Apart from the perception of the influence or importance of a celebrity or brand linked with number of social media connections or followers, the bots offer no true value and pose no real threat. Social media users judge the value of a social networking page and the brand or company it promotes, based on their perception of value and whether the information presented is helpful and straightforward, or manipulative, or high-pressure. The proof of bots vs. humans lies in the response of social media followers and today’s social media users are getting smarter. They can certainly tell the difference between fake posts and followers and the real thing (http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/buying-popularity-how-politicians-pay-for-social-media-clout-214672.html, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-08-22/news/41437245_1_facebook-page-iris-knowledge-foundation-facebook-account)
For a politician or celebrity, these ‘simulated’ fans or followers might add to their popularity but, for a business, the manufactured impression of popularity can backfire.
Sheer numbers may attract followers to a FaceBook page or a social media site but, once there, users will quickly understand the nature of the false publicity or posts and, when they do, this can work against the brand or entity. Prospects, customers or followers will become disenchanted or upset by the attempted manipulation, and they are much less likely to buy a product or service when they feel they have been manipulated.
If a business focuses on real customers and demographics and presents information honestly, it can gather true business intelligence and perform detailed analysis on social media ‘fans’ or followers, to derive information from the location of the followers, and these statistics will tell you a lot. A wish enterprise will focus on internet marketing and social media marketing and use information culled from social media and social networking sites to create an integrated marketing strategy that targets ‘real’ customers, rather than chasing phantoms created by bots. An enterprise can refine internet marketing to pursue real customers through SEO, social media marketing and pay-per-click campaigns to improve the bottom line.
When analyzing social media sites for competitors, it is relatively simple to separate a real response from an artificially generated customer or follower base. For example you might notice that nearly all of the posts come from followers who live in one city, or that 70% of the followers joined or ‘liked’ the page within a five day period. Or you might notice that there is no sharing or comment activity on the page, in spite of the fact that the page has thousands or even millions of followers.
The key to true, actionable business intelligence is not to ignore social media but to leverage the information you find there to tell the true tale about your competitors and your own products and services. Don’t be intimidated by the existence and use of bots in the business market. Don’t be discouraged or wooed by the idea that your customers will fall victim to manipulation. Business intelligence comes in all forms and understanding what is not true, or how customers react to perceived betrayal, is just as important as understanding customer demographics and competitive products and services. In summary, there is little reason to be concerned about the use of bots in generating a solid customer base. Social media users are smart enough to know the difference between counterfeit content and legitimate content.
Trust your customers and followers and focus on true business intelligence to focus your attention on the right tasks and grow your business. Don’t chase bot phantoms!