At the recent Social Media Strategies Summit in London, I heard from a company called Automica. The crux of their business is to build armies of fake Twitter profiles with the ultimate aim of building relationships with unsuspecting Twitter users and asking them to re-tweet a link to a piece of their client’s content or a promotion. Makes sense right? Well if you ask me this a shoddy practice that goes against the core values of online relationship building and one that will ultimately come undone. Let’s take a deeper look…
How do they do this?
1 – They create a target list of genuine Twitter users
2 – Those targets are then followed by a bot (these bots have real photos and bio info, they even have personas. Automica pay people in the Philipines to create these profiles)
3 – The bots will start to interact with the targets, perhaps re-tweeting something they say
4 – After a while and some interactions (any actual discussion between bot and user is carried out by a real person behind the bot) they will DM (assuming a mutual follow is in place) the user and ask them to RT a tweet or tweet a link that is pertinent to the client)
What does the client get from this?
I challenged the presenter on a number of things, one being what they feel the client gets from this, the uneasy answer from the speaker was ‘awareness’. I’d love to see some facts around how much awareness is actually raised by this practice. I really doubt there are actually any tangible results outside of the old chestnut of ‘awareness’.
Skating on regulatory thin ice
The speaker mentioned that Twitter outlaws the creation of fake Twitter accounts. Rule broken. He also mentioned the work they are doing breaks ASA (Advertising Standards Authority Rules). I asked him what would happen if the ASA investigated and exposed the work of one of their clients – his response was ‘give me one example of when that has happened’. Very defensive. Did you know that in California it is now against the law to create fake social network accounts? Factoid!
Who is using this service?
My gut feel is that this type of service is probably used by businesses that don’t tend to be in a great moral place when it comes to their promotion – casinos and bookies etc.
Am I missing the point or being too sensitive?
Is this a viable solution for brands? Am I just wearing my transparency and engagement hat and thinking too much? Will the walls come falling down on this type of action? Please do tell me your thoughts in the comments below)
(image - http://www.leilasrobotarmy.com/)