Since Twitter has been reaching the mainstream in a big way lately, there are more and more ways people are trying to “game” the system. The most popular method for this is the follower/following count scam.
There are a variety of ways to pull this off. There are several “programs” and “systems” that promise thousands of followers in a short amount of time. Some even promise fame and wealth as well. (No, I still maintain I won’t link to these or post their names as my small way of not helping them along.) There is the follow/unfollow repetition game which is designed to annoy people into following you back so you will stop popping up in their inbox (there is a block button on Twitter, people – learn to love it for the spammers).
Then, when all else fails, there is the “I am doing an experiment on [following more people] [following less people] [following no people] [adding xx number of people] [insert other favorite here]” announcement. This usually precludes someone who is trying to get more followers or to gain more pseudo-credibility when they have little experience to back it up by thinly disguising a stunt as an experiment. I see this all the time on Twitter. Generally, I tend to stop listening to people who pull repeated stunts, though I just mute the user if it is their first time. There is also the “Help me get to XX number of followers” request, but I think this is more about not “getting” Twitter as a trust network and cutting corners, and less about scamming in most cases.
How do you make sure these stunt-pullers and follower-gamers aren’t polluting your stream with their hot air and dirty pool tactics? It’s all about using the tools you have at your disposal. Tools I recommend becoming familiar with:
Common Sense: It seems basic to some, but there are a few people who think that there is a requirement to follow all who follow you. Twitter is a la carte – you do not have to reciprocate! If you get your notification email, and it says “@username has 27,000 followers and is following 27,000 people with 100 updates” – that’s a person to not follow. If you have been on Twitter a long time, have organically built a trust network of thousands, and are not a bot, that ratio will look more like “@username has 27,000 followers and is following 27,000 people with 47,000 updates”. The updates indicate participation and conversation. If you still aren’t sure, go to their profile and read their tweets – you can tell if they are a link baiting bot, a spammer, a scammer or just someone you flat our don’t want to hear in your stream (or maybe you do, but check). Another red flag for your common sense: Following thousands, but only 10 follow back.
Twitterholic: this tool is valuable for telling you how long someone has been on Twitter, and graphing their interaction. For me you can see I started in the second wave of early(ish) adopters in May 2007, and you can watch my follower and following numbers organically grow as I tweeted more and more and interacted with more people, building my trust network. The scammers and spammers show as short bursts and spikes after little involvement.
Twalala: If you already follow someone who doesn’t always “get” Twitter, and who does sometimes pull a stunt, but occasionally has interesting things to say in spite of that, you may not want to block them outright. For these people, try using Twalala to surf Twitter while they are monkeying around with their stunt. This is also handy for muting people or hashtags during conferences and bitchmemes.
TweetDeck: This desktop client is based in Adobe Air and lets you sort people using columns, groups and more. It listens to a variety of your social networks, including FaceBook and 12 Seconds. Most importantly for this discussion, it allows filtering in each column. Those buttons at the bottom of the column let you add hashtags, keywords or user names to filter In or OUT of your stream. Very handy for temporarily shutting a stunt-puller down in your valuable brain space.
Block Button: This feature of Twitter serves several functions. It blocks scammers and spammers from being able to add you and remove you repeatedly to game their numbers. It blocks unsavory stalker types. It blocks bots. It blocks whoever you tell it to. Also, Twitter tracks blocked accounts. If an account receives massive amounts of blocks? They are booted for being spam.
@Spam: Follow Twitter’s official spam channel, @spam. You can use it to report spammers as well as to receive updates from Twitter on how they are handling site wide issues.
Patience: Often, you can spot a spammer or scammer or stunt puller before the trouble begins. Give yourself a day delay, minimum, in follow back decisions for new follows. You’ll see the scammers and spammers bounce in and our of your inbox like pin balls if they are trying to game you. In the same vein, before you go blocking or yelling at someone you already follow for starting to pull this kind of stunt, give them a day. Chances are they will figure out how transparent their attempt is and stop on their own. If that fails, then unfollow, block or otherwise mute the issue.
