What Happened When I Tested Social Media Bots
We knew the day was coming. The day where robots laughed in the face of the half-witted human race as they advanced to become the dominant species. The day where artificial intelligence is far superior than the mortal brainpower of human beings. The day where the efficiency of robots surpasses any human capability.
Just kidding. We’re still awesome – for now.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the age of digital demands we get things done faster, cheaper, and better. We’re constantly finding ways to improve, make things more convenient, and doing it at the lowest cost possible. When it comes to marketing, the bar is set even higher, as technology continues to evolve more rapidly than we can keep up with.
With the intricacies and repetitive tasks associated with social media management, of course there are developers burning the midnight oil to find a way to automate these tasks. Say hello to the rising star of social media automation: social bots.
What Is a Social Media Bot?
According to the Wikipedia definition, a social bot (also: socialbot or socbot) is a particular type of chatterbot that is employed in social media networks to automatically generate messages (e.g. tweets) or in general advocate certain ideas, support campaigns, and public relations either by acting as a “follower” or even as a fake account that gathers followers itself.
In a nutshell, social bots can aid in customer service, grow your audience by automating likes, comments, and shares with a defined set of parameters, unfollow people who aren’t following you back, and follow users who meet certain criteria.
My Results from Social Bots
Social bots are the hot topic right now in digital marketing, so I decided to take a couple for a spin to see if they’re worth the hype. I focused on increasing engagement and my target audience, instead of customer service bots for this blog.
I used Boostgram, an exclusive bot for Instagram designed to increase your audience size and engagement, and MonsterSocial, which creates automations across Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook.
Boostgram was born to increase engagement from real followers, and grow your audience size. They offer a generous 3-day trial to see if you like it, clean reporting, and you can even choose some limited demographic information to ensure you’re reaching a relevant audience.
The monthly fee of $99 makes it a little on the spendy side for me, but they do offer promotions if you don’t sign up after the 3-day trial that could be worth a shot if Instagram is your social media champion.
Let’s take a look at some of the core components of Boostgram:
I liked being able to control what actions Boostgram takes on my behalf. You can elect to have them like posts, follow and unfollow users on your behalf. Additionally, you can like photos of specific users’ followers, specific hashtags, or locations.
It’s really important to keep your account from looking spammy, and people desire brands who look like they’re a big deal. One thing I liked about Boostgram’s targeting dashboard is that you can set the parameters for which you unfollow users so there’s not a huge difference between how many users you follow, and how many follow back.
Another noteworthy feature in Boostgram’s targeting dashboard is the ability to choose the activity speed and number of automated likes and interactions within a set time to avoid getting your account frozen (yep, that totally happened to me!). You can also turn on automatic throttling, which will slow the activity down if it detects your activity could flag your account.
For my test campaign, I opted to not follow users, target specific users’ followers, and anyone who wasn’t following me were set to be unfollowed in 1 day.
There’s nothing I hate more than spreadsheets and number clusters. They give me anxiety. I try to avoid them as much as possible. This is why I loved Boostgram’s reporting dashboard. It was visual, intuitive, and I could consume the data in a matter of seconds.
You can see follower, engagement, and unfollow data within a couple of clicks, while also setting a custom timeframe. That was super important to me to see time-over-time data comparisons.
- Clean, easy-to-use interface that even a techno-novice could use
- Visual reports allow you to easily see the impact of your Boostgram campaign (follower trends and engagement metrics)
- You can easily change the actions Boostgram takes on your behalf, and the users they interact with
- Schedule Instagram posts (though Instagram makes you verify your posts through their app before posting)
- I saw great results: I increased my followers by a couple thousand, and my engagement rate spiked.
- The price point is super high to me for a single channel, however, it might make sense for a business that relies heavily on Instagram for sales and website traffic, $1200 per year was a little on the spendy side for me
- There were a couple of times Instagram froze my account, and at the price point, I felt like I missed out on opportunities
MonsterSocial boasts it’s the #1 automation platform for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest. They offer a 24 hour trial, and their pricing seems to be pretty reasonable for the features you get. You can either purchase each social channel as a separate module, or elect to purchase all of them. For a single social media channel, you’re looking at $39.99 for 3 months, or you could get all social channels included for $99.99 for 3 months. If you’re using more than a single channel, it could be worth exploring.
You download the software application to your computer, but you also can have the option to manage your activity in a web browser.
For MonsterSocial, I checked out each module’s features and functions, but tested Instagram for consistency purposes. It’s worth noting that the Facebook feature only helps automate personal pages and events – not business pages. Womp womp.
Within 24 hours, I saw a dramatic improvement in my Instagram profile (over 500 profile views within 24 hours, 1300 more engagements, 80 new followers, and 12 website clicks). Not bad for one day. However, the user interface is clunky. And when I say clunky, I mean it’s not super intuitive and it took me awhile to get a grasp on how to navigate the application.
It was difficult for me to understand what each of the features were, and you had to upload .txt files when targeting user profiles, instead of being able to type usernames or profiles directly into the application.
Furthermore, Boostgram set my expectations pretty high when it came to the user interface. You’re not able to target users based on a defined list of criteria, but you can target content based on tags. While you can target specific user profiles, you can’t target their followers. This was a bit of a letdown, since the goal of every business is to reach relevant audiences.
Just a fair warning: it’s easy to confuse the unfollow features. I accidentally ended up unfollowing everyone I was following, when I intended to unfollow those who weren’t following me back. Woops!
For this campaign, I targeted hashtags, attempted to unfollow non-followers, and super-liked user lists. The results were impressive, I must say, despite the overall experience. So perhaps it’s worth the headache.
- Impressive results for a short time span
- You can add multiple accounts, if you’ve got ’em
- Price point is reasonable for the results you get
- It took a long time to complete actions
- The interface is super clunky and not intuitive – even for a tech junkie like me!
- You can’t link Facebook business pages, only personal
- No reporting capabilities, so you have to rely on the metrics native to your social media app
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the results from both these bots, it just depends on how much your social channels are worth to you. I think if you sell consumer goods and use Instagram heavily, it’s totally worth enlisting the help of Boostgram or MonsterSocial to drive targeted traffic to your page and get them engaged with your brand.
Organic reach is only declining as we move into a pay-to-play business model in the world of social media. Automation bots are the next best way to keep your engagement up, while also growing your audience in an authentic, ethical way.