Just recently, Elon Musk warned Twitter he would back off purchase of the platform if they can’t provide the data on fake accounts. It may seem a bit confusing for an ordinary onlooker. After all, Twitter encourages users to create authentic profiles. So what are those fake accounts on social media?
Most, if not all, of these accounts, are run by social media bots. It’s hard to overstate their impact if bot numbers can be a dealbreaker even for Musk. What is a social media bot, how can you use them for good intentions and a few others are all great questions we will explain here.
A social media bot (or simply social bot) is computer software designed to automate various, often repetitive, tasks on social media platforms. There are many bots outside social media, for example, crawler bots used by search engines to index pages. However, bots on social media platforms are rising in popularity.
Social media bots can share and like content, follow users, and even make basic interactions in comments or private messages. They are most widespread on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit but can also be found in forums, messaging channels, and blogs.
These bots are often programmed to mimic human behavior. It is done so not only to fool the humans they are interacting with, but also to avoid suspicion from the platforms in which they operate. Social media platforms do not want to have bots as they put unnecessary load on the sites and can be used to spread misinformation or spam.
However, we shouldn’t conflate social bots with spam bots as it is only one use case. Additionally, repeated posting of the same information is not the most efficient use of social media bots. Many influencers and marketers, for example, use them to automate tasks and help manage multiple profiles.
For this purpose, social bots include chat functionalities. But while they can hold a conversation, they aren’t primarily designed for it. There are chatbots that are software designed to automate human conversations, but they are more often integrated into apps or customer service software.
Social media bots are just like any other tool – they can do good in some hands or evil in others. It all depends on the users’ intention, which no one can control completely. Still, malicious use of bots is heavily frowned upon by platforms.
That being said, we will focus on uses where social media bots do good. It is a more promising trend, expected to grow in the future while spamming or misinformation will continue to be fought against by social platforms.
While there aren’t any categorisations that everyone agrees upon, it is useful to keep in mind a few variations. The most obvious is between ready-to-use bots and ones that advanced users program themselves. Ready-to-use bots are way more popular and don’t require any technical knowledge.
Most social media bots work only with specific platforms, while others can connect different ones at once. The choice depends on your needs and budget. Here are a few examples.
Both bots mentioned above are fully automated, meaning that the tools execute their tasks without human intervention. All you need to do is to manage it in a dashboard. Other social media bots are semi-automated- the bot only accomplishes part of the actions, while other tasks are done using click farms.
Even if you are using bots for entirely legitimate purposes and do not intend to spam or disinform, you will have to overcome certain challenges. Social media platforms do not differentiate between intentions, so all accounts using bots are in equal danger of getting banned.
Social media platforms use the tactic of monitoring visitors’ IP addresses. If they notice a user is breaching their terms with multiple accounts or automated bot activity, the IP address can be banned.
Hiding your IP address with a proxy server is the only effective strategy. They stand between your bot and the website, so the IP is changed and hidden. Every major bot provider recommends using proxies with their products and allows integration with a proxy server of your choice.
There is a lot more to know about social media bots, so we won’t be able to cover everything here. We recommend continuing with other articles on what is a social media bot, such as this one: https://metrow.com/blog/what-is-a-social-media-bot/
Social media bots are most famous for their negative impact, even affecting the valuations of companies like Twitter. However, they aren’t used only for illicit purposes and often help companies and influencers. If you find yourself at a disadvantage online, it should be time to think about acquiring a social media bot.