As Twitter grows in popularity, it’s inevitable that some people will abuse the system. Plenty of people out there promote themselves or their company on Twitter. I’m fine with that, as long as it’s done well (Zappos is an example that comes to mind). But increasingly, unscrupulous “marketers” are using automated services and programs with the intent of building lists of followers in hopes of promoting a service or business (or sometimes, a wide range of businesses).
Here’s how to detect a Twitter spammer and what you can do to help stop them.
Watch your new followers carefully. I get email notifications of new followers. This morning in my inbox I had a number of new followers in quick succession.
That the first tip-off: a cluster of new followers in a very short period of time.
Opening one of the emails, I noticed something unusual. The email shows what tool they used to follow you — TweetDeck, Co-Tweet, etc. — but in this case, “Hazel G” followed me using angulate leafhopper. Hmmm… smells like B.S. to me. Sure enough, the link went to the website of a limo service in NYC.
Looking at the number of tweets (zero), I can tell right from this email that this isn’t a real person at all. No need to check their profile. Click the report Hazel G for spam link to notify Twitter that this non-person is actually controlled by a spammer.
You might not be configured to receive email notifications of new followers. Instead, you can view your followers and see who’s new. A quick look and it’s easy to see more clues that they are a spammer.
In this case, Hazel’s bio offers further clues. First of all, she doesn’t look like the sort of woman who would call herself an “iPhoneSlut” nor does she look like she’s into hip-hop (no offense to middle-aged white women who love hip-hop). Sometimes I wish the spammers would at least do a little more work creating their fictitious identities. The current results are hilarious. And it gets better. Consider “Ernest”:
Ernest must curse the day her parents have her a guy’s name. Maybe that’s what drove her to become a punk rock, high fashion hippie.
I thought that was strange combination of interests, but apparently it’s much more common than I thought!
What kismet! Elizabeth is also a punk rocking, high fashion hippie who is saving the world. Maybe they were separated at birth (by more than 20 years?).
At any rate, you get the point. It’s not hard to spot a spammer. So what how do you handle them? Report them to Twitter:
This will block them from following you (which could possibly mislead your real followers) and notifies Twitter of abuse. They get enough of these, and Elizabeth’s account gets suspended.
The Bottom Line
What’s the lesson here?
- Don’t auto-follow people who follow you. Although it takes more curation to vett followers manually, the net result is higher quality communication and less noise. Your goal with Twitter should never be to collect the most followers, but to build relationships with people who matter to you.
- Report the spammers. If we all do this regularly and consistently, it will improve the Twitterverse for everyone. It only takes a click!
I’ve seen a number of people recently using TrueTwit. This sends new followers a direct message asking them to verify that they are a human via a CAPTCHA. Personally, I find this a nuisance, but I understand why some people resort to such a service.
What tools and techniques do you use to stop Twitter spam?