Five Ways to Get Me to Follow You on Twitter

My Twitter follower count has been on the rise the last few weeks, which has been a great boost for my ego.

But I’m finding that I’m returning the favor for fewer and fewer people. That’s because people are either putting less effort into Twitter, they see it as a lazy way to market to a bunch of people, or they’re spammers who are trying to trick people into follow them. Here are five do’s and don’ts to get people to follow you on Twitter.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

1. Do not mention money in your bio.

I don’t want financial freedom. I don’t want help in reaching my business goals. I don’t want to know how I can make more deals online. Actually, I do, but I want to get those things with someone I trust. Not someone who just joined Twitter five minutes ago. I block people like you.

2. Put something in your bio.

The only thing worse is to put nothing in your bio. At the very least, let me know what you do. I turned off the “New Follower” email notification, and only check that column in my TweetDeck. And all that shows me is your bio, which is where I make most of my follow decisions. If you don’t have anything in there, I don’t know anything about you, and I just won’t follow you.

3. Put a real picture for your avatar.

Not your logo, not a photo of your kid, or you as a kid. Put your photo in there so I know what you look like. If you put in a company logo, then I assume you want to sell me something. I want a relationship with a real person. Not your company, not your kid, not you 20 years ago (or 30 or 40). And I definitely won’t follow anyone who still has the damn Twitter egg as their avatar. You’re either lazy or don’t understand what “Upload Photo” means. In either case, I don’t think you’re going to be much help to me.

4. Use your real name.

Okay, okay, I may follow you if you’ve created a business account on Twitter. I like organizations like @ComcastCares and @BilericoProject, and will follow them. But if you’re using the name of your money making system in your Twitter handle, I’ll block you. I have never had good luck with people named @Money247 or @NuBizOnline. Maybe it’s a bias on my part, maybe the person was unluckily named by odd parents, but so far, I haven’t been proved wrong. If you want people to take you seriously, use your real name in your Twitter username, or at the very least, a variation of it.

5. You need to have real conversations in your Twitter stream, not news headlines or motivational quotes.

If you pass the first four steps, I’ll either follow you, or I’ll click over to your Twitter page. If I do that, and find that your Twitter stream is filled with motivational quotes or news headlines, I won’t follow you. I need to see that you’re having actual conversations with people, not just tweeting out garbage. Also, conversations does not mean retweet after retweet. Talk to people. I want to see back and forth, not just blah blah blah. Remember, people joined Twitter to have conversations with real people, not have commercials blasted at them. When you send nothing but headlines, you’re not doing anything useful. You may think you have a lot of followers, but trust me, no one is paying attention to you. Want to be sure? Go check your Klout score.

Unfortunately, Twitter has become another spam channel, which threatens to reduce its usefulness. And while I would love to build up my network to some staggering numbers, I’m not willing to do that at the sacrifice of effectiveness and real reach. So I’ll take a few seconds to look at each new follower and decide whether I want to follow them. For the most part, I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt, unless they’re blatantly trying to sell some money-making system (which, if it really worked, you wouldn’t be online pimping it out to me; you’d be on your own island somewhere in the Caribbean).

So if you want people to at least pay attention to you, put a little thought and effort into actually communicating with people, rather than trying to trick them.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).

Photo credit: ®DS (Flickr)

5 Stupid Things That Should Get You Banned From Twitter

Yesterday, I posted my strategy for boosting my Klout score (for those of you who didn’t read closely, it was really a strategy for being a good Twitter user). But there are some pretty stupid things that people do that, frankly, should just get them banned from Twitter for being a complete twit and spammer. Here are five of the most egregious Twitter sins.

1. Following and unfollowing a bunch of people

Twitter imposed a follower-to-following cap at +10% of your total followers. That is, if 5,000 people are following you, you can follow up to 5,500 people. But you’ll reach a point that, especially if you’re new, if you’re not tweeting out valuable information, you just can’t get more followers.

A common black hat strategy is to follow a bunch of people, and wait about 24 – 48 hours (if that long), then go back and unfollow them using one of the different network management tools, like FriendOrFollow. Since Twitter doesn’t notify us when we’re unfollowed, these charlatans will count on our willingness to follow these people, not realizing they’re not following us anymore. They can run up their follower count without ever contributing anything of value.

