Oct 3, 2021 | Ibiza Blog | 0 comments

Bots Of Ibiza

Ibiza Blog | 0 comments

Written by Dan Kirwan

One of the first rules of Public Relations is to control the narrative. It’s a skill where one side of a story is put forward and sold as the truth before another version comes out. This is achieved by relating the said story in a more personal and intimate manner, convincing its audience to connect with its subject on an emotional rather than logical level. The technique has been around for decades in print media, business, and politics, however in recent times it has flourished in the world of social media with the help of bots and manufactured accounts, the fuel of fake news, a term coined by an American President who maximised its effect to obtain the most powerful position in the world.

Some experts estimate that over 40% of accounts on social media are bots, a manufactured network of robotic accounts controlled by a command centre with one or more people working to influence and promote a brand or concept they are paid to target. As many people and businesses on social media, especially those in the entertainment and hospitality sector, view the numbers of likes and shares as social affirmations and popularity votes, some can fast forward years of organic marketing by buying the services of these accounts and ordering their likes, shares and retweets to their profile page or business.

It’s an easy enough business to set up, all you need is an email account and a social media software application like Hootsuite that can automatically publish to multiple linked accounts with one click on a CMS dashboard. These can be networked and linked together for more social media juice just like a power grid. The most popular way to engage these manufactured accounts is to use them to retweet, like or share a targeted brands content, adding inflated authority to the brand’s social credibility. Comments are much more difficult to manipulate as publishing an automated response across a network of linked accounts will look and feel robotic, a risk that could expose its non-human nature. Therefore it’s safer to remain silent and use the automotive process of the publishing software discreetly. Like the dark-suited agents from The Matrix, bots can quickly move from one account to another in their network at any given time, moonlighting as a new identity and deleting an old one if they feel it’s compromised. 

The average-sized network that one person can easily control or administer would have a minimum of 300 accounts associated with it.  When I was employed in social media on the island of Ibiza back in 2015, I was made aware of a Bot network operating in San Antonio. with an arsenal of likes, shares and retweets directed at any Ibiza related account or promoter that wanted to inflate their profile or message. These social entrepreneurs were young, tech-savvy individuals with a sharp ability to connect and speak the language of modern social media kids, they could see how easy it was to manipulate and control the narrative, especially on a holiday island like Ibiza, where English content media competition was in a different league, similar to Man United playing UD Ibiza at home. Some Spanish businesses find it difficult to relate to Northern European cultures online, as they much prefer the human connection with their clients, so this digital environment creates an open goal for opportunist tech strikers to exploit.

If you can’t spot the sucker at the table, then it’s usually you. 

In my experience, the majority of these manufactured accounts are associated with tourist trapping businesses on the island, especially in San Antonio. Their aim is to own the narrative that promotes their client’s sales pitch, a job they are quite skilled at. They employ the latest video techniques, alongside social, fashion and economic trends that feed into their online distribution network.  In 2020 they were behind a campaign that attempted to trap tourists into thinking that Ibiza was open for business during the height of a deadly pandemic. Many UK tourists took the bait losing deposits on tables and rooms they were never going to get to, due to lockdown regulations. Negative comments and complaints posted by trapped tourists were quickly deleted from the business pages associated with this campaign, another skill set of the bot command network.

So how can you spot a bot manufactured account? While the owners of these accounts are smart and always finding ways to disguise and avoid detection in the fast-changing world of pop culture and software publishing development, there are a few telltale signs that I look out for before blocking them from my page.

  • The first one is the number of retweets on their account, if the majority of their posts are automated actions like retweets, chances are they are bots.
  • The second is the number of followers they have, usually, the number of manufactured accounts relates to their distribution network, one bot account follows the other and so on. In Ibiza, I have found this number to range between 139 to 340 depending on the age of the account. They don’t usually make an appearance until they have manufactured one hundred or more followers.
  • The third sign is linked to the accounts name and bio description. Both are short and common usually with the keywords geek, ninja, guru, nerd, maven, aficionado, fanatic, or “evangelist” contained. Other popular ones are beer, coffee or bacon and in Ibiza, many are associated with Lad friendly premiership football clubs so they can relate better to their audience.
  • User engagement stats, the real barometer of authentic social media, are always low.
  • Posts are always brief in nature and read like statements rather than an opinion or individual message. This similar style of writing can identify linked accounts so they tend to keep it brief and to the point.

A simple rule to remember, for any new business to understand is that real, organic followers take time and effort to build, there is no shortcut in this area unless you buy manufactured accounts and bots that instantly pump up your page like a bodybuilder on steroids. In my opinion, it takes a year to build and grow any sizeable social media presence, so if somebody is touting a social media package that delivers instant likes, retweets and shares, chances are they are bots and not real clients, a practice that can damage reputation and make owners hostage to its on tap service. Many people only discover this when they part company with these social media experts and witness their likes and shares disappear faster than a chupito in the West End.

Ibiza has always been full of pirates, it’s what makes the island unique and colourful, and the Golden Rule when dealing with pirates is always, always to be Buyer Beware. If you are naive enough to fall for their tricks, without doing some research, then in my opinion that’s not the Pirates fault.  Look at it as a valuable life lesson,  Ibiza is like an underground game of poker, if you can’t spot the sucker at the table, then it’s most likely you.

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