End bot mess on Twitter with blue tick, say social media experts

Digital media buyers welcome Twitter's crackdown on bots; believe that the next step is to verify every account on the platform

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Updated: Jul 13, 2018 8:58 AM

Twitter, in an attempt to clean its platform, is removing locked accounts from follower count of users globally. As part of the initiative, the social media giant suspended over 70 million bots over the last two months, according to The Washington Post.

This purge of fake profiles and bots is part of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s attempts to “increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”

The marketing fraternity has welcomed Twitter’s attempt to create a healthy platform. Keith Weed, CMO, Unilever, applauded Twitter’s crackdown on fake accounts. Expressing his support, Weed tweeted, “Pleased to see @twitter taking a big stand against the fake followers polluting the digital ecosystem. Great step forward which strengthens the industry - I hope to see more following.”

Digital media buyers, exchange4media spoke to, also welcomed the move and felt that Twitter should have acted on fake profiles a long time back. Going forward, experts believe that the next step for Twitter is to verify every account on the platform.

The Problem

Social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, are under pressure to show a growing number of Monthly Active Users. “However, fake account-oriented growth has the danger of creating a negative feedback loop with advertisers, users, and shareholders,” says Venugopal Ganganna, CEO, Langoor.

In the beginning, brands saw Twitter as a platform where they could “get topics to trend,” notes Pranay Swarup - Co Founder and CEO - Chtrbox, an influencer marketing agency. “Over time, mature brand managers and marketers have grown beyond vanity metrics like those,” adds Swarup.

In fact, Twitter has no business interest in getting topics or hashtags to trend, Swarup points out. Brands pay influencers who buy followers to tweet in order to create buzz and trend for an hour or two on Twitter. “At Rs 8 per tweet, I could get a topic to trend for Rs 20,000-30,000,” says a digital media buyer, pointing out the futility of the exercise. 

With vanity metrics out of the picture, brands have very little to gain from Twitter. In fact, some digital media buyers said the platform has been losing the support of brands who see better reach and engagement on other social media platforms. Sending a strong message to influencers who buy followers, Weed recently said that Unilever will cut ties with influencers who have fake social media followers. It was a clarion call not just for influencers but to all those who have been fuelling the ‘bot economy’.

What Next?

The answer is unanimous - verify all users, giving them the blue tick of approval. “Making all accounts verified, as a next step, would in fact be a game changer for Twitter,” says Ganganna.

Swarup shares that as an influencer marketing expert, he is often asked if his agency is building any third-party tool that can help brand analyse the performance of influencers or validate the quality score of influencers. “In fact, the first key players who need to do this are social media platforms themselves,” he points out.

“It is a little surprising as to why Twitter has come late to the party. It does not seem very hard to identify bots. For example, if I receive an odd ‘inspiring’ comment on an Instagram post, it is quite obvious that it is a bot,” adds Swarup.

His suggestion to Twitter and Instagram: Give users the option to flag a comment on their posts as spam. “If Instagram and Twitter could do this, they can crowdsource feedback from consumers. If certain profiles are being flagged more often, they can be automatically taken down,” he proposes.

One of the reasons why brands have been moving away from Twitter over the last few years is that they have begun to associate Twitter with “ranting against a brand” and “do not see it as a platform for healthy engagement with their community,” says Sudish Balan, Chief Business Officer, Tonic Worldwide. Often, these are users who create an account only to bash a brand, Balan notes.

Balan believes that verifying users on Twitter and even giving them a rating can help make the platform healthy. “Say, if a user with a low rating posts that Malad is flooded, you can take that with a pinch of salt, as opposed to a user with a higher rating saying the same thing,” he explains.

Jyoti Kumar Bansal, CEO India, PHD, says, “With the ecosystem evolving at the pace that it is, there will always be challenges. It is important for us to work with publishers and clients to ensure that our brand goals are at the centre stage of what we do, and that the brands’ equity and visibility is in the right context and environment. I am sure we will see actions that will allow brands to connect with consumers in a meaningful manner, as the social media space is here to stay. Marketing technology will also play a strong role in this.”

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