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Learning strategies for a changing workforce

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Learning strategies for a changing workforce

By Robin Hoyle, Head of Learning and Development at Huthwaite International

For the first time in history, there is the potential for four generations of employees in the workforce at the same time. While it may be odd to think you could be working alongside your Great-Granny, it is not out of the question as the age at which employees can afford to retire extends ever upwards.

This may be only a mathematical possibility in real life, as the generations usually defined when discussing workplace age diversity relate to demographic categories. However, these categories are much beloved by marketers and those who favour broad stereotypes over a more thoughtful understanding of differing needs, characteristics and aspirations.

Some Traditionalists – those born pre-1945 – are still in the workplace. While this may still be a little unusual, it is significantly more common than it once was. The Office of National Statistics in the UK reported over one million people beyond state retirement age still working in 2016. Having much better health for longer, a career which has defined them and adult children still relying on their parents for support, many of those in their 70’s are still working.

The Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – are more numerous than any other generation, but are also beginning to leave the workforce. This creates two pressures for organisations – how to maintain the skillset of those who stay, and replace the expertise and experience of those who leave.

One key feature of those over 50, but within the ‘normal’ range for retirement, is that opportunities to move jobs may be fewer than they once were. Quite simply, most over 50’s report a significant lack of interest from firms who characterise over this demographic as being expensive, out of touch and likely to retire before they add real value in a role.  Much of this is, of course, is nonsense.

That 50-year-old applicant could have 20 years at work ahead of them. They may be more financially independent and – having got rid of the kids and the mortgage – be prepared to take a pay cut to undertake work of real value and interest. Most importantly, this is the generation that invented most of the technology that has disrupted our daily lives. If anyone can view this technology critically but constructively, they can. But, as with any employee, their skills need maintaining and updating. As change happens, it happens to everyone. As these people are likely to stay in your company longer than their younger colleagues, developing their capability is a need to do, not a nice to do.

Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980 – are often characterised as entrepreneurial risk takers. Obviously, if your parents wore flares and flowers in their hair, this has naturally led to you being independent and driven. A rejection of parental influence perhaps? Who knows?Like all these generalisations it is simple to deconstruct the stereotype and show it for the guff it clearly is. The fact the supposedly learned management thinkers still pedal this stuff is both disheartening and maddening in equal proportion.

Finally, we come to the Millennials – those born since 1980 and entering the workforce within the 21st Century.  These impatient digital natives are allegedly more values driven, less ambitious, not focused on work as a defining feature of their existence and more collaborative in nature.  We are told that they are constantly connected and that they value instant social interaction over face to face meetings.

As a parent to and colleague of millennials, I struggle to reconcile these characterisations with my own lived experience. My adult children and the people with whom I work with do not fit any single definition that snugly. Are they connected? Sure. More than older people? Maybe, a little. Does it drive collaboration?  Not noticeably. I could go on.

A couple of years after the 2008 financial crash, I recall reading an article which described millennialsas the saviours of our planet. Their social concerns and deep and abiding worries about global warming meant that they were the generation to lead us to a more harmonious future. They were the generation shocked by the financial crash and anxious to put shared values above individual profit.

The same week I saw a report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters; this included application numbers for different graduate schemes. On average, around 80 students nearing the end of their degree were applying for each graduate scheme place.

Except in one industry.

At the point in history when bankers were being reproached for elevating personal profiteering over sound business; the point at which the level of City bonuses was bringing opprobrium on the heads of those working in finance, the over-subscription for graduate schemes in merchant banks was twice as high as the average. Over 150 millennial graduates were applying for every single vacancy for banking graduate recruitment schemes.

Now it would be crass to make a judgment about generational values and outlooks based on this one insight, but it suggests that the portrayal of millennials as being somehow different from their more individualistic, self-interested forebears may not stand a lot of scrutiny. When billions in bonuses are on offer, our idealistic millennials are as interested in cold, hard cash as any other generation.