2. Putting words like “money,” “income,” or “revenue” in your Twitter name.

Unless your name really is Money, Income, or Revenue, don’t do that. I don’t want to know how to make money fast using your sleazy, and quite possibly illegal, system. Unfortunately, tricks like these work, as evidenced by the proliferation of email spam, despite the fact that we think “people know better.” If they did, then spam wouldn’t work, and it would die.

So they rely on our greed and stupidity, and think we’ll say “ooh, a way to make a lot of money from home? Sign me up!” The great thing about these people using one of the verboten terms is that I can spot them in my New Followers column in TweetDeck, and I can just block them without visiting their Twitter page. You people could save me even more time if you would just block yourself for me.

3. Using a picture of an attractive, bikini-clad woman as your avatar to get me to click through.

If you’re an attractive woman, and you want to put your OWN photo in your avatar, that’s fine. But if your Twitter account says your name is Ken, Dave, or Steve, I ain’t buying it. (And yes, I have seen more than one spam account that has a woman’s photo and a dude’s name.)

4. Sending me a contest or giveaway message without following me.

Occasionally I get a random tweet telling me I could enter a contest or try out a free item just for clicking a link. Rather than clicking the suspicious-looking link, I visit the person’s Twitter page, where I see a raft of identical tweets, each to a different person. The accounts are invariably following a few people, have sent out fewer than 30 tweets, and are less than 3 hours old. They’re usually suspended for suspicious activities a few hours later.

5. Following 2,000 people without sending a single tweet.

When I joined Twitter, it took me a few months to reach 2,000 people, because I was still trying to figure out who to follow. Even a great majority of Twitter users have fewer than 100 people they follow. When you have a brand new account following 2,000 people, but haven’t tweeted a single thing, I believe you’re trying to build up this account so you can start spamming me later. Unfortunately, I can’t report you for spam, since you haven’t actually tweeted anything. But I don’t plan on sticking around to find out either.

Basically, if you do any of these five things, you deserve to be blocked, reported, and banned. I know I’m fighting a losing battle, but it truly isn’t that hard to click Block on my TweetDeck and keep you out of my stream, and hopefully keep you from inflicting yourself on other Twitter users. Just go back to peddling your useless money-making crap to people with AOL email addresses.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).

Photo credit: Abardwell (Flickr)

Is It Ethical to Edit Spam Comments?

Spammers are getting more and more sophisticated in their methods. Thanks to Akismet on WordPress and Blogger’s new spam filters, the days of gibberish-filled comments with 50 links to different spam sites are over. So the spammers have had to get creative and try to slip one over on us bloggers.A handmade pizza made with spam, with the letters spelling out the word spam.

These days, the common technique is to leave some flattering yet generic comment like “Hey, this is a great post. I bookmarked it, and I’m going to tell all my friends. You rock!”The spammer has also included the URL to the site they’re pimping in the hopes that this seemingly innocuous comment will slip through our radar. What they really hope is that the search engines will follow the URL to their site, and they get a little “Google juice” out of it.

This is a common SEO technique, so I understand the reason for it. But it’s really kind of slimy, especially because some new bloggers don’t catch on right away, and they’ll publish these comments, and will sometimes even respond to them.

The latest technique is to actually read the blog post, leave a semi-generic message about that particular topic, again with the URL, in the hopes that this will get through.

“Hey, this is a great post about ghost blogging and I bookmarked it so I can come back again later. I’m going to tell all my friends about it. You rock!”

Here’s my ethical dilemma: Can I, as the blog owner, delete their URL, and then publish the comment? I’m “defanging the serpent,” as it were, and not allowing the spammer to get what they want, but I still get the benefit of a semi-generic praise-ish, if falsely made, comment.

The Pro of Editing Comments

I can argue that many of these spammers are only trying to deceive people into buying their stuff (usually porn, pills, or counterfeit watches), and as such, are not very moral people. I’m not doing any more harm by editing these comments than I am by deleting them. I’m removing the offending URL, and blocking their attempts to direct people to their nefarious websites.

The Con of Editing Comments

This could be a slippery slope. If I edit a spam comment today, what’s to stop me from editing a regular comment for spelling and grammatical errors tomorrow? And then deleting a negative comment the next day? From there, it’s a short step to editing a negative comment into a positive one.

The Question: Can I Edit Spam Comments?

So, my question is, assuming I don’t slide down the slippery slope, can I remove the URLs and publish the comments? If I promise not to cross that line, and never, ever edit a real comment for any reason whatsoever, can I tweak the spam comments and remove the one thing that makes them spam.

