More than half of Web traffic is from non-humans. That could include the cute guy or gal you’re flirting with on OKCupid. And, experts estimate: only one-third of your Twitter followers are likely human.
Who’s taken the place of people or more accurately, who’s the Bimbot that’s been posing as your potential soulmate and the Socialbot that’s been retweeting you? It’s just a software program according to Filippo Menczer, an Indiana University professor and principal investigator for the university’s research program, named Truthy.
You may not have been Punked by Ashton Kucher. You may not have been Daft Punked, as was Stephen Colbert. But, you probably have been Manti Te’o’d by a random bot. Remember the Notre Dame football star that spent years on the phone with a man who was pretending to be a woman, who was pretending to fall in love, and then have a car accident, leukemia and then die?
The new social bots are programmed to have a life. I just watched Tom Cruise as the “man or bot technician” in Oblivion, so it’s a little easier to imagine right now. The social bots tweets are programmed to mimic a regular sleep cycle (when they are off social media), little idiosyncrasies, and even a family, work and school history. The more involved versions have matching profiles on FB, Reddit or 4sq.
But, it’s not the intricacies of their made up personas that are awesome. It’s their purpose. These bots are created to sway the results of elections, dissuade political uprisings by giving the appearance of a movement to support government’s policies, as well as the more expected and mundane: take your money.
Whether it’s for faux charity or getting some of your cash to help a would-be romantic liaison make their rent: armies of bots are taking up your time, space and potentially financial resources.
The big issue for personal brands is this. Be careful how you are spending your social media time. The bots can engage you in conversation, arguments, causes and more. If you are dedicating lots of time to one-on-one interactions with people you don’t otherwise know or can verify has DNA: you may be wasting precious time. If only one-third of your tweeps really are human: cut down your estimate of your Klout score or Twitalyzer. One social media expert engaged bots and came up more influential than Oprah.
There’s also a big upside if you still have a small circle, compared to personal brands that are swinging big numbers in your area of expertise. You can tell yourself: it’s just the bots, baby.
Lesson? Personal brands: find yourself some human friends and followers. It’s time to buy someone a cup of coffee and really talk.