When it comes to bringing in site traffic, paid social media is an easy choice. For increasing brand awareness, maximising your engagement with customers and promoting your business with sponsored posts or listings, it’s a no-brainer.
But the problem of bots on social media is well known, and when it comes to your social media strategy, these bots could be having a serious detrimental impact.
So how do bots affect your social media efforts? And does this mean that you need to cancel your social media strategy as soon as possible?
Before you panic and pull the plug on your paid social, let’s look at the bigger picture.
How do social media bots work?
There are many different types of bots that perform a wide variety of tasks on social media. One of the most common is performing automated likes, follows or comments on posts.
Once a bot is set up with a social media profile, it can then perform these clicking actions 24/7 as required.
This kind of bot can be easily created by anyone with a fairly basic level of programming knowledge. You can even hire a developer online to create a botnet, or better still you can also hire a ready to go botnet from around $100.
When it comes to social media bots, most developers will use a huge network of fake profile bots and hire them out online.
So, how do these social media bots impact your marketing strategy?
1. Traffic on your ads
Perhaps the most obvious impact on your paid social marketing strategy is the issue of fake clicks or impressions. When you’re paying per click, you’re obviously hoping that views and clicks are genuine humans.
So for a bot to click or view your ads is essentially wasted money as this engagement has zero chance of a conversion.
These fake views occur either on the main social media platforms, or on the ad network. These may for example allow ad placements on apps and partner sites.
When you factor in these fake impressions, it has been found that around half of all engagement on paid social posts comes from non-genuine sources.
2. Not-so influential influencers
Influencer marketing is hot, and is a trend that many businesses leverage to reach a young and savvy audience. However, as we’ve seen, it’s so easy to buy likes and followers that the very validity of many influencers has been called into question.
A study by CHEQ into the economics of fake influencers found that the loss to fraud per post ranges from 20 cents for a low level influencer, all the way to over $37,000 for one of the A-listers, based on the cost for sponsorship.
The exact amounts of bots on social media varies from platform to platform. Typically, among the wall gardens (highly-used digital advertising platforms which keeps their technology, information, and user data to itself) disclose that 5% of it’s accounts are fake profiles.
Other social media platforms are all also heavily populated with bots, skewing the performance metrics of both influencers and paid social posts.
3. Retargeting fake users?
Marketers have jumped onto the trend for retargeting site visitors and those who have previously interacted with ads. After all, if they’ve already shown interest it should be easy to get them to convert, right?
But the problems with targeting bots also applies with retargeting. What if your campaign is sending retargeted ads to bots? And when you consider that around 5% of all clicks on paid ads are from bots, you could be paying out twice to these non-human engagements.
4. Cart abandonment and form filling
One in every 50 visits to a shopping cart is from a bot. Shockingly, data shows that 16% of paid social clicks on Black Friday 2020 and 28% on Cyber Monday were from bots.
If these bots click through from your social media ads, you’re facing a triple pronged problem.
First, the problem of paying for the click or impression from the ad, next from the lost revenue with that customer (or bot in this case) abandoning their purchase, and thirdly, the above mentioned retargeting problem.
The same methods used by bots to fill shopping carts can also be used to fill forms, which can be used to download information or even to apply for services such as loans. These form filling bots then waste money and time. An example of this is a personal finance company who have found that bots apply for loans on their site, only for these loans to need reversals or cancellations.
5. Skewed metrics and decision making
So your paid social campaign has had some great results? Lots of views and likes means success, right?
With many businesses looking at the headline metrics of click volumes or views, it’s easy to miss the fact that a big percentage comes from fraud. By missing the fraud factor, and only looking at the results, these campaigns might look like a success.
But what if your last successful campaign saw 20-30% of its traffic come from bots? Would you be happy to invest again in the same platform?
Bot traffic inflates the engagement, reduces the amount of genuine exposure that posts receive and even ad platforms look like they’re performing better than they are.
Understanding and blocking bots
The problem of bot traffic online is the elephant in the room for many marketers. In many instances bot traffic might seem obvious, with spam comments on your posts, or high click volume accompanied by a high bounce rate.
Abandoning your social media strategy is probably not the best option for most businesses. After all, even with those skewed metrics, the ROAS can still be solid.
The fraud prevention software industry is a growing market, with options such as CHEQ for PPC, which eliminates bots on both search and social media.This is designed to provide Customer Acquisition Security, provided to revenue ops leaders, eliminating the fast-growing problem of fake users and bots from customers’ funnels, campaigns, analytics and CRM. Including the problems on paid social.
Whatever your strategy for paid social media, make sure to look into blocking those bots.