10 Signs for Spotting Twitter Spammers

I’ve been seeing a lot of Twitter spammers lately, andI’ve learned how to spot most of them rather quickly. Aside from the people who blatantly tell us we can make money, build traffic, or try Forex trading (I still don’t know what that is; don’t care either), there are a few tricks people are using to get you to follow them.

They’re trying to make their Twitter accounts look like real ones so you’ll follow them. Then they’ll either change their Twitter handle to something more spammy, or they’ll just DM you their crap, hoping you’ll fall for it.

    1. Following over 1,000 people, but doesn’t have an avatar. Someone who has managed to gather enough followers should know enough to get an avatar. No avatar is not a sign they’re spammers, just like a real photo is a sign they’re not. But when I see a new follower with no bio and no avatar, I may block them, I may not.
    2. They’re following over 1,000 people but have never, ever tweeted. Sometimes someone can write a decent bio, and post a photo, but have not sent a single tweet.
Twitter spammer screenshot

What

  1. The bio is formulaic.The one I’m seeing the most lately lists their likes, where they used to live, and another place they used to live.Likes – Writing, Tunes, Photography, Movies. Gym, Formerly from Albany , various places near Columbus.
  2. Their avatar photo has ugly borders. The ones I’ve been seeing are photos that look to be about 15 – 20years old (they’re actually a little faded; nice touch.), and have borders on the top and bottom, or left and right. The colors are purples, greens, and blues that remind me of something you would have worn in the 80s. Basically, the photos were too small, so the spammer added some border colors to fill up the photo space.
  3. Avatar is of a young attractive woman but has a guy’s name. And not even the sort-of gender neutral names like Tony/Toni or Stevie. No, these are names like Barry, David, or Kevin. I’ve only seen this once in a while, but it still happens from time to time.
  4. Avatar is of a young, scantily-clad woman. Guys, I’m sorry, but not only is she not really into you, it’s probably not even a woman on the other end of that Twitter account. Most women will not post a photo of themselves like that on Twitter, especially if they want to show you how to make money through your Twitter account.
  5. They have tweets on their profile page, but they’re usually gibberish. Things like “Ian successfully dispelled” or “it isn’t sepulchral quiet.” I’ll block them on both Twitter.com and on TweetDeck. It doesn’t actually count as double-block to Twitter, but I feel better doing it. (Update: @KaryD and @JenKaneCo apparently call this Twitter Haiku. I’m adopting this moniker too. Thanks you two.)
  6. Their Twitter handle contains numbers. Not just a couple numbers, like the year they were born. These look like tracking numbers. Once you start seeing several of these people following you, they invariably follow the same patterns: they’re all young women, they’re often accompanied by a formulaic bio or no bio at all, and their tweets are often commercial or nonsensical. Sheila9489, Kelly1276
  7. Their Twitter handle is NAME_in_CITY. I’ll see Lisa_in_Milkwaukee and Stephanie_in_Madison. I got hit by this spammer when he started in Portland, Maine, and he predictably traveled westward over the next several months. I couldn’t even give him points for creativity, although I do confess to a little thrill of recognition when he chose a few Indiana cities I knew.
  8. Their Twitter handle follows similar formulas, like CITY_OMG or CITY_140. Handles like Omaha_OMG or Louisville_140 were also common. I still see follow requests from this guy once in a while.
  9. Unfortunately, Twitter hasn’t been able to crack down on these spammers, or they’re not as worried about it. But I think they should be able to identify some of these strategies (or even maybe hundreds of accounts all signing up from the same IP address) and work to stop these slimeballs from clogging up their Twitter tubes.

    How are you spotting spammers? Any hints? How do you deal with them or eliminate them? I’m working on a new post about how to deal with the people who clog my Twitter, and I would love your suggestions.

    My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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    About Erik Deckers

    is the President of Professional Blog Service, a ghost blogging and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He has been blogging since 1997, and has been a published writer for more than 26 years. He is a newspaper humor columnist, appearing in 10 papers around Indiana, and in The American Reporter. Erik co-authored No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech). His latest co-authored effort, The Owned Media Doctrine, was released in 2013.

    Comments

    1. I’m totally blind, so i listen through my timelines (in particular, i read my followers and friends to look for anyone suspicious or anything out-of-place, like a telemarketing tweeter or someone with no followers/friends and hundreds to thousands of unresponded tweets.
      I also don’t like people/bots who auto-follow just for the sake of it.
      If i write a mention to you all the time and you just keep replying to the mentions, that’s even better than following me just as soon as you find my Twitter id.

    2. @Doug, I mentioned TwitSweeper in my followup post, 5 Strategies for Eliminating Twitter Spam. Thanks for the reminder.

    3. You might want to try twitsweeper – it helps to find your spammy followers… (disclaimer: i am associated with twitsweeper, but I find it useful for what is being discussed in this article)

    4. So glad you weighed in on the cryptic tweeters and love that you love the term “Haiku People.” I haven’t followed them back, but have been unsure as to what, in the long run, they are trying to accomplish. Maybe I will follow one just to see what happens. Could be a fun experiment.

      Thanks so much for the shout out!

    5. Thank you so much for compiling this!

    6. @Amy Spreeman, if you follow them, they can send you a DM. Their hope is that if it’s from someone you “trust,” you’ll click on an innocuous-looking link. These may not even be messages about male enhancement pills or counterfeit watches, but could be something like “I found a photo of you online.” When you click the link it could take you to a spam site, or more likely, load some malware onto your computer, which can then be used for all sorts of nasty and nefarious reasons.

    7. Good list Erik! Thx for sharing.

    8. Good heavens, I have hundreds of these. What to they want? What could they possibly gain by having me follow them back? It’s not like I’m going to retweet “Vegetable marko values songs.”

    9. @Blake, what do you mean they can post on your Twitter site? Someone can @reply you whether they’re following you or not. But if someone is posting FROM your Twitter account, you need to change your password and dump some of the OAuth permissions you have given in the last few months. Get rid of the ones that aren’t from a 100% completely trusted source.

    10. ?, is that why people I’m not following are able to post on my twitter site without being retweeted?
      An annoying new development…

    11. @Amy, I nearly always do. If I’m not sure, I’ll leave them alone. If I have a few minutes, I’ll check them out and confirm whether they’re spam, and then I’ll block them.

    12. Do you mark them as spam? If you do it helps twitter write a better algorithm.

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