By now you may have guessed that my acceptance of these generational archetypes is less than wholehearted. I despair about most kinds of generalisation, but at least when applied to race, religion, gender or sexual orientation there will be some kind of protest. When applied to large swathes of people on the basis of their date of birth, stereotypes seem less likely to be questioned.

This seems to be particularly true in the case of millennials. Not only have older people seemed to define millennials as somehow ‘other’ or different, this generational badge seems to have been adopted by many within the millennial age range. Some millennials seem especially keen to self-identify with the characteristics foisted on them by others.

Within the world of learning and development these ill-thought out millennial stereotypes have informed a lot of focus of late. Reviewing product literature – especially in the area of learning technology – reading blogs, articles and listening to conference speeches will show you how the myth of millennials has infiltrated the zeitgeist. Google ‘HR and millennials’ and 684,000 links pop up, mostly to advisory white papers by large, prestigious consultancy businesses who really ought to know better.

When it comes to challenges with apps, digital, social and anything else that feels like another language for learning, maybe it helps us feel less overwhelmed if we can be consoled by the idea that the ‘kids get it’.  Well, sorry to break it to you – they don’t.  Feel overwhelmed.

In 2016, Towards Maturity, the non-profit think tank and learning technology benchmarking organisation sought to understand once and for all how different generations learn. Their Learner Voice 3 report from October last year is subtitled “What can millennials teach us about supporting learning in the workplace?”

As the introduction to the report says: “The focus on today’s younger generation joining the workforce has provided a renewed vigour for L&D professionals to review their current provision. They are looking to modernise learning to address the perceived needs of a new generation of demanding and digital workers.”

 With over 4,500 respondents to the survey, a third of whom were under 30 years old, the questions were around how people learn at work, what components of a development initiative they find useful and the initiatives they were involved in to develop their own skills.

A headline finding from the report is that there is only a marginal difference across generations when discussing learning preferences, attitudes to technology and the support needed to help them develop knowledge and skills. In other words, good practice in learning design is good practice in learning design. The age profile of the participants is irrelevant. Providing informal learning opportunities, line manager support for self-development and opportunities to collaborate, are valued by the over 50s just as much as they are by the under 30s. The things that don’t work; dull and irrelevant content, badly organised information that is difficult to find, poor IT infrastructure, become a turn off regardless of the decade of your birth.

Now at this point, it would be easy to say “Who knew?” in an especially sarcastic voice, roll our eyes and carry on doing what we’ve been doing for years. In Learning and Development we’re pretty good at doing the same thing over and over and hoping for different results. That’s the definition of stupidity, after all, and a lot of L&D practice is pretty stupid.

The biggest conclusion from the Towards Maturity report is that there is a clear gap between what L&D does and what learners want. Employees have strong feelings about how they like to learn, but L&D do not necessarily prioritise activity in these areas. There is a focus on delivering certain types of experience to some staff which would be equally valuable for everyone else.L&D teams infrequently engage with audiences. This inevitably means that specific learning solutions are based on assumptions rather than insights, on feelings rather than facts.

By looking to these two issues, the solution to a multi-generational, diverse workforce and the challenge faced by HR and L&D teams starts to become clear. We need more insights. We need more facts. We need to know who our people are – their aspirations, challenges and ways of working. We need to build solutions capable of being adapted to individual needs, without compromising on core messages and common values. In short, we need a personalised route to gaining collective capability.

If we reject the idea that ‘one size fits all’ or that ‘something’ needs to be capable of working at a large scale, we need to replace it with something. Imagine the situation where you wish to transform a way of doing things in your organisation. My colleagues and I work most often with people involved in selling. Periodically most top classorganisations review sales processes looking for means of improvement.  Organisations which are serious about transformation look for an evidence based approach, which helps their sales teams deliver more value to customers than the competition. As well as process redesign, this also requires new skills and therefore new learning. It may also require ‘unlearning’ – helping experienced sales people to adapt their skills to new paradigms and ways of working.

