Here bot, bot, bot

If you’re on social media, you may have heard of social bots. But what exactly are they and how do they work? If you’re not sure, then you’d be in the same boat as me. Thankfully, Lutz Finger over at Forbes provides us with a pretty well-rounded definition of the little bot bots, as well as throwing in some humour along the way – and can you believe 30% of us can be fooled by bots?

I had no idea social bots could be so tricky to recognise and that they are floating about Twitter and Instagram, fooling even the best of us with their plundered photos and opinionated tweets. I also had no clue about the bots that can help you comment and like posts and follow/unfollow people in quick succession.

You may not be able to easily pick out the bots from the real people, but what you can do is sniff out the real people using bots – whether or not they bought 10,000 followers to plumb up their Twitter account or are utilising the follow/unfollow method on Instagram.

Ever had someone follow you only to unfollow you a few days later? That’s a bot. Ever noticed a new user with an insane amount of followers on Instagram but with hardly any likes on their photos? There’s a bot. Always wondered why someone said ‘nice photo!’ on your Instagram video? Every single one is a bot, bot.

What does the cat say?

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Other users also employ the art of automatic direct messaging (DM), in which they spam unsuspecting followers with pleas ranging from the unobtrusive: ‘Thanks so much for the follow!’ to the sly haggler: ‘let’s collaborate! If you follow my blog, I’ll follow yours’ and to the downright desperate amigo: ‘please make my day and subscribe to my YouTube channel xoxo’.

No, no I won’t. But what I will do is unfollow or block you.

So please, if you use a social media bot – disable it immediately! Automatic DM’s also count. I hate them, everybody hates them, even your cat hates them.

Why do users bother employing bots when there’s the very real possibility they will damage their reputation and get blocked or trolled by a large number of seriously pissed off individuals? Stephanie at Honestly Mummy gives an honest account on her own experiences while using a bot system to follow/unfollow people – and why you shouldn’t be tempted to follow in her footsteps.

The benefits do seem tantalising tasty. Bots can follow hundreds of people in a short amount of time so that we don’t have to. The bots do all the hard work, following and unfollowing accounts in our target area so that we can get that perfect follower-following ratio. But… it all seems so heartless, inauthentic and shallow.

Almost famous

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I’m not going to lie, I’ve been guilty of trying to get as many followers as possible too.

People naturally have a desire to stand out from the crowd, to elevate themselves to a higher status than others, to be ‘notable’, ‘famous’ or an ‘influencer’ and receive all the benefits this entails.

And to make money.

While I do love the writing community on twitter, there is a prolific amount of people who use automatic DM’s or tweets to promote their work. I can almost understand why struggling authors do this. Perhaps they think that if they spam 200 new followers with DMs, maybe 2-3 of these people might actually visit their website and buy their book.

Except… they don’t take into account the other 197 people who proceed to unfollow them for acting exactly like a mosquito – and no one wants to have one of them buzzing in their ear.

And if you’re spamming because you want more subscribers? Seriously, just don’t.

The loveliness of being genuine

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There are so many other ways you can engage your followers and promote your work without relegating yourself to begging and annoying people left right and center. And being genuine is one of them because people can also smell genuineness from a mile away.

It might take more effort, but the results are worth it in the long run. People will move mountains to help out someone they feel they have a connection with.

Would you buy the book of the author who pesters your feed with retweets screaming ‘MY BOOK IS ON SALE – 99cents FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!!” or the author who tweets about the ‘upcoming writers festival, and would anyone else be going? And would you like a flower?’

I know exactly who I’d be more inclined to reach out too and support.

Sadly, I’m usually so focused on liking and following as many people as possible to increase my own follower count, that I’m missing out on the social nature of social media – the part where you engage, connect and enjoy what other people can bring to the table. I’ve been pretty much acting as my own bot, though at a slightly slower pace.

It’s a bit sobering to realize that you’ve sunk to the same depths as the people you look down on – which is just a tad ironic!

The 100 comments challenge

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In the spirit of genuineness (of which I think I’m lacking) I decided to leave 100 genuine comments on the Instagram feeds of complete strangers that I actually found interesting through the #writersofinstagram tag.

I’m not going to lie, leaving 100 genuine comments took me a few days. It was so much more effort than I thought it would be because I didn’t want to slack off and do a quick copy+paste+personalise.

I wanted to be real.

And so I tried to linger longer on their posts than I normally would, inspecting their feed, following and liking when I wanted to and not because I expected anything in return.

I’m not going to lie, for a while it felt like I was ‘pretending’ to be real, and I also occasionally experienced repeated bouts of ‘I need to get to 10k followers A.S.A.P!!’ in which I would put my head down and follow 50 people in quick succession, waiting and watching with wide eyes as my notifications pinged – wallowing in misery when they didn’t.

Thankfully, the ‘cravings’ slowly dissipated the more I forced myself to stop, concentrate and comment, and it wasn’t long before I was having fun and meaningful conversations with a few very different people, most of whom were very happy to say g’day and have a chat with a complete and random stranger.

