48 Million Twitter Accounts Exposed as Bots

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Study suggests that Twitter is delivering misleading analytics


Data has never been more important to marketers, which is why it is always all the more alarming when it's suggested that a platform is delivering false analytics.

Approximately 15% of Twitter accounts — some 48 million — are bots rather than people, according to new research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University

While the research is troubling news for Twitter, which has struggled to elevate its user base in the face of growing competition; it is perhaps more frustrating for marketers who trusted the engagement data.

The report elaborates on the percentage of bots, by stating that complex bots could have shown up as humans in their model, "making even the 15% figure a conservative estimate."

There are benefits to social media bots, such as automatic alerts of natural disasters or customer service responses; yet the report points out downsides as well.

“...there is a growing record of malicious applications of social bots. Some emulate human behavior to manufacture fake grassroots political support… [and] promote terrorist propaganda and recruitment,” says the report. There have been many — and recent — reports of Russian Twitter bot armies delivering propaganda.

Another downside, not listed in the report, is the implication for brands using Twitter to elevate reputation and deliver marketing messages. How can they evaluate social marketing performance if engagement data is artificially inflated?


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