How can this be personalised? It is not a matter of each individual in an organisation coming up with their own way of working. The whole point of this kind of sales transformation is to enablesales people to adopt recognised best practice, to use the same vocabulary and processes. To work as one team with a unified vision and a collective approach.  The ‘what works for me’ model is inconsistent with an enterprise wide adoption of key skills and behaviours.

But as the Towards Maturity report also makes clear there are three learning modes or activities that all generations find valuable. The good thing is that all of them work to support a degree of personalisation.

  1. Collaboration with peers: sharing information and learning from the experiences of others is cross generational. Indeed, over 50’s found this slightly more valuable than under 30’s, but in all age groups this was valued by over 80% of respondents.

Creating mechanisms for collaboration is an essential part of 21st century learning activities.  Learning from each other’s successes (and mistakes) and working at something together maintains momentum – not least when it’s easier to simply go back to doing things in the way we’ve always done them. Most importantly, it enables each individual to shape their learning to their needs. To speed ahead in the vanguard when appropriate, to take their time and observe others when required. Collaboration that works needs to be consistent with team and organisational culture and very often that requires active leadership involvement. Which is good, because manager involvement is number two on our list.

  1. Support from a line manager or leader: If, like me, you can recall a situation where you attended a course, came back all fired up and excited to implement what you had learned and were met by indifference by your team leader, then you can identify the importance of manager involvement in developing skills. It’s a shame that most of us can recognise what happens when it is absent more easily than when it is present.

Again, all ages found that their manager’s interest in and support for learning activities was valuable. Our millennials slightly more so than their older colleagues, but this is a function of experience, as much as age. If an individual is to make that leap from finding out about new things to trying out new skills in the workplace, then manager involvement is essential. It may be granting permission to try things out, to experiment, to do things differently. It could be active encouragement and being given time and space. It might be one to one support or coaching. It could be active enablement from a manager with additional expertise and experience, who can assist the team member to navigate new environments.

Whatever level of engagement, the manager’s role is non-negotiable. But managers will complain that it isn’t their job, that they don’t have bandwidth or time to support learning. This is a roles and responsibilities issue;anagers who do not think their role involves helping their team build skills and capability are not managers. Managers who know it’s their job but don’t do it need help planning their time or prioritising their personal workload. Managers who are incapable of supporting learning interventions need learning intervention themselves.

Towards Maturity found that only a quarter of organisations are equipping their managers with the skills to help their teams get the most from formal learning activities.

  1. Learning at their own pace: The third insight about learner’s preferences is that it is valuable for individuals to work at their own pace, to develop the skills they need when they need them. This could, and does, lead to a laissez faire attitude to development. Individuals are told in general terms that maintaining and updating their skills is expected, but little support, resource or direction is offered.

The key is to relentlessly focus on performance. What standards need to be met? What does good look like? What is acceptable, what is outstanding? Focusing on what people should do and how well they should do it works, but only if the means for capability improvement are available.
But remember, one size does not fit all.  Your armoury will need to be well stocked. Courses, resources, formal learning and informal job aids. FAQs and forums. Ask the expert and share your expertise.

Your people need learning which is Just In Time, Just Enough and Just For Me.

By properly understanding adult learners at work we can provide them with a learning eco-system designed for any eventuality.

We can’t define what will work on the basis of generational generalisations. Understanding the ‘three justs’, requires us to understand our learners as individuals who want to do their job to the best of their abilities.

To find out more about Huthwaite as a world leading sales and negotiation business visit: https://huthwaiteinternational.com/

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EU Commission sets out new intellectual property action plan affecting SEPs, patent pooling and EU design protection

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EU Commission sets out new intellectual property action plan affecting SEPs, patent pooling and EU design protection 1

By Andrew White, Partner and UK & European patent attorney at intellectual property firm, Mathys & Squire

The EU Commission published a new intellectual property action plan.  The action plan, touted as “an intellectual property action plan to support the EU’s recovery and resilience” outlines possible future moves, noting that intangible assets are “the cornerstone of today’s economy”, with IPR-intensive industries generating 29.2% (63 million) of all jobs in the EU during the period 2014-2016, and contributing 45% of the total economic activity (GDP) in the EU worth €6 trillion.

