Social Media Marketing

Social Media Bots Are Lighting Up Vaping Marketing Campaigns – Forbes

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In case you haven’t noticed, the social media bots are at it again.

One recent example: A report this week suggests bots are responsible for campaigns related to e-cigarettes, including crafting the posts themselves, increasing the likes and follows, and inflating audience engagement in other ways so that it looks like there is more interest and agreement about the advertisements. 

The U.S. Government has asked vaping manufacturers like Reynolds and Juul to provide information about how they used social media to promote their products.

The concern is that the messaging on social media has been misleading already, even without the stupid bot tricks. There’s already an investigation into the terms used to describe vaping products and their safety.

Of course, bot networks are not new. What’s different this time is that the specific advertising campaigns involve more than an app that automatically follows other accounts (similar to what legitimate products like Staged.com or SoGro can do) and can act more strategically. According to the report, bots craft the messages in a way that leads to more clicks and can inflate engagement — say, by adding comments, clicking like, sharing Facebook posts, or retweeting the ad.

It’s a disturbing trend partly because it has to do with social media marketing (which some are incredulous about in the first place) and partly because the automated ad campaigns for vaping come at a time when that industry already has an uphill climb in terms of educating the masses. So far, 26 people have died from vaping-related illnesses; 1,299 have become ill.

It’s also troubling now that the presidential election season is in full swing. Inflating audience size, clicking like, and commenting on posts to make it seem like a candidate is more engaged or popular could create confusion about the voting populace, and could even lead to further mistrust over U.S. elections.

It could prove to be even more effective this time around, especially with improved artificial intelligence that can mimic how a real person might comment on a post, and also with technology that can circumvent the gatekeeping Facebook and Twitter do to thwart the bot networks. It’s an all out war this time around.

The question to ask is how to stop the bots from taking over social media.

We know automated systems to schedule posts using an app like SocialFlow and Sprout Social are incredibly helpful to corporations and small businesses alike. There’s a vast difference between automation and bots, however. Bots that mimic humans can lead to mass confusion and sway popular belief, as opposed to merely augmenting the human tasks related to real social media marketing.

The platforms might be somewhat helpless. In a similar way to how criminal hackers always seem to be one step ahead of security professionals, those who have a message they are promoting are constantly looking for gaps, and the platforms keep trying to block them. When they can’t keep up, social media users are the ultimate losers.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)


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