Study Suggests Twitter Delivering Misleading Analytics, 48 Million Accounts Exposed as Bots

Forty-eight million Twitter accounts have been exposed as bots, according to a study from The University of Southern California and Indiana University. Why is this a big deal? And why am I not surprised?

From big data, data warehousing, and data mining to data analytics and everything in between—it’s never been more important to marketers who depend on social data from sites like Twitter to optimize their business. And with the suggestion that a trusted social media platform is delivering false analytics— it’s time to sound the alarms.

According to the report, as many as 15% of Twitter accounts (which translates into that 48 million number) are social bots. Social bots are autonomous entities that generate massive amounts of social media content. “Characterizing ties among accounts,” says the report,” we observe that simple bots tend to interact with bots that exhibit more human-like behaviors.”

Not all social media bots are bad, though, and many companies like Kayak and Bank of America are using them for automatic alerts during disasters or outages, and in customer service responses. Let’s be clear. That’s not what the bots in this report are doing.

For the past two years, Twitter has struggled to elevate its user base in the face of growing competition, and we’ve seen the platform try to make changes to help make up the difference:  the reappointment of Jack Dorsey as CEO, cutting Vine in 2016, and a series of mediocre product changes like its confusing Moments feature. Even The New Yorker made a bold statement in January 2016 that Twitter was near its end. Per Joshua Topolsky’s The New Yorker story:  “If Twitter’s real-time feed is its most powerful asset (and it is), it’s not difficult to see a future in which Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat … focus enough on real-time news that they obviate the need for Twitter’s narrow, noisy, and oft-changing ideas about social interaction.”

A year later, Twitter remains in trouble, as 2016 saw a consistent rotation of the revolving door within its C-suite.

Tell us, will you continue to trust Twitter engagement data when reviewing social media reports for your properties? How will it change the way you conduct social media real estate business across your Twitter accounts?


Marketing Communications Strategist, RealPage
Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider

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Lea Lashley is a Contributing Editor for PropertyManagementInsider.com. She focuses on marketing and social media strategies at RealPage, Inc. She has spent nearly 15 years in marketing and communications, and was recently an adjunct professor at the master’s level in social and digital media marketing at the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. Lea received her education at the University of North Texas where she majored in English Literature.
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