Elon Musk offered to purchase Twitter for $44 billion US and has been making headlines ever since. The number of real accounts on Twitter versus bots has especially been getting recent attention. So how is this relevant to you?

Some numbers matter, and some don’t, when it comes to social media. Most social media users are obsessed with the numbers related to engagement such as likes, follows, and comments. While those numbers have relevance, and can be extremely helpful, they have their place. The most important number we should all care about is conversions: the number of people that take your action (buy your product/service, join your list, sign up for you event, etc…).  So where do bots come into play?

Vanity Numbers:

Ashton Kutcher was the first person to get one million followers on Twitter back in 2009. Since then, celebrities (and aspiring celebrities) have been focused on numbers like connections, followers, and likes. Now it’s not that these numbers aren’t important – simple math proves that the more people that can see your content on social media, the more that are likely to engage with it.

The issue is that when it comes to results, the math isn’t as straightforward. So, someone with 50,000 followers won’t necessarily have ten times the conversions of someone with 5000 – in fact, they may have fewer conversions than someone with 1/10th of their connections.

Quality of Followers:

Quality matters. You could have a million followers, but if none of them are potential buyers (or will share your content with potential buyers), you could potentially see zero conversions. An extreme example is that if you own a brick & mortar store in Oklahoma that sells bridles for horses and you have a million followers that are all located in Southeast Asia, you will not generate a lot of foot traffic to your store with social media postings.  That’s an unlikely scenario, but it illustrates the point.

Bots come into play because they inflate follower count. A bot is an account that is created programmatically – someone wrote a program to go in and create one or more accounts that aren’t associated with a real user. These bots are created mostly to follow other accounts (with the intention to be followed back to make them look like real accounts). Once a connection is made, they may send spam links either publicly or via direct message. Often, the developer creates hundreds or thousands of these accounts so they can sell a following service: for example, they may charge you $1000 to instantly have 1000 of these accounts follow your account.

Why Elon Musk cares about Bots:

Just as users of social media like to see their numbers rise, social media companies also use this as a measure of their reach. So if you were buying a business and they claimed to have 100 clients, you’d want to know how many of those clients you’d be able to continue to service when you take it over. Let’s say you find out that ten of those accounts are family members and another ten are friends, and only use the company due to their connection with the owner. You can see how that looks like you’re only getting 80 clients. Elon Musk is concerned that Twitter is claiming that only 5% of the accounts are bots, but he suspects it to be higher. Now whether he’s using that to reduce his purchase price or devalue the stock is beyond the scope of this article. But this is why his

Numbers do Matter:

Some social media platforms “reward” their users by hitting certain milestones. For example, 1000 followers may be required to add links or get paid for ads. These numbers change and restrictions come and go, but the purpose is to encourage people to use the platform and do the work required to hit a certain threshold.  Some publishers will only work with authors that have hit a certain threshold of social media followers.

So don’t automatically dismiss the vanity numbers as increasing them certainly doesn’t hurt. Despite it being a vanity number, it’s still impressive to have hundreds of thousands or more followers on social media. Plus, it’s a huge confidence boost to have a large following and engagement numbers. And even if most of your direct connections aren’t potential clients, they may have potential clients in their network. So keep creating amazing, shareable social media on a consistent basis and you’ll see all of your numbers rise. If you have questions about how social media can help your business, please contact us.

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