Saturday, 9 January 2010

A bit of a Waffle on Twitter Followers - PART I

I've been meaning to do this waffle since about early December, and the exact contents of this waffle have been constantly changing. This does seem, something of a hot topic at the moment across the Twittersphere and  several People I follow, have been posting various bits and pieces of fuel to the fire from all sides of the fence.

@WizardGold (Highly recommended following, especially if you are a filmmaker or mac user) posted a review about a paid for service to add more twitter followers (sadly I cannot find the link to the podcast). A couple of weeks later @JoePritchard a software developer and author from Sheffield posted an article entitled The Social Media Number Game.  Inbetween and even as I write this post, there have been several links tweeted to articles quoting the "importance of twitter numbers" to the "importance of quality over quantity". Fnally, for this introduction, I tweeted out "What people thought about twitter follower numbers", whilst typing this up and got the following response from fellow #fridayflash author @TonyNoland

@Chance4321 Followers <40? New (or v passive). 40-400? You engage. 400-4K? You're good. 4k-40K? V good. >40K? Follower whore.

I really like WizardGold podcasts and youtube videos that he posts, and as mentioned I recomend following him. I hope he doesnt mind me saying, but I think on paying for a paid service is, in my opinion a wrong move.

I do hate to admit it, but my past is tarred with having dabbled in computer programing at one point, and what  got me thinking about these paid services is how they might work;
Phantom followers. 
Company X has a piece of code that generates random twitter users. For effect, they mimic the tweets of real tweeters, and to avoid detection they take their source tweets from several tweeters. When you sign up for Company X, they simply add their phatom followers to your account.

I do think the above takes place, but not for the purpose of twitter followers, I think it is more used for unloading fake viagra and giant pianists from Russia. I'm sure, we all on twitter have had @Kate23456 follow us, whoes tweet history reads

"OMG! Great Link http:///...."

"Auzzie rules footbal is great"

"Excellent link, try http:///....

"The hot glass expands to easily if you are trying that, #glassmaking.

"You must try this link, its really funny http://"

Normally this account is associated with a profile picture we have seen somewhere else before. What do we do when we come across followers like this ? We  hit the spam button - which is why I do not think that this method would be suited for the follower scam.

Pyramid Scams.
This method, I do know to exist (Twittertain I believe to be one example). Normally it involves either signing up and receiving a list of people you need to add to your followers, who in turn, you have to supply 40 odd users to follow etc etc.  Sometimes they are more cunningly disguised;Maybe they ask for you to form lists of people with similar interests, or ask you to rank pointlessly, other twitter followers. Essentially at the end of the day, it is just the old pyramid scam recycled - the maths doesn't work.

Related Words
This is how I think most of the schemes work (If I am wrong - then please comment below). You sign up for one of these services (normally a monthly subscription) and they ask you to fill in some keywords, either under the guise of "topics you tweet about" or something along those lines. I should note, at this point that the site you are subscribing to, is filled with marketing hogwash, phoney statistics and articles which have the editorial content of the "How to How To".  A lot of it is there for smoke and mirror purposes,  I advise you to stop and actually read the contents of these sites before making any decisions.

Now that you have signed up,  company X has a list of keywords which they can match to other users in their database, but much more importantly (its a number game) is this. They harvest the Twittersphere for those keywords (hash tags or keywords)  and add you as a follower to the person who posted under that hashtag or keyword, in the hope, that that person in return follows you back.

But it doesn't end there; Twitter has a Follow to  Follower ratio to stem such things.  You can read about it here from the official twitter help

To get around this, the service you subscribed to, unfollows x number (at random) to maintain this ratio.

I base this on the following

1) When you signed up, you were asked if you grant permission for company X service to access your twitter account.  There is something called the twitter API; To cut a long explanation short to you non programmer readers, this is essentially a way a programmer can do all sorts of tasks (in the relation to twitter, ie add followers) without having to use the normal web page. Instead they can do it via code or script. To write a script to search for keywords, would be extremely simple, to write a code to add/remove followers based on a ratio - again extremely simple. 

