In my non-Smithee life, I spend a lot of time on Twitter, although it’d be more accurate to say I spend a lot of time through Twitter. I’ve made some solid connections and had interesting conversations, seen a lot of funny videos and kept up with the news I care about.
Because my updates are not protected, anyone can start following me. For a while, I was ignoring the details of who was following me, figuring that even if it was a spammer, their goals wouldn’t be accomplished, because I’m not automatically interested in following someone who follows me.
The basic Twitter Spammer Marketing model goes like this: Follow everyone. Many of them will at least look at your profile page. Some of those many will follow you back.
However, I later found out that when enough users have blocked a spammer’s account, it can be suspended for suspicious activity and/or violating the terms of service. So I decided to do my part in helping identify the unruly mob. But I needed to come up with a system. I don’t want to block anyone unfairly.
None of the following are foolproof identifiers in their own right, but they’re all pretty strong evidence.
Way Too Many Links
Spammers want you to follow links, so they will post lots and lots of them. Many of them will point to the same place, even though the same link may have just been posted hours earlier. Consider this screenshot:
This person seriously wants you to visit those links about health shops and fragrances. Twitter is supposed to be a community, not a billboard.
Too Many Followees
Celebrities on Twitter will have thousands of followers and only a handful of people they are following, themselves. (Some celebrities will engender goodwill by following back all of their followers, but you know they’re not reading all those updates.)
Spammers, however, do the opposite. The number of people they’re following will usually be ten times larger than the number of people following them. Even if it’s not that high a ratio, when someone is following over 1,000 people, I get seriously suspicious.
Sometimes They’ll Just Tell You in the Bio
If the bio in the sidebar of a person’s profile uses any combination of “sell”, “marketing” and “online”, it’s probably a spammer.
Not Enough Updates
Since the Spammer Marketing Model is just “Follow everyone”, they often forget to write anything. If you’re looking at an account that has just a few updates, and has existed longer than a week, it’s probably a spammer.
Granted, these tips don’t directly help you save money, or make money, but it is still about consumerism: if we can stop the spammers, marketing will be forced to grow up a little bit, and we can try having an adult conversation about the things we want to buy.
Published or updated June 5, 2009.