The action plan also notes that the quality of patents granted in Europe is among the highest in the world, and that European innovators are frontrunners in green technologies, and leaders in specific digital technologies, such as connectivity technologies.  That being said, the action plan notes that while smart intellectual property (IP) strategies can act as a catalyst for growth, European innovators and creators often fail to grasp the benefits of IP.

The action plan indicates that the Commission is willing to take stronger measures to protect European IP, to increase IP protection amongst European SMEs and to help European companies capitalise on their inventions and creations.

Ambitiously, the action plan also notes that the EU aspires “to be a norm-setter, not a norm-taker” and is keen to seek ambitious IP chapters with high standards of protection in the context of Free Trade Agreements, to help promote a global level playing field.

Some of the key takeaways are noted below.

Unified Patent (UP)

The implementation of the Unified Patent is seen as a priority in the action plan, indicating that it will reduce fragmentation and complexity, and will reduce costs for participants, as well as bridging “the gap between the cost of patent protection in Europe when compared with the US, Japan and other countries”. The action plan also indicates that it will “foster investment in R&D and facilitate the transfer of knowledge across the Single Market”.

SEP licensing

With the introduction of 5G and beyond, the number of standard essential patents (SEPs), as well as the number of SEP holders and implementers, is increasing (for instance, there are over 95,000 unique patents and patent applications supporting 5G).  The action plan notes that many of the new players are not familiar with SEP licensing, but will need to enter into SEP arrangements, and that this is particularly challenging for smaller businesses.

One area that has garnered a lot of press attention recently relating to the licensing of SEPs, and in particular to businesses that are perhaps not as familiar with SEP licensing, is that of the automotive sector.  The action plan acknowledges this and notes that “although currently the biggest disputes seem to occur in the automotive sector, they may extend further as SEP licensing is relevant also in the health, energy, smart manufacturing, digital and electronics ecosystems.”

To this end, the Commission is considering reforms to further “clarify and improve” the framework governing the declaration, licensing and enforcement of SEPs.  This includes potentially creating an independent system of third-party essentiality checks, and follows off the back of a pilot study for essentiality assessments of Standards Essential Patents and a landscape study of potentially essential patents disclosed to ETSI also published alongside the action plan.

Modernising EU design protection

The Commission has indicated that it wants to “modernise” EU design protection “to better reflect the important role design-intensive industries play in the EU economy”.  At present, the Commission is asking for stakeholder feedback on the options for future reform. Recent results of an EU evaluation show that the current legislation works well overall and is still broadly fit for purpose. However, the evaluation has also revealed a number of shortcomings, including the fact that design protection is not yet fully “adapted to the digital age” and lacks clarity and robustness in terms of eligible subject matter, scope of rights conferred and their limitations. The Commission also considers that it further involves partly outdated or overly complicated procedures, inappropriate fee levels and fee structure, lack of coherence of the procedural rules at Union and national level, and an incomplete single market for spare parts.

Updating the SPC system

While the Commission notes that, following an evaluation, the Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) framework finds that the EU SPC Regulations “appear to effectively support research on new active ingredient, and thus remain largely fit for purpose”, it believes the EU SPC regime could be strengthened to reduce red tape, improve legal certainty and reduce costs for business.  One option being touted is to introduce a centralised (‘unified’) grant procedure, under which a single application would be subjected to a single examination that, if positive, would result in the granting of national SPCs for each of the Member States designated in the application. The creation of a unitary SPC, complementing the future unitary patent, is listed as another option.

Patent pooling in times of crisis

The EU Commission notes how the pandemic has highlighted the importance of effective IP rules and tools to boost innovation and secure fast deployment of critical innovations and technologies, both in Europe and across the globe, but that it sees a need to improve the tools in place to cope with crisis situations. To this end, the action plan includes proposals to introduce possible mechanisms for rapid voluntary IP pooling and better coordination if compulsory licensing is to be used.

