Lion of the Blogosphere

Social-media bots and value transference

There’s a NY Times article about social-media bots.

In order to become really popular on social media, you need to use bots. This is a lesson I learned myself during the past few months by using Instagram. The best way to become popular, and the only way if you aren’t popular outside of Instagram, is to like and follow massive numbers of people, because some of them will like and follow you back. But how can one have the stamina and free time to spend hours every day liking and following? (And then sneakily unfollowing a few days later.) The answer is to use a bot. I really need to program a bot to become really popular.

Popularity has value, and that’s beyond just the value of narcissistically feeling good about yourself because you have lots of followers; being popular is valuable if you wish to sell anything, which could be a message, a product, or one’s own self. Thus social media popularity is a form of value transference, because value is being transferred to people who have contributed nothing of value relative to the value of their popularity, and in many case they actually became popular by creating negative value (or you may call it value destruction) by using bots to spam likes, follows, and similar attention-getting signals which encourage others to follow them. Using a bot is winning the social-media game by cheating.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 11, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Posted in Economics, Technology

22 Responses

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  1. Following this logic, all advertising is also just value transference. But advertising gets products to consumers; and advertising tends not to be effective unless the product or service has new features, or is cheaper. Likewise, using bots to get attention on social media is actually socially useful. It prevents people from wasting their time strategically friending and unfriending people. The people with better products will get more capital to play the game better. And consumers will benefit by having lower cost access to information.


    August 11, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    • Theoretically, advertising could have positive social utility because it can inform the rational members of society of the existence of a “useful” product, in the sense that it can provide a given degree of functionality for a fairly decent (from the perspective of the recipient of the advertising) price. However, most advertisements are not intended to persuade rational potential customers. It would seem that successful marketing directors know that the majority of their intended audience is not rational and employ other means so that their product or brand can make a positive impression on their minds. Again, most consumers do not rationally deliberate over the expected personal utility of a given purchase, and purchase most items out of habit, novelty appeal, or trendiness.

      On Wikipedia, I found the article “Need for Cognition”; “need for cognition” refers to one’s tendency to pursue cognitively challenging tasks and to understand the experiential world that one lives in; it is distinct from general intelligence which is the intellectual capacity to understand and process abstract information. Those with a high need for cognition, advertisements that do not attempt to rationally persuade individuals would not be very effective while in contrast, those with a low need for cognition are more susceptible to advertisements that do not target one’s rational faculties and appeal to some other sentiment.

      It is exactly like David Hume’s natural science of man. In this theory of ethics, he contends that human judgment is not primarily driven by rationality, but by human passions, sentiments, and intuition. Amazing how a natural philosopher with no access to the knowledge of modern cognitive neuroscience can be so correct about human nature.


      August 11, 2013 at 8:45 PM

      • Long on theory, light on data showing ads are not a net social positive. And it’s not like there is a paucity of work in the field.


        August 11, 2013 at 11:20 PM

      • Again, it is possible that a given advertisement can have net positive social utility since it can merely inform rational consumers about the existence of a useful product or service at an attractive price. It is not necessary that advertisements are socially useless.


        August 12, 2013 at 10:56 AM

  2. If everyone starts using similar bots to get popular, everyone’ popularity would increase proportionately. This means that your bot will have to be bigger than everyone else’s bot, transforming Instagram into a botting contest.

    Blog Raju

    August 11, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    • Kind of like HFT.


      August 12, 2013 at 9:24 AM

  3. You can also pay people in bangladesh to like your facebook promotions. I am definitely doing that when I start a business.


    August 11, 2013 at 5:43 PM

  4. I’ve realized two things about human nature. First, it is inherently violent because sexual strategies demand violence. Second, human beings (especially women) don’t think in terms logic or even emotion really.

    They think in terms of images. Thus, the almighty power of the FRAME and REFRAME. He who frames the best picture of himself will win. Perception is reality. All hollywood, all media, all politics are just a war of reframers. It’s not what’s there, it’s what people think is there. Human life is a giant confidence/con-man game. Any shred of truth is for the “little people” to cling to who are foolish enough to believe that truth matters.

    As Jackson Browne sang, “Of all the times that I’ve been burned, by now you’d think I’d learn / That it’s who you look like, not who you are.”


