Bots (short for web robot) are small computer programs that can run automated tasks online, sometimes pretending to be humans but capable of performing thousands of these tasks per second and also capable of activating themselves depending on the context. Bots can be bought and used for many commercial and political purposes.
Bots can be used to generate fake traffic to a website. Often advertisers pay for each time a page showing their advertisement is viewed. But those views can be faked using netbots or botnets. “A botnet is fake traffic that is generated from thousands of infected computers, usually via malware, aimed at generating fraudulent ad revenue through fake clicks and impressions.” One study found that "54 percent of display ads shown in thousands of campaigns between May 2012 and February 2013 never appeared in front of a human being.”
When I publish this article, I have two options to help get it rolling with audiences. I can share it with my fans and submit it to sites like StumbleUpon, or I could go on Fiverr.com and buy fake likes, tweets and traffic to make it instantly one of the most popular articles of the day on The Observer, which will then earn the article more visibility and organic, real traffic. Of course, there are other sorts of “fake” traffic too. I can buy clicks cheaply from Outbrain or Taboola. Even Google sells views for YouTube videos via Trueview.
Bot visits costs less than the income generated from the advertisers for each visit. Ad buyers have the choice of buying display advertisements cheaply without really knowing how much of the traffic to the website they are on is real, or they can pay Google or Facebook much higher rates for a more certain large audience.
Bots can be programmed to converse with real people in online settings. These chatbots can be very realistic and up to one in three people may think they are human so they are useful for marketing purposes.
Bots are ushering in one-to-one marketing at scale. What this means is that millions of people can talk to your brand without there being a human on the other end. Two of the biggest bot platforms are Facebook Messenger, which now boasts 900 million monthly active users, and KIK, which has surpassed 200 million; combined means that your bot can reach over a billion users on just those two platforms!... Depending on which photos and products you have liked or previously purchased, it can send you product recommendations or deliver coupons for in-store purchases.