On occasion people ask me why I don’t post more here. It isn’t that I don’t have valuable information to share with you, I do. In fact, I have so many post ideas and things I want to share with you in my head it gets a bit crowded sometimes. I tend to wander around muttering to myself or jotting things in my HTC Mogul using Evernote‘s Voice Note, Ink Note or Photo Note features so I don’t forget, which can get me more than a few funny looks until people figure out I’m just making mental notes.
I don’t post more often because I like to put most of my ideas into action instead. I am a woman of big ideas, a connector, and I try to enact as many as possible, as quickly and as well as I can. I don’t like a good idea to die on the vine. A lot of these big ideas involve connecting the real world with the online world. The value of social media to people and businesses is in the connectivity it brings, and the doors that opens. This means I believe just as much in the value of face time as I do in the value of online time, and I try to instill that belief in others by building powerful real life networks.
I’ve been putting these thoughts into practice with Social Media Breakfast NH, Podcamp NH, in-person relationship building, client coaching and strategizing, writing books to make the concept easier for others like Twitter for Dummies (co-author with Laura Fitton and Michael Gruen), investigating co-working spaces like the upcoming Port Forward, real life networking whenever possible at events like NH and Boston Media Makers, local off-web events like Chamber meetings or last night’s Extreme Website Makeover event, one-on-one time with my colleagues and friends whose minds inspire me, and more. There is something about translating connections between the tangible and the intangible that makes the ideas much more vibrant and that makes the connection adhere more fully.
How is face time important for your business? Simple: it brings the human element into your brand. You can attempt to engage people online until you are blue in the face. You can throw money and resources at social media until you go broke. But if you can’t translate that rapport and effort into time off the screen somehow, you’re missing a key component to your overall social media and business development strategy. It’s not your 100 or 100,000 or more followers on various platforms that counts, it’s the number that come to your movie, attend your event, support your cause in person, talk about you to their friends, go to your concert, use your service in their homes or businesses, drink your wine in real life… you get the idea.
Never underestimate the value of face time. How do you employ face time in your business or life?
By popular request I’m starting to offer a new service here, Individual Mentoring. Authors, musicians, comedians, actors, contractors, bloggers, self employed sole proprietors, or just people looking to figure out the occasionally overwhelming sea of social media sites and applications can now have me help them figure it all out. Think of it as having your own personal guide for where you need to be online, how to be online and the best use of your time while there.
Individual mentoring is something I get asked for more often than almost any other service I offer. I understand – when someone like Ben Grossman* talks about the need for a social media aggregation program and uses a series of three jam-packed slides that show only a partial list of the social media possibilities out there overwhelming people, the need for help learning what would be the best tools for you and how to use them for what you need without consuming your life or annoying people with things like link spam while you learn becomes clear. It’s easy for someone who isn’t an “early adopter” type to give up before you really get a chance to start playing with the possibilities because there is just so much to choose from.
What does Individual Mentoring entail? After we decide to go forward, an initial comprehensive evaluation of what you need, your goals, your available time to commit to maintaining your social media presence and more. I’ll use this to create a custom program for you to follow so you can jump start your use of social media. I will then keep an eye on you and give you pointers here and there on how you are doing and what could be better – teaching you how to engage people online using the platform or platforms that work best for you in the time you have to do it. You’ll find that after a short time you will take to it like a duck to water, and not only will you be able to fly on your own, you’ll probably be branching out in to other aspects of social media – once you understand it you find yourself using it more and more. The benefits to you come in the form of brand recognition (personal and business brand), contacts and network building, interest building, and often indirect monetary benefits (on occasion direct sales, but social media is more about indirect monetary benefits).
If you think you or your small business would benefit from Individual mentoring, give me a shout via email or call me at 800.501.4049
*Ben’s slides, Creative Commons Licensed, used with permission