2) I back point 1 with the words of the author of Twitter Karma,( a service which allows you to remove people you follow, who do not follow you - again I question what value this service has to you).  under the donate button which mentions authentication data (effectively your permission) in the same blurb as followers and following.

2)In my inbox, I have a twitter filter for all my emails which alert me about my followers. Several names are repeated saying they are now following me, which indicates they have gone through a pattern of "Follow/Unfollow/Follow etc." Whats interesting is the numbers, if i take one example at random.

5321 followers Vs 5234 following
6144 followers Vs 5830 following

5321/5234 = 1.01
6144/5937 = 1.02

A uniform growth in the space of a month. Just to compare, is three sets  of numbers from new followers which seem to me, to be suspiscious as to why they are following me.

3398/3298 = 1.03
14598/12840 = 1.13
7506/7011  = 1.07

And as a final comparison, 3 sets of number from followers chosen, unscientifically at random.

618/683 = .9 @LeedsLibraries - The clue is in the name
1081/426 = 2.5 @philkirby - Leeds Based Author
341/483 =  .7 @BritMic - Outlaw filmmaker

In fairness, the numbers are indicative and not conclusive. I do ask however, next time you get a new follower out of nowhere, to look at the number of followers vs the number they are following.

I would like to end this first part with the following point.

Have you, or have you  known anyone, who has ever been paid to follow someone, or been offered any other benefit ?  If you are tempted to sign up for one of these services, stop and think where your money is going and what you are paying for. Then think about how you could probably spend that money on either a more traditional way of promotion, or simply go down the pub and enjoy yourself and not worry about your number of followers.

Continue to Part II


  1. I don't care so much about the quantity as the QUALITY of the tweets I receive from them. I have a fairly large following on my main account. Still, the smaller writer/author account is like hiding in the cellar with a notebook. I adore it.

  2. It's hard to see how getting a bunch of paid followers is beneficial to your goals, unless it's purely wallpaper. If it adds value to your rep simply to be able to say, "See? I have 10,000 followers!", then the people you are trying to impress must never think to ask the question, "Yes, but who ARE your followers?"

    I'd rather be followed by a couple of hundred people who are interested in me and what I tweet/write about, than have 10,000 followers who throw away my words like junk mail.

  3. I don't care about the number of followers I have, in fact there are a bunch that I wish I could get rid of without having to actually block them since I don't know if they are real people.

    I want people who are interested in me and the people I follow to follow me and to actually get something from the Twitter experience.

  4. Thanks for the mention Robert. I have tried out 2 services/software to gain twitter followers.
    The way they both work is for you to search on people that are in the area you are interested.
    So a film maker will search among other film makers twitter accounts and follow the people that follow them or people that they follow.
    A percentage will follow back....
    Those that do no follow back within a time - 2 or 3 days get unfollowed so that you can follow some more.

    This method does work and you will get followers that have connection to your subject area or interest.

    You will get some followers that you would not necessarily want but that can't be helped. You can always prune those out afterwards.

    I used Twitter guru elite and thought it was OK but then I found Tweetadder that does more or less the same but in the long run is cheaper.

    I went for the 5 Twitter account version which was about $70

    For the use I have got out of it and the number of followers I have gained I am happy with the bang for the buck. Have a look at to see the post about the services I tried.

  5. For someone who is "Tweet Challenged" this article is very informative. With less than 200 tweats under my belt and followers in lower portion of Tony's -- You engage -- section, I joined Twitter to connect with with other writers (and/or other cooks). In fact, I was told "You need to pimp your fiction on Twitter!" by a very good writing friend. Being a social network novice, I had to get a translation of that sentence from my son.

    Anyhow, I digress . . . Please let me know if I'm tweeting annoyingly or incorrectly because I've made many new friends through this proccess and I'd hate to lose any of them! (WeezelWords)

  6. I don't care how many followers I have. It's now over 500 but I don't know why. As for how many I follow, I want to actively engage in conversations so that number won't ever get that high.



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