    August 11, 2013 at 6:54 PM

  5. “valuable if you wish to sell anything, which could be a message, a product, or one’s own self”

    I guess it depends on what exactly you’re selling, but I would imagine the commercial success of this to be little more effective than standard advertising. Especially if, at a certain point, so many others are using the same tactics that it devolves into the bot purgatory described. Even if just for personal glory, I doubt a true narcissist would be satisfied by bot-obtained likes and friends. They would want the real thing. And you would still be up against individuals with legitimately obtained masses of followers.

    I’m 99% certain some pay chess sites use bots to give the impression of higher activity, much like the dating site with feigned “love in the air” that influenced actual human activity.


    August 11, 2013 at 7:08 PM

  6. Using a bot is winning the social-media game by cheating.

    Unless Lion does it, which makes it all good and moral.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    August 11, 2013 at 7:44 PM

  7. OT, what do you think will happen to stop and frisk if Quinn wins the NY mayoralty?

    The Undiscovered Jew

    August 11, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    • Only female cops will do the frisking.


      August 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM

  8. Spot-on with the “popularity being valuable” observation; if you’re a relative unknown looking to self-publish a book, I heard somewhere that you need a “tribe” of 10,000 Twitter followers to have a shot.

    I think the real secret to “success”– as defined above– is to be the moderator/face of a “community” of online users that self-sustainably create a content (online discussion forum/etc.)by themselves. In other words, you can’t just be a one man army. Based on what I’ve seen, this not only leads to enhanced popularity from a quantifiable standpoint (views, followers, comments), but also from a qualitative standpoint (being the expert on whatever topic the community talks about). I know personally that this allows what would normally be “beta’ individuals to assume “alpha”-esque roles. I mean, look at Hollywood!


    August 11, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    • “I think the real secret to “success”– as defined above– is to be the moderator/face of a “community” of online users that self-sustainably create a content (online discussion forum/etc.)by themselves. In other words, you can’t just be a one man army.”

      I think this is spot on, with the caveat of some form of financial ownership.

      Julian Assange as just a ‘face’ springs to mind.

      The quickmeme incident from reddit has several interesting angles.


      August 12, 2013 at 4:54 AM

      • Right. I think that this is a proven way to develop the status associated with being a “key opinion leader” or a “thought leader” that you often see spamming the front pages of Linkedin or Yahoo.

        Your best bet is to get whatever job you can and kill yourself on the weekends trying to evangelize this site. Hopefully, within 2-3 years the site has a decent following to the point where it makes money off of ad revenue and has content compelling enough to publish and to write a book about. Again, this is all a ton of work and benefits those already with capital, specifically, time. Entrepreneurship- easier said than done.


        August 12, 2013 at 8:01 AM

  9. A salesman acquaintance of mine was trying to manage a local band, and he found out about some astroturf service that would give a bunch of likes to their YouTube video.

    So it got 45,000 likes but the bro forgot to turn “Statistics” off, so you could see that almost all of the likes came in one single day with practically none before or after, and the average view time was only 20 seconds.


    August 11, 2013 at 8:00 PM

  10. “Marketing” construed as broadly as possible is the most obvious fault of free market capitalism.

    It is possible to sell things having little or no use-value.

    That many of the rich collect fine art tells me that, pace Fitzgerald, the rich are like you and me, but, as Hemingway said, they have more money.

    Hugh Lygon

    August 11, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    • “It is possible to sell things having little or no use-value.”

      The creators of Red Bull are worth $4 billion.


      August 12, 2013 at 12:02 AM

  11. This is my ticket to early retirement and truly living the Thoreau artisan bobo life that I was genetically predisposed to live. I just need a half-decent feel-good idea that resonates with many people, popularize it with a bot, then monetize it with discrete ads.


    August 12, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    • another thing you can do is befriend people who already have a large internet following and piggyback off them by getting them to endorse you perhaps by mentioning you in their blog. even just commenting on their page and leaving a link could help direct traffic to your site.


      August 12, 2013 at 6:07 AM

  12. I’m egotistical enough to think my blog, filled with my brilliant insights, is worth reading. However in an ever expanding online universe, it’s difficult to make a mark unless you specialize. In that regard, I think the Lion has done quite well. He writes about niche subjects which draw internet searchers to his site, and there aren’t so many sites like it that if you are interested in the same issues he is, eventually you will wind up here. He doesn’t have to send out a bot.

    On the other hand if you like to do reviews of movie blockbusters, your site is one of millions doing exactly the same thing.


    August 12, 2013 at 2:04 PM

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