What do you think? Do you edit or just delete? Is it dangerous to edit these spammy comments, or perfectly acceptable?

Photo credit: Cookipediachef (Flickr)

Blogger FINALLY Gets Spam Filter

My biggest frustration with Blogger has been the absolute lack of spam moderation. This has been a problem, because I’ve had my humor blog for five years on Blogspot. And while I have been relatively free of spam, lately I’ve been getting a single spam message by a Chinese spammer on every post I make, which meant I had to delete it every single time.

I tried making people sign in, then made it so only people with a Google account could leave a comment. But this weasel was always a step ahead, and I had to delete message after message.

But Blogger finally caught up with something WordPress has been able to do for years: block spam comments.

Blogger finally adds a spam filter to their comments.

Blogger now filters spam comments into a spam folder, just like the one they have in Gmail.

When someone leaves a comment on your blog, it will be reviewed against our spam detector, and comments that are identified as possible spam will be sent to your blog’s Spam Inbox, found at Comments | Spam.

While I thoroughly appreciate the filter and the fact that they’re finally doing something about blog spam, why couldn’t they do this a couple years ago?

Research Desk: Thousands of Twitter Followers Quickly


Image via CrunchBase

Ok, so you’ve unfollowed that guy who sent you the get 16,000 friends in 30 days direct message. Think he’s gone for good? Probably not. See getting lots of followers on Twitter really isn’t that tough (or for that matter, LinkedIn, MySpace or Facebook).  Collecting friends is simply a behavior – much like an insect doing a mating ritual or mining gold for your World of Warcraft game.

It’s simply all about repeating a successful behavior over and over and over and over again.  On Twitter this behavior is called refollowing, and it is very common, especially when people decide, for whatever reason, having 36,000 followers might be useful.

Refollowing growth compared to normal growth.

Refollowing growth compared to normal growth.

Refollowing is also one of the biggest Twitter annoyances – we polled 95 people to find out what behaviors they considered spam, and refollowing far was the most commonly cited annoyance. That said, refollowing works – it’s the perfect behavior for getting friends. It works for building large profiles. It works for building out targeted friend lists (more on that later). There are three reasons it works:

  1. Somewhere between 18-22% of the poeple you follow will follow you back. Of remaining 82-78% if you follow them again, about 16-20% will follow you back… and so on.
  2. There’s no way to tell if someone has followed you before. Add to that Twitter’s occasional glitches, and people are quick to follow people that may have “fell off” their following list.  The only way Twitter gives you to stop refollowing is to block the other party.
  3. You don’t have a lot of options to build big friend lists if you are not already a celebrity (I suppose having 36,000 followers would make you feel like a celeb, though).

There are many ways to implement refollowing.  You can do so manually, you can use tools like Mr. Tweet.  You can do what I did to test refollowing and use an iOpus iMacro to automate following and a tool like Twitter Karma to automate unfollowing (if you are not doing refollowing, TwitterKarma is a great way to clean out people who you follow, who are not following you).

Here is how refollowing works – in three different versions.

Here’s How Refollowing Works (For Follower List Building)

  1. I follow a whole bunch of people.
  2. Wait
  3. About 20% will follow me back.
  4. Unfollow the ones that don’t follow back.
  5. Start the process over.

Here’s How the Amateur Spammers Do It

  1. I follow a whole bunch of people.
  2. Wait
  3. About 20% will follow me back.  Send an automatic direct message to sell super risky get rich quick scheme.
  4. Unfollow the ones that don’t follow back.
  5. Start the process over.

Here’s How the Professional Spammers Do It

  1. Get a big follower list.
  2. Unfollow your followers.
  3. Follow them again.
  4. About 38% will refollow you.
  5. Send auto direct message for new affiliate offer.
  6. Refollow the remaing 62% and repeat steps 7 and 8 as needed.

Ok, So Can Refollowing be Stopped?
It would be hard to stop refollowing without breaking Twitter.
At the end of March, Twitter did do a few things to slow refollowing down. First, they implemented a cap that only allows you to follow 2000 people until 1800 people follow you. Then you can follow about 200 more people than follow you. The caps result is slowing the maximum rate you can grow an account by refollowing to about 400 people per day.

Now the question is, what legitimate use to you have for 36,000 followers? Hmm.  And that leads us to our next research desk topic: Twitter Spam.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]