Like tasha_alexander, a NYT best-selling author who really, really loves snow and nazthepoet from Hong Kong who has recently posted a little piece on depression, happiness & hope.

Connecting the dots

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One thing this experiment made me realize was… how awesome is it that we can connect with people who live on the other side of the world? With people who are experiencing Winter while we are running headlong into Summer? With photographers who capture the majesty of nature so perfectly? And with poets who express the pain of heartbreak, love and loss with such beautiful sensitivity that your very heart and soul aches with wonder and nostalgia?

For that is the true heart of social media and is surely what it was originally created for. But if there is nothing you want more than to get those 10k followers or become famous, (and you’ll do absolutely anything to reach such lofty heights) then good luck, God Speed and may the bots be with you.

Milly out.

Image credits: all photos from pixabay.com

 

56 thoughts on “Here bot, bot, bot

  1. Yeah, bots are unsavory as hell. Yech. I’d rather take the long slow way, and hopefully build a base of followers who love my work enough to stick with me permanently, not just as the wind blows. : D
    Best of luck with you 10k fame. You’re really a wonderful blog writer, you always make me smile. So no bots needed!

    Meno<3

    Like

  2. Bottom line, social media designs were created to keep you depressed with little bursts of joy, so you keep consuming the social media, to get you trapped in your own emotions.

    One needs to be above it and make use of it as a tool in a better way, even if it seems to lead nowhere.

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  3. Is it wrong if I felt like I could fall in love with one of these bots? Because I’m still gonna say I feel like I could. I’m just wondering if it’s like . . yanno . . wrong?

    This is a brilliant post with, dare I say, Shakespearean shades of winter. But hey, maybe we should speak in hushed up codes from here on out. Just in case the you know who’s are paying attention to our bizness.

    I’m just saying . . .

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  4. Insightful post! It can be so easy to get caught up in number bulking instead of taking the time to genuinely connect with people. Thank you for the reminder to slow down and have meaningful conversations. Cheers! 🙂

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  5. I’m so glad you checked out my blog!!! Because of it, I found this amazing post. With trying to launch my new book it’s really easy to get lost in the “have to’s”, “must gets”, and “need nows” mentality. Thank you for sharing this reminder as I head into the world of Social Media.

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  6. Only bots with shiny chrome and lasers need apply, please. :p

    I’ve been lucky enough to avoid bots on here thus far, or so I think. On Twitter and Facebook they’re much more obvious and far more obnoxious. It really is a good habit that you bring up to check out the folks who Follow you and see who they are. It’s a great way to defuse that habit we’ve all developed of “Follow-Follower” collecting since social media exploded and pick out the actual people. I’ve taken down four drones on Twitter alone so far!

    Doing so has introduced me to fellow bloggers that I really get a true sense of interaction from, as well as many other bloggers who, while not Followers, do check in from time to time like fun neighbors, and I’m happy to do the same. I even have a folder dedicated to them that I think of as a “virtual diner” where I can go and listen to what folks are saying. Building one friendly connection that leads to a single new Follow feels so much more gratifying than getting flooded by dozens of random ones because even if it takes more time, it’s real.

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  7. I found myself wanting as many followers as possible, but it was genuinely because I want to reach as many people as possible. I want people to read what I write and take it in, comment and find something in my work that they maybe didn’t know they wanted. With that being said I also found myself constantly checking for likes and follows and wondering did they follow just to unfollow and I became bogged down with the BS of social media. I had to take a step back and tell myself those who need what I write will eventual find it.

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  8. Great post, Milly! I found myself wanting to stand up and cheer. I figured out the bot thing soon after I started using Twitter, and started looking really hard at people before I followed them back. Linkedin seems to be rife with them too. I’d rather have 100 active followers than 1000 unengaged ones, which is what you get with bots (at best). Good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had no clue Linkedin had them too! I mean seriously what are they thinking?? The whole point of Linkedin is to connect with ‘real people’ and to ‘network’. Having bots completely defeats the point – thanks for enlightening me!!

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  9. Guilty of that on Facebook, I wanted to reach 1,000 friends so I went on a friend-requesting frenzy over a couple of days. While I can (maybe not so much after reading this) happily say that I reached my target, am curious why not a single one of maybe 100 whites (just a black guy from Kenya who wanted some measure of racial diversity in their friend list!) never accepted my request..

    Great work Milly, you got me stuck here, having fun, and feeling slightly guilty because am kinda procrastinating…

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  10. Your post sums up the best and worst of social media. I hate the follow/unfollow so much that I went through a stage of blocking these people/bots when they did it. I always check an account’s follower numbers before I follow back – you can usually tell if they’re just in it for the follows and I aint interested.
    But it can be exhausting being genuine on Insta. I spend a lot of time liking & commenting – because I really do enjoy it. But I haven’t been on for weeks now – the break has been good, but it’s time to get back into the fray.
    And as for DMs? Hate Hate Hate them! Auto block for sure (especially when they’re from creepy guys looking for ‘conversation’ 🤢)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg I get messages from creepy guys all the time! It’s so disturbing, especially when the opening line is a series of love heart emoji’s!

