How to recognize that you’re talking to a bot

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28 / 02 / 2018

How to recognize that you’re talking to a bot

Two billion. That’s the number of Facebook users today (that’s bigger than the Catholic Church, for the record). Naturally, Facebook now plays a key role in marketing strategies for companies all over the planet. And the huge volume of users has led to a reliance on chatbots.

New to chatbots? There are two types you should know about — Marketing Chatbots and Fake Accounts.


Marketing Chatbots are created by companies for marketing purposes. A company might employ a chatbot for marketing, another for payments and processing, and another for customer service. In terms of generating revenue, the customer service chatbot has a majority of the market share. According to a report presented by Business Insider, the global chatbot market is constantly developing and expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025.

The numbers are impressive, but they shouldn’t surprise anyone. When it comes to dealing with customer service, approximately 45% of users prefer chatbots as the primary mode of communication for getting in touch.

Fake Accounts are a more problematic type of chatbot. They’re popular on Twitter, where hundreds of thousands of seemingly real accounts are actually just fake account chatbots, designed to flood the system and espouse certain political beliefs. Most of the bots on Twitter were created by Russians to support Brexit in the UK and influence what people think about political candidates during the United States election.

Bots are useful for affecting mass opinions and trends in social media. According to a thorough Indiana University study, bots made up 15% of total Twitter users — that’s about 30 million. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to tell a bot from a real account, but often the difference is so slight that many users are completely oblivious. So how do you know if you’re talking to a real person? We’ve got some tips.


Top 5 things to look for to find out if you’re chatting with a bot


  1. Profile Photo. If there is a blank space or a generic symbol of a social network, you could be dealing with a bot. But just because the profile has a pic, it doesn’t mean you should automatically assume it’s real. If the account only has one photo, or uses a blurred photo with a slightly recognizable face, it’s cause for concern.

  2. Google That Photo. If the photo looks ordinary, it’s still a good idea to investigate further. You can google the profile to see if there are other accounts with the same name and photo.

  3. Verified Checkmark. Celebrities and politicians are the first to fall victim to fake accounts. Before you engage, check for a Verified checkmark (often blue in color) near the name of the user profile. This checkmark confirms the person’s identity.

  4. Biography Discrepancies. Bot creators know that people dig deep to verify the authenticity of a profile, often checking the bio for clues. That’s why bot creators have started to employ biography generators to fill their profiles and make it look more genuine. But the generators aren’t sophisticated. For example, the profile pic might include a 25-year-old female in a bikini, but the biography might say that she’s a grandmother of 5. These accounts should be blocked immediately.

  5. Social Interaction. Pay attention to how the profile interacts with the world. Have they had conversations with others? Did they respond to comments? How have they reacted to other posts?

These basic tips should help you to tell bots from real accounts in any social network. Know of any other signs that you might be chatting with a bot? Let us know in the comments and help everyone stay safe.