Increasing access for SMEs to IP protection and the introduction of an “IP voucher”

Andrew White

Andrew White

The action plan notes that only 9% of EU SMEs have registered IP rights.  It aims to help SMEs better manage their IP and improve their competitiveness by giving EU SMEs easier access to information and advice on IP. Through the EU’s public funding programmes and further rolled-out at a national level, EU SMEs will get financial aid to finance so-called IP scans (comprehensive, initial, strategic and professional advice on the added value of IP for the individual SME’s business), as well as certain costs related to IP filings.

This will happen through the implementation of an “IP voucher”, which is made available in co-operation with the EUIPO, providing co-funding of up to €1,500 for:

  • IP Scans: up to 75% of the cost and/or
  • registration of trade marks and design rights in the EU and its Member States: up to 50% of the application fees.

SMEs will be able to apply as of mid-January for the IP voucher, through a dedicated website. We understand that the voucher will be provided on a “first come first served” basis.

The action plan also indicates the EU Commission’s intention to make it easier for SMEs to leverage their IP when trying to get access to finance, and that this may be done for example through the use of IP valuations.

EU toolbox against counterfeiting

The EU commission notes that counterfeiting is still a major problem for European businesses and proposes that an “EU toolbox” is set up to set out a co-ordinated European approach on counterfeiting.  The goal of this EU toolbox should be to specify principles for how rights holders, intermediaries and law enforcement authorities should act, co-operate and share data.

AI and blockchain technologies

The action plan notes that in the current digital revolution, there needs to be a reflection on how and what is to be protected – perhaps a nod to the recent litigation we have seen regarding whether an AI can be considered as an inventor.  The action plan in particular notes that questions need to be answered as to whether, and what protection should be given to, products created with the help of AI technologies.  A distinction is made between inventions and creations generated with the help of AI and the ones solely created by AI.  The action plan notes that the EU Commission’s view is that AI systems should not be treated as authors or inventors, which is the approach taken by the EPO, but that harmonisation gaps and room for improvement remain and the EU Commission has indicated that it intends to engage in stakeholder discussions in this respect.

Conclusion

There is much to take in from the action plan, and we will closely monitor developments in all of the above areas to see what will be implemented and when.

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Tech talent visa sees 48% increase in applications over one year as global founders look to the UK

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Tech talent visa sees 48% increase in applications over one year as global founders look to the UK 2
  • Demand for Global Talent Visa applications has increased over two consecutive years since 2018 – up 45% and 48% respectively
  • Demand is expected to increase from 2021as, from January, the Tech Nation Visa will be opening up applications to exceptional tech talent from the EU hoping to work in the UK
  • 52% of those endorsed for the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa are employees, while 28% of those endorsed are tech founders
  • App & software development, AI & machine learning,and fintech are the most common sectors for visa holders. Most endorsed applications come from India, the US and Nigeria
  • 41% of Global Talent Visa applicantschose to reside outside of London to work in the UK’s strong regional tech hubs

Today, Tech Nation, the growth platform for tech companies and leaders, launches a new report, which reveals changes in the international talent landscape and growing interest in the Global Talent Visa.

The Tech Nation Global Talent Visa

As the race for global tech talent heats up, many countries have been making their pitch to attract the best and brightest tech talent to grow their tech industries and create jobs. The Global Talent Visa, for which Tech Nation is the official endorsing body for Digital Technology, plays a key role in enabling international tech talent to contribute to the UK economy and to the growth of high priority sectors such as AI and Cyber.

The visa has seen applications increase significantly over the past two years, with 45% and 48% increases respectively. Since November 2018, the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa has received 1,975 applications and endorsed 920 visas from over 50 countries worldwide. Demand is expected to increase in 2021 with the EU coming into the route.