      I’m so glad you hate DMs as much as me!! How annoying are they? I really don’t understand why people do them, especially when they are more likely to piss people off, than get a paying customer or new subscriber.

      Funny story, the other day I wrote a sarcastic reply to a user’s DM on twitter. Apparently I offended the twitter user so much she blocked me and tweeted about how ‘rude I was’. I laughed my head off at her response to my very CLEAR sarcasm. Like seriously, what do you expect to happen if you continue to spam people? That you can go on your merry way leaving a trial of self-promotion and no one will raise their hand and say ‘please stop?’ I suppose all those self-promoters make it especially awesome when you meet someone authentic 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Good read there Milly. I think most people that start blogs are looking for the instant gratification of their numbers exploding instead of building relationships and connections with other writers based on common ground in their views and contributions.

    I’m happy having a modest amount of followers. As I continue to grow and build a following it is my wish that people will follow based off their interest in my work and not because of their numbers and stats.

    The real will always recognize real in others and avoid the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gary! Oh and the last thing you said is SO TRUE: ‘The real will always recognisze the real in others’. I think that’s why I started to get trolled, some people who came across my blog thought I was coming across as ‘fake’ – not sure why they got a bee in their bonnett about it, but they sure did !!

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  12. This is such good information. I honestly thought people were just unfollowing me the minute I followed them back! I had no idea they were using bots.

    I have been trying to be more active and engaged on social media and here in the blogging world, so I gave myself the goal of one genuine instagram comment and one genuine blog comment every day for the month of October. It’s been so nice actually reading people’s posts and stopping to digest information instead of just scrolling through really quickly!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I was aware of buying followers but not really understanding how or even why. I follow and read about 60 blogs in total, and figure I could handle 100 as long as they are not daily bloggers! I cannot read 100 posts a day! You cannot follow every one who follows you though I think many expect that. When I say follow, I mean REALLY follow–not just push a button and forget about it. Nice photo! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Greg! You sound like a really genuine blogger 🙂 You absolutely need a medal if you read ever post! Like, what a champion. I usually just look at the first few posts on my reader when I log on (like maybe the first 10 or so).

      Oh and I’m so glad you liked the photo! I always spend FOREVER choosing a featured image, so it’s nice when someone notices 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for the post, Milly. Informative and interesting. I’m not chasing followers, though. I’m quite happy with my just over 100. In fact, I’m quite impressed with myself for getting so many. I do read most of the blogs, but not every day. Haven’t time for that, I’m afraid. Have to get on with writing novels!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for the info! I don’t think it’s the same issue as bots, but I’ve been getting lots of friend invites on FB these days that are clearly from false accounts. How do I know they are false accounts? Because when you go to their page, there is no info, no biography, and only a cover photo has been uploaded. I’m still trying to figure out what the purpose of those is. Government spying?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really interesting. My best guess is that they’re scammers? At least I think that’s what I remember hearing about invites from clearly fake accounts. I think some people don’t realise they are fake and might strike up a conversation with them, next thing they know, they’re being asked for money!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s an ethics thing – the people I follow are as eclectic as I am, and that’s what I like. If I don’t read Everything, I at least read most of the posts from the people I follow, and I allow a specific amount of time to do that. If there are too many for that amount of time, I have to reduce it – or I could ask them to not post so often. Hadn’t thought of that. Hmmmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Yes! Being genuine and honest is the fastest way to get followers or likes (Just like Milly!) unless you’re a totally butt. Of course, I suppose the other butts can follow those butts. But – I’ve found that blogging is more than just hashing out some opinions or book reviews and racking up likes. It’s sharing and discussing and being a part of a community.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Wow, now I feel old! I’d never even heard of bots! Thanks for another interesting article. I love the 100 comment challenge- honestly, that’s one reason (besides being old 🙂 ) that I haven’t tried twitter or instagram – many of the things I heard about it seemed a bit artificial, and I get enough of that on fb. It’s nice to hear that you’re getting to meet some interesting people and make some real connections through them.

    Liked by 7 people

  19. I always make it a point to check out the site of a follower, versus just hitting the “follow” button. I now only follow people that I’m truly interested in. Instagram can be bad for this type of thing. I will have a wave of followers because I followed one person (say, a traveler for example), only to have them all unfollow me when they realize that I’m just a shmuck from Ontario ;).

    Liked by 8 people

    1. When I first started blogging I would rarely check out the site of a follower – instead I would hit the follow button and move on. Thankfully I’ve grown out of that, but I do know there are some people I miss out on, which is such a shame as I love checking out other people’s websites as seeing what they’re like behind that logo and name.

      Yeah Instagram is just tragic! I once posted a photo of a salad that did pretty well (lol!) and all these health freaks started folllowing me, then after a few weeks I posted a photo of some cupcakes and they were like ‘who the hell are you!?’ hahaha.

      There’s no way you’re a shmuck in my eyes! Anyone who lives overseas (from me) is automatically pretty cool 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

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