By Adam Fraser
There has been significant discussion in the marketing community about the role of automation in marketing business processes and increasingly, as Artificial Intelligence technologies advance, the role of bots in customer service and other business operations.
The discussion about the balance between art and science in marketing, and the importance of the human touch is a significant and somewhat contentious discussion point. However, in terms of the increasing importance of bots, a recent Pew Research study has indicated that a surprisingly high proportion of activity on Twitter is driven by bots.
The study showed that an incredible two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites are posted by automated accounts – not human beings. Wow.
To source its findings, the Center analysed 2,315 of the most popular websites and examined the roughly 1.2 million tweets (sent by English language users) that included links to those sites during a circa six-week period in mid 2017.
The key findings included:
- Of all tweeted links to popular websites, 66% are shared by accounts with characteristics common among automated “bots”, rather than human users.
- Among popular news and current event websites, 66% of tweeted links are made by suspected bots – identical to the overall average.
- The share of bot-created tweeted links is even higher among certain kinds of news sites. E.g an estimated 89% of tweeted links to popular aggregation sites that compile stories from around the web are posted by bots.
- A relatively small number of highly active bots are responsible for a significant share of links to prominent news and media sites; the 500 most-active suspected bot accounts are responsible for 22% of the tweeted links to popular news.
- The study does not find evidence that automated accounts currently have a “political bias” in their overall link-sharing behaviour.
Examples of automated bots include:
- Netflix Bot (@netflix_bot) automatically tweets when new content has been added to the service.
- Grammar Police (@_grammar_) is a bot that identifies grammatically incorrect tweets and offers suggestions for correct usage.
- Museum Bot (@museumbot) posts random images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- The CNN Breaking News Bot (@attention_cnn) is an unofficial account that sends an alert whenever CNN claims to have breaking news.
- PowerPost by the Washington Post (@PowerPost) is a bot that provides news about decision-makers in Washington.
Pew is a highly respected think tank, hence this is an important data point as we assess the ongoing role of bots in the marketing mix.