52% of those endorsed for the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa since 2014 are employees at some of the UK’s leading tech firms, helping to fill existing talent gaps, while 28% are tech founders bringing ideas, talent and capital into the UK’s fast growing tech sector. In 2020, the visa enabled 421 founders to set up business in the UK, up from 400 in 2019.

This global talent is distributed right across the UK. 41% of endorsed applicants for the visa are based outside of London, working in the UK’s strong regional tech hubs. App & software development, AI & machine learning, and fintech are the most popular sector destinations for visa holders, reflecting growth in those tech sub-sectors. India, the US, and Nigeria are the top three countries from which exceptional talent has come into the UK with the Tech Nation visa.

A surge in demand and interest

Labour markets around the world and in the UK have undergone profound shifts in 2020. The data released today shows that there has been a 200% increase in the volume of users in the UK searching online for terms explicitly related to ‘UK tech visas’ between April and September 20201. This surge in interest to work in the UK’s digital tech sector is reflected globally too, with a 100% increase in users internationally searching for these terms in countries like the US and India.

Digital tech roles remain in high demand in the UK. Cyber skills are becoming increasingly important within the UK, particularly in regions such as Wales and the East and West Midlands where there has been a huge increase in demand between 2017 and 2019 (351%, 140%, and 86% respectively). Demand for AI skills has increased by 111% from 2017 to 2019, with Northern Ireland and Wales seeing the greatest increases in demand – 418% and 200% respectively.

Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage said: “It’s no surprise the UK’s world-beating technology sector appeals to international talent. Our dynamic companies reflect the UK’s long-standing reputation for innovation and are renowned on the global stage. We are open to the brightest and the best talent, and this visa scheme makes it easier for companies across the country to recruit the talent they need to grow.”

Stephen Kelly, Chair of Tech Nation, comments“The UK is a global talent magnet for Tech founders. The UK provides rich opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up,  flourish and scale a business. The Global Talent Visa is crucial to making this process easy and accessible. Tech Nation’s Visa Report shows that, despite the pandemic, international interest to work in the UK tech sector has never been higher. Attracting tomorrow’s tech leaders to the UK is crucial to the continued growth of the sector, the UK’s place in the world, and driving the nation through recovery to growth in the digital age.”

Trecilla Lobo, SVP, People at BenevolentAI and Tech Nation Board Director, said: “The UK tech ecosystem continues to contribute to the creation of jobs and to innovative products and services. The Tech Nation Visa enables the UK tech sector to maintain its competitive advantage by attracting the best talent in specialist skills in tech, research and AI and a more globally diverse perspective to help us innovate and create amazing products and services. As an immigrant to the UK in my late teens, the UK visa scheme has enabled me to bring my experience, expertise and contribute to the people agenda for tech scale-ups in the UK, and helped me build a successful career in tech. I am really excited that the Tech Nation Visa will open opportunities and streamline the visa process for future global tech talent.”

Hao Zheng, Co-founder & CEO at RoboK, based in Cambridge and Newcastle, said: “I decided to work in UK tech because of the well-established ecosystem, world-class research and innovation and the high-level of experience that is extremely valuable for startup technology companies.”

Congcong Wang, Head of Operations at TusPark, based in Cambridge, said: The UK is a world leading innovation hub, particularly in the fields of AI and Healthcare. Its environment fosters young talent, breeds disruptive innovation and creates amazing companies. Also, the culture of the UK is nurturing and tolerant for innovation, as it is considered a “safe place” for those inspired to take on the more risky route of entrepreneurship.”

Sumit Janmejai, Data-Driven Cybersecurity Professional at Capgemini, based in London said: “Having studied in the UK and worked with UK professionals, I could appreciate the fact that the UK is fast becoming the center of innovation, research and development in the Tech Industry. Besides that, the country offers an excellent life, welcoming culture, and a safe environment. It was an easy choice.”

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Are bots eating your Facebook budget?

