Bill Hartzer

Thanks to @oprah and @aplusk, Twitter Now a Spammer’s Heaven

Thanks to @oprah (Oprah) and @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher), Twitter is now the 49th most popular site according to Alexa. In the past 3 months, Twitter’s traffic is up a whopping 334.6 percent.

But, with the increased popularity, comes the spammers. Unfortunately, though, it just goes with the territory. Whenever you mix user-generated content and popularity, the spammers come out in droves, pitching their “make money quick” schemes, their adult content, and links to get you off of Twitter and over to your website. The latest “get rich quick” scheme appears to be one that claims that you can get “thousands of followers on Twitter” just by buying into their “program”. If you haven’t seen this spam, it’s looks something like this:

In fact, today, Mashable reminds us that it is getting worse. The spammers are even targeting the Twitter “trending topics” which is shown on the right side navigation on Twitter. They even will post their money-making get rich quick schemes in the Trending Topics and try desperately to get their message across by adding a “trending topic” phrase into their tweet like this:

In the case above, this spammer added the phrase “Star Trek” so that they could get it to show up. How pitiful is that? They don’t know how to gain massive amounts of followers or they just haven’t put in the effort to gain that many followers (yes, it’s a lot of work) that they have to resort to spamming their messages. Or spamming their tweets.

What do the Twitter Spammers Have in Common?
After reviewing hundreds of Twitter accounts, I have noticed a trend amongst the Twitter spammers. In fact, it’s pretty easy to spot someone who is more interested in promoting themselves and their products or links than they are “connecting” with you. What it is? Their following/followers ratio. Of all of the hundreds of Twitter spammer accounts I reviewed, the majority of them were following more people than were following them. It looked just like this in most Twitter spam accounts:

In this case, I was amazed that this person had this many followers. But, still, they were following more people than they had followers. Apparently, though, this Twitter account is being automated: I cannot possibly believe that this account owner is actually corresponding with over four thousand people, all at once. There is no way that they’re sitting there at their PC (or even on their iPhone, for that matter!), receiving and manually watching and reading what those people have to say. So, maybe…just maybe the Twitter spammers are following each other, pitching their get-rich-quick-on-Twitter schemes and scams to each other? How ironic would that be?

How to Stay Away from the Twitter Spammers
I’ve already mentioned that it’s pretty easy to spot a Twitter spammer. They’re usually pitching a “get rich quick”, “get more followers quickly” type of scheme. And I’m sure that pretty soon we’ll see all of the spammers that are on MySpace and Facebook come on over to Twitter, trying to pitch their spam. We’ve already seen the adult content spam start, and I’m sure that it will just continue. Here are several tips on how to keep the Twitter spammers away, or at least keep them away from impacting you and your Twitter account.

1. If someone send you a DM (direct message) that appears to be spam, then don’t hesitate to block them. Go to their account, remove them as a follower, and block them. If they’re particularly nasty, you might want to report them. If you want to report them, you need to send a tweet by sending @reply with the suspicious user name: “@spam @spam123”. So, if I wanted to report a Twitter user named “twitter_spammer”, I would send a tweet like this: @spam @twitter_spammer

2. Don’t follow random people or at least without keeping an eye on it. There are all sorts of “services” like Twitter Mass that lets you automatically follow people who mention a certain keyword or keyword phrase. Do you really want to do that? If you don’t keep a very close eye on it, what will end up happening is that you’ll end up following more people than are following you. And I already mentioned that the typical Twitter spammer is “follower hungry” or “hungry for followers”, and they follow more than are following them. So, unless you plan on steadily removing people who you’ve followed on a regular basis, I don’t recommend using a “auto following service”.

3. Gain followers by interacting with them, manually. The best thing you can do to get some more followers is to search Twitter for a keyword phrase. Then, start interacting with them. Make a comment. Start a conversation. If they like what you say then they’ll follow you. If they don’t, well then that’s okay.

4. It’s all about trust. Follow people who you trust. Interact with people you trust. Talk to your followers, click on links only from people you trust won’t send you off to a site that’s not safe for work. On Twitter, there’s only enough room for a shortened url in tweets, so there are a lot of URL shortening services being used. Anyone can shorten a URL and make it link on over to a site you wouldn’t want to visit at work or even at home. So, be careful what you click on. Certainly there would be a huge market for McAfee or Norton to step into the URL shortening space now. I would love it if someone started a URL shortening service that “tested” URLs, making sure that they’re okay for work and virus-free.

5. Don’t follow everyone who follows you. I mentioned it before, be careful when you sign up for an “auto follow” service. You just don’t know who you’re following. And once you follow someone, you’re saying that it’s okay for them to send you a DM (Direct Message). And most of them will, many Twitter spammers will send you an automated message when you follow them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with sending an “thanks for following me” message. But when it’s automated and it pitches a product, a scheme, a scam, or a URL, then I have a problem with it.

Certainly, when any site (especially a social media site that’s full of user-generated content) like Twitter becomes massively popular, you have to expect that the spammers are going to be migrating in droves to the new service. And they have. Thanks to @oprah (Oprah) and @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher), who I believe are responsible for putting Twitter on the map (which is a good thing), Twitter is now one of the most popular, and useful, sites out there for networking and keeping in touch with what’s going on. But, as Twitter becomes even more popular, we’re going to see more Twitter spammers, more Twitter scams, and more people trying to “game Twitter” for monetary gain. Just use common sense on Twitter and you’ll be fine.

By the way, did I mention that you can follow me on Twitter?

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