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;
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.
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.
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