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Are bots eating your Facebook budget? 3

By Mike Townend, founding CMO of Beaconsoft Ltd

In an increasingly digitised world, social media has arguably become the most powerful and influential tool at the disposal of businesses, both large and small.

With more than 3.6 billion active social media users worldwide today, it is no surprise that many companies view it as an unparalleled means of marketing their products and services to new and otherwise unreachable audiences, as well as an opportunity to better understand consumer demand and habits.

Facebook is often regarded as one of the very best social media platforms for marketers – not least because of its targeted digital advertising service – but many firms using it may not realise just how much of their budget could be being wasted due to ad fraud.

Numerous studies suggest digital ad fraud affects between 10% and 60% of all types of digital advertising, with businesses of every size falling prey to so-called ‘bots’ – automated programs used by scammers to undercut deals, divert visitors or steal clicks.

But how do bots work, how might they be affecting businesses’ Facebook budgets, data and analytics, and what can be done to combat them?

How do bots work?

A report published by security firm Imperva found that bots – both good and bad – are responsible for 52% of all web traffic, while a separate study by White Ops concluded that as much as 20% of websites that serve ads are visited exclusively by fraudulent click bots.

In simple terms, a click bot is specially designed to carry out click fraud – in other words, the bot poses as a legitimate visitor to a webpage and automatically clicks on pay-per-click [PPC] ads, buttons or other types of hyperlinks.

Their purpose is to trick a platform or service – in this case, Facebook – into believing that real users are interacting with the webpage, app or ad in question.

Usually, bots will not just click a link once; they will click it over and over again to give the impression that the webpage is receiving a high level of traffic.

Why is this a problem?

The presence of click bots on Facebook is particularly problematic because they can effectively drain a business’ online marketing budget without many of its targeted ads reaching real users who might have a genuine interest.

There are a number of reasons why click fraud could be used – for example, competitors may employ a ‘click farm’ – a group of low-paid workers or bots hired to click on paid advertising links – or organised criminals may have found a way to profit from clicking on a business’ links.

In other cases, apps and software are created to collect the payout for a company’s ads, often with the help of bots.

Mike Townend

Mike Townend

Considering the average cost per click in the UK is £0.78, according to Hubspot, with some ad campaigns for popular key phrases running at £10 per click, or even more, it is clear to see how easily this could mount up if a firm’s budget were to be hijacked by scammers.

How might bots affect data and analytics?

Negative click bots have the potential to produce skewed analytics from Facebook advertising campaigns.

Because many businesses are unable to distinguish between fake clicks and legitimate ones, the data that they collect can lead to false conclusions and decisions that could have a detrimental impact on the business. For example, firms may choose to overspend or under-invest on a campaign based on findings that are substantially erroneous.

Businesses must be confident that they are making sound decisions that are informed by reliable data and analytics – and fortunately, there is a way that they can do this.

Taking the fight to the bots

There are a number of methods that firms can use to identify bot clicks, some more straightforward than others.

Frequently checking Facebook analytics for irregularities in traffic that could be attributable to bots can make this task considerably easier.

Specific things to monitor include the average number of page views, the average session time, and the source of referrer traffic – if there are any glaring anomalies in the data, bots could be the source.

Big spikes in page views caused by a higher number of visits than usual can also be indicative of bot activity and are especially dangerous given their propensity to slow down the page for genuine visitors.

Once malicious traffic has been identified, steps can then be taken in blocking it at source, although this is not a simple process and requires technical knowledge and know-how.

After removing negative click bots, companies can take comfort in knowing they are optimising their campaigns by gaining accurate insights that help to increase efficiency, lower the cost per visit, and improve return on investment.

Conclusion

Defeating the bots that are impairing a business’ performance on Facebook is by no means easy, and it requires time and effort to keep malicious traffic under constant surveillance.

Having experts on your side who are well versed in identifying and removing instances of click fraud can help to turn the tide in the battle against bots and ultimately allow a company to make big savings on its advertising spend.

Firms not only owe it to themselves, but to their customers also, to knock these harmful and disruptive programs offline for good.

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