How to Avoid the Hashtag Hungry Bots Spam on Twitter
Ryan McCready Content Editor at Venngage states that Twitter used to be one of the favorite social networking platforms and was seen as the future of communication. He highlights how over the past few years it has morphed into a lawless place where bots, spammers, and fake accounts can run wild. And the higher-ups refuse to take action, hurting not only the core users but your business
The openness of the Twitter platform for the developers and the web-first presence of the app makes it easy for scripts and programs to run wild. And they do, especially when it comes to interacting with #hashtags.
Most of the popular hashtags like #Marketing, #Startup or #Sales are easy targets for bots to mess with your marketing plan. Whether it be with spammy followers or fake notifications, it is all bad from a marketing standpoint. And it can cause bad decisions based on incomplete or incorrect data.
Everyone has dealt with them in some capacity and I for one am tired of it! So what can you do, other than stop using Twitter completely? Which still is not a bad idea. Well we have some suggestions that will help you stay away from the dreaded Hashtag Hungry Bots:
Stop Being Generic
As I stated in the intro we found that simple and popular hashtags are magnets for bot accounts. Because as soon as a hashtag becomes relevant it is added to the mega list that bots target. And the generic or one-word hashtags are the ones they have been messing with the longest.
In a previous study, we found that a majority of the most used hashtags in business and marketing were dominated by bots. In that sample there were more than 135k tweets analyzed over 30 diverse business hashtags. It was quickly seen that bots and fake accounts were all over these hashtags already. Sharing, liking and retweeting accounts automatically without any intervention.
Check out this graphic that breaks down the findings:
A breakdown for reference:
- Questionable: Either Follower/Following is very high or their sharing/liking habits are odd.
- Real: Following, sharing and liking habits are that seem organic or like a real person would behave.
- ZeroSpam: Following no one else but has shared upwards of 1k tweets a month, otherwise known as Retweet Farms.
For most of the hashtags the Questionable and Zero Spam accounts vastly outnumber the Real ones. This may not seem like a problem but the sheer number of accounts they are following and liking is INCREDIBLE. Some are automatically liking and retweeting thousands of tweets per month, with no sign of slowing down! Here is an example of that behavior:
Those accounts are the worst because they can significantly impact your marketing strategy through false notifications. Especially if you do not have the time or resources to analyze every single tweet. And false notifications lead to incorrect signals which in turn lead to bad decisions.
So the first step to get away from the bots and false notifications is to stop using basic or generic hashtags. Especially. if they are on a list of the “Top 100 Hashtags for Businesses” article.
Find Your Niche
This could be part two of the previous point but I think it deserves its own section because it is so important. And it is overlooked by so many in the social media world, especially Twitter.
Once you stop using generic hashtags you may be asking what to do next? Well you could just stop using them all together or actually invest some time in finding your niche. Because that is where your customers, readers or evangelists are at. These are the people buying your product or service, make sure they will be able see your tweets.
Now it will take some time and real effort to really find your niche. Using generic and hashtags is taking the easy way out and are full of irrelevant noise. It is not as simple as taking a similar hashtag or adding a few words to an existing hashtag.
Here is an example of Josh Kopelman using #StartupPHL to put his tweet about the Philadelphia startup community in front of people who would care. He could have used something simple like #Startup or #Tech but it would have been lost in the noise immediately:
Your goal should always be to get your product or content in front of potential customers not the world. Break through the noise, bot accounts and general garbage on Twitter with niche and specific hashtags.
Use One At A Time
Make your tweets look instantly more professional by just using one hashtag at a time. There is really no need to spam your followers or readers with useless hashtags just for one more like. It will also decrease the likelihood that your tweets are found by the bots or fake accounts.
Plus thought leaders are following the less is more approach to hashtags with a majority using none or just one. In our study of around 15k tweets from the biggest influencers in tech, business and marketing found that only about 13% of them are using hashtags at all. That is not a great sign for hashtag use in the future!
When they do use hashtags an overwhelming majority use only one at a time! Which honestly was surprising for me because we did look at a lot of social media pros. And only a few were using more than one per tweet, well except for that guy who was using 5 per tweet. I will not link to their account out of respect but it looked incredibly unprofessional!
Hopefully these tips will not only help you avoid the hashtag hungry bots but also make you a better social media pro! It may be hard to move past these easy fallbacks, but it will be worth it in the long run. Move past the vanity metrics of having a large number of useless followers or notifications. And find that niche that really cares about your product or content. Remember Twitter should be used to make a conversation, not just get a notification!