I love Twitter, and I’ve been a staunch advocate of doing Twitter in real-time and only as a real-person. I have not changed my position. While automated tweets are easy and may make sense for some companies, like Pepsi, fo you and me, Twitter should be about connecting with each other. But… We all know, it’s not. And while Twitter says they take a lot of measures to combat the Fake Twitter Business, they have a vested interest in racking up ever higher numbers of accounts. What if 50% of all Twitter accounts were fake, expired, abandoned, or bots? What do you think Twitter’s valuation would do if their entire user base was cut in half?
So we’ve got a number of problems.
- Twitter needs high growth numbers to support their business and revenue plans. (good luck on that)
- Twitter says it’s doing all it can to combat fake and fraudulent accounts. (they don’t mention abandoned accounts)
- There is a huge business in selling Twitter followers, and Twitter traffic, and pseudo boosts using automated Tweets
- The barrier to entry for a new Twitter account is an email address and one captcha gateway. (how many accounts do you think a busy Malaysian boy can create in an hour?
- Estimates of 1-in-10 accounts being bots or fakes is VERY LOW
If Twitter made creating a new account as difficult as say Facebook or LinkedIn, their numbers, their GROWTH numbers would drop dramatically
So what has Twitter become?
Twitter is a great real-time barometer on social opinion on everything from last night’s Mad Men episode, to the thumbs up or thumbs down on every Superbowl ad as they are broadcast. Twitter is a market researchers dream. And hashtags are the marketers crack cocaine. We’re doing all the work for them, by tagging and tweeting our thoughts. It’s practically put Neilsen out of business. No more waiting for days to learn if your TV ad was effective. You can tell as the ad is running if people love and share it, or if they hate and rant about it.
Twitter does have some value as a communication network. I do have Twitter friends I follow and engage with. But by killing the usefulness of Direct Messages and Lists, Twitter has lowered the value of Twitter as a social network.
Twitter is wonderful for building a brand platform, or advertising/publishing network. The idea being, if someone (a real account) is following you on Twitter, they are interested in your updates and activities. Twitter may be the new RSS feed. I know when I tweet on this account all the search bots (Google/Bing/etc) launch into action. They don’t seem to do the same thing as my RSS feed updates. So to build a following on Twitter today, means building a semi-real audience of interested people. However, unless they are using a Twitter tool like Hootesuite or Tweetdeck, they probably won’t ever see your tweet. It’s not like Facebook where they are acutally only showing your updates to about 10% of your followers, but the half-life of a tweet is about 15 – 20 minutes. As the stream of tweets go by, if you’re not using a tool, it’s gone forever, down the drain of the firehose.
Twitter has been dominated by spammy marketers who follow any existing trend and try to glom their tweets full of links into the currency of Twitter. You can see it happening in any trending hashtag. Once some issue gains momentum, the spammer/marketers/sheisters come out of the Twitterverse to peddle their snake oil. Often they are offering to sell you 5,000 new followers for $10. But they are often offering products and services as well. Teeth whitening seemed to be a popular one a while back. Today it’s SEO or link-building services that rip up the tweetstream the minute there is a trend.
And while I’d love Twitter to get it together and boot the BS I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So we’ve got to take matters into our own hands. I use several tools to tag and report fake Twitter accounts. And while this is only a drop in the bucket, if we all start doing it, we might stem a tiny wave of the incoming tide of spam.
- Twitblock.org < helps you ID and Block/Report offending accounts – yes this will lower your follower count, but if they are not real followers they don’t matter anyway.
- Manageflitter.com < has some great tools for managing a large Twitter account, they were recently downgraded by Twitter and lost a bit of their funtionality
- And then there’s good old-fashioned report and block. I prefer Report and Block, and Twitter has added a new “Why do you think this account is a problem?” screen.
I do believe there is a great number of uses for Twitter, even with the problems. If you learn how to use Twitter you can generate real traffic to your site and client’s sites when you tweet about them. We need Twitter to do better, but we’ve also go a responsibility to do things better for ourselves. And if you’re an AUTO-BOT (I have this argument everytime I write these kind of posts) I think you are doing it wrong. Yes, even Pepsi.
If a tweet falls in the forest of spammy accounts does anyone visit the link? No. If your tweet is effective and you get some responses from real, engageded, people, and YOU ARE NOT THERE!!!!! I’m sorry, that’s a fail.
Be Real Time.
And Kill the Bots.
related: How Twitter Bots Fool You Into Thinking They’re Real People – Fast Company
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