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Raise your hands if your social media newsfeed feels like a war zone.

Yeah, us too.

But that’s because social media has developed into a blazing, hot industry. Where before Facebook was just to connect you to your friends and crushes, a place that lets you get your kick from liking and commenting on their posts, these days it’s developed into some kind of science lab; a place where you and I both are the subjects.

There are things like engagement and algorithm, and audience targeting that experts — yes, there are now social media experts, too! — need to study.

But along with those pro tools and jargon are the many dirty ways and means that experts themselves have also developed to try and get around the rules and algorithm. Things like fake accounts and trolls and bots, for instance.

“There are companies hired to create and use fake Facebook accounts for whatever purpose,” Faith Salazar, head of social media of Publicis JimenezBasic, told MB Life over Facebook messenger.

We got in touch with Faith because two days ago, the incredibly popular Mocha Uson blog tried to raise hell on Facebook by unearthing the issue of bots — fake accounts, FYI.

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TL;DR: Mocha insinuated that Rappler employed bots because its post engagement is low relative to the number of its followers. Mocha compared this to several Pro-Duterte pages where engagement is higher than the number of followers.

“FYI, the last column indicates the number of engagements – it means Facebook counts the number of comments, likes and shares the page received for a certain period of time. IT DOES NOT INDICATE THE UNIQUE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ENGAGING WITH THE PAGE. Thus, the premise that pages don’t have bots because they have high engagement is incorrect,” Faith wrote.

The magical thing about her sober, logical, and opposing comment was…she also managed to keep the haters away. We had to talk to this girl.

You totally opposed Mocha’s line of thinking and said out for all to see that she was wrong. Can you tell me more about it?
She was wrong on several points. Mocha insinuated that the data on the last column indicates the unique number of people engaging on the page. This is not true. The last column actually counts the number of engagements — the total number of likes, comments, and shares.

Also, she assumed that if you’re a fan of a Facebook page, you automatically get to see their content on your feed. Which is also not true.

A study by Social@Ogilvy says that the organic reach of the content that brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero.

Wait, what’s organic reach?
Organic reach means that Facebook users get to see posts from pages even if they are unpaid or unsponsored.

But since 2012, organic reach has slowly been declining. According to the same study by Social@Ogilvy, by February 2014, organic reach has dropped to 6%. By 2015, it has declined to 1-2%.

And so?
This means that you will only see posts from a Facebook page that you liked if you engage with it more than any other pages. Or if you have friends who have shared posts from the page. Or if it is a sponsored ad.

So now, there are only a few reasons why any page without ads would have a significant amount of enagement:

  • if the page’s content triggers high emotional arousal, be it positive, controversial, or negative
  • if fans have turned on their notifications on the page so they get alerted whenever a new post is published
  • if there is a concerted and intentional effort to amplify a page’s post — blasting the posts through messaging, seeding it to users, or using “bots” or fake accounts to constantly comment, like, or share posts on other pages.

This is why having high engagement doesn’t necessarily mean that “bots” do not populate your page. Bots can actually be one of the reasons why some pages have unusually high engagement, compared with other brand or publisher pages. She assumed that having high engagement indicates that the users engaging on her page are not bots.

The graph that she posted came from Facebook, right?
Yes, it’s a screenshot from her page’s Facebook insight. Which is again, misleading. The data she showed was only for one week’s worth of data. It only means that for a period of one week, some pages have higher engagement than others. This data can change drastically one week after because publisher pages like ABS CBN or Rappler constantly put out a variety of posts that may trigger responses from people.



Okay, but where do these bots come from?
There are companies hired to create and use fake Facebook accounts for whatever purpose: be it political, to sway opinions, spread misinformation, or to spread content. We should be vigilant in verifying whether the content we read is from a credible source or whether we are engaging with real people or fake accounts.

Wait! You said “companies hired.” Does this mean bots are an industry standard?
There are shady companies that do this, but most of the top advertising agencies shun this practice.

Is there any way for us to know if the accounts we’re engaging with are bots?
Post history usually suggests. When was the account created? Does any of his/her friends comment on the posts? Do you see meaningful engagement there, does the profile have a story?

So for Mocha and the rest of us, how do we stop these bots from proliferating our feeds? How do we stop our loved ones from sharing links from fake sites?
I was thinking of several ways. It could come from Facebook itself. I hope they could have a movement of some sort for users to report fake accounts, when they see one. Also, I think “Circulating misinformation online” is part of the Cybercrime Law. The government should enable citizens to be able to report pages and accounts that are deliberately trying to spread malicious information.

On the Mocha post that you commented on, we were so impressed that you kept the haters away despite opposing views! How did you do that?
Because I’m logical and nice. No, but admittedly, I also comment hastily and I express my anger in some pages. I don’t think about how people will feel or think when they read my comment. I’ve learned that this won’t work, and you will unintentionally anger people who have probably misinterpreted you.

When your objective is to educate people on Facebook, you should always read your post from your audience perspective. Talk on Facebook as you would face-to-face. Be respectful and don’t expect people to agree with you all the time. Be logical and sympathetic and avoid being combative! A little humor helps as well.

Art: Madel Crudo

Faith Salazar leads the Social Media and Digital Content Team of Publicis JimenezBasic Advertising. Publicis JimenezBasic has won 9 awards, including Digital Marketer of the Year and Best of Show at the Boomerang Awards, honoring Philippine advertisers and agencies whose campaigns and programs exemplified digital marketing effectiveness.


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