Will 30 million automated access accounts turn Twitter advertisers away?

Twitter has reported that over 10 percent of its accounts are automated, fake or spam. So are its advertisers wasting their money?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

***Corrected to reflect terminology used in filing***

Twitter released its quarterly earnings a couple of weeks ago and the results were impressive. Users who log on each month (Monthly Active Users or MAUs) engage with Twitter's timeline 640 times.

wikimedia commons followers
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Over 271 million Twitter users log on at least once per month, an increase of 25 percent year on year. The company also reported the number of accounts it believes are non human.

But advertising relies on real people viewing and clicking on its ads. Will automated accounts that access the API without humans impact Twitters growth?

Advertising provides Twitter with the bulk of its income. World wide ad revenue is at $1.60 per 1000 timeline views, and $3.87 per 1000 timeline views in the US.

Its revenue from advertising this quarter has grown to $277M — an increase of 129 percent year on year. It is vital that advertising revenue continues to grow and that real live Twitter users see promoted Tweets and ads within their timeline.

In its quarterly report, Twitter said that it had performed an internal review of a sample of accounts to test for fakes. It estimated that false or spam accounts represented less than five percent of its MAUs

Twitter’s challenge is that its numbers are also affected by third-party applications that pull information from Twitter with no user action involved.

Obviously all Twitter desktop clients such as Hootsuite and CoTweet are covered here.

Mobile apps such as Rowi, Echofon and Ubersocial automatically log in to Twitter too.

The user still manually scrolls through the timeline and shares items both on desktop and mobile.

There are a range of applications that access Twitter where no user action is required. Social plugins that publish timeline tweets on a website, conference venues that display hashtag tweets or kiosk displays are examples of these third party applications.

Twitter has reviewed and refined its processes. It can report figures comprised of active users who have used applications which automatically contact its servers for updates without discernable user-initiated action.

Twitter reported that for the three months ended June 30, 2014, approximately 11 percent of its 271M active users — 29.8 million accounts — solely used third-party applications to access its service.

It also reported that 8.5 percent of users used third party applications that accessed Twitter without user-initiated action.

Many of these are Twitter accounts that have initially been set up by a person — but there is no further interaction with humans due to automation.

Advertisers do not want to display ads to users that do not interact with Twitter — or worse still — display ads to automated bots

According to Socialbakers fake followers tool many brands have users who do not interact with them. Big brands such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Nike have between 24 and 39 percent of their followers who have empty or inactive accounts.

These could simply be users who create an account on Twitter but do not use it to regularly engage with the brand.

It is not all doom and gloom for Twitter.

Our mothers might follow us on Twitter but do not regularly engage with us. Just because they are inactive, does not mean they are not reading their Twitter feeds. And reading our Twitter feeds — and ads — is all that Twitter's advertisers really want us to do.

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