not have the certainty that will give them a return on investment”, adds this marketing specialist. This caution materialises in two tendencies.
On the one hand, “brands increasingly rely on microinfluencers, people who do not have large numbers of followers, but who have a lot of quality and are very close to the market they want to target,” says Vallet. For followers of quality we have to understand “users who do not behave like bots, followers who interact and who have a conversion in purchases”, adds Vallet.
On the other, in the same way that Google Analytics has become the standard for measuring the traffic of a website, there are platforms that have become, in turn, the standard for measuring the quality of followers in social networks. Companies and digital marketing agencies use these platforms to analyse influencers before hiring them. Platforms such as Sprout Social, Social Hub, Curalate or Agora Pulse. This has caused the influencers “to become professional and offer analytics about their activity as part of their business card and that, for example, many have managers who are experts in digital marketing, who when negotiating with brands go ahead with this type of information,” says Vallet.