A few weeks ago I noticed an interesting phenomenon with my Twitter notifications. Each time I posted an article on Forbes, it would instantly be retweeted by a lot of people, and by a lot I mean at least 50, sometimes more than 100. Most of this Twitter sharing of my Forbes articles (and yes, it is limited to Forbes–the same thing doesn’t happen when I’m published on Entrepreneur, Mashable, or anywhere else) is being done by bots. These are fake accounts set up and programmatically made to tweet anything I post to Forbes. I assume the same thing is happening to many, if not all, other Forbes contributors. Great, right? I wish.
The problem is these fake accounts clutter up my Twitter notifications, which prevents me from being able to see the legitimate tweets from real people. I like to favorite, retweet, and occasionally follow those people. But I don’t want to favorite, retweet, or follow a bot. And if my article is retweeted 100 times, 80% of the time by bots, it takes a lot of extra time for me to find the 20 legit tweeters.
This post isn’t about fixing the problem–Twitter better fix it, or they’re going to see less user engagement. This post is about how to quickly identify spam, and more importantly, make sure you never get mistaken as a spammer. You don’t want to be mistaken as a spammer because Twitter allows users to report spam accounts, which I do frequently as a matter of civic duty, and to block them from clogging up my stream.
Here are six ways to identify a bot/spam Twitter account, all in one graphic.
- The egg. Replace the default Twitter egg with a photo of yourself. Not a photo of your dog (that also looks like spam) and not an image of something you care about. Put your face there, and for goodness’ sakes be wearing a smile.
- Banner image. Replace the default banner color with an image that relates to you. Maybe it’s a photo of you, you and your team, where you live or work, or something you’re interested in. A robot would choose a random image that doesn’t necessarily connect with anything else about the profile. Don’t do that.
- Customize the tweet. I can tell with the above tweet that it just auto-grabbed the article headline and the meta tag. No real person would do this. Customize what’s being tweeted to ensure it’s obvious a human being created the tweet.
- No followers. If you have fewer than 200 followers, you have no followers. Get some. How? Read on.
- Not following. The fastest way to get followers is to follow people who are interested in the same things you are. Make sure you have a completed profile bio that communicates what you’re interested in. It’s not hard to get a few hundred followers in a day or two. Without any followers, you look like a bot.
- Tweet naturally. I’ve been on Twitter since 2009. I’ve been as active as I could be for the past two years. I still haven’t gotten up to 10,000 tweets. If someone has 58 followers, only follows 52 people, and has almost 40,000 tweets, what does that tell me? They’re a bot.
You know you’re not a bot. I know you’re not a bot. But if you make the mistake of looking like Hidayat above, you’ll be mistaken for a bot by many others, even if you aren’t. Finish that Twitter profile–don’t be a bot.Liked it? Share it!