Avoid guilt by association: Twitter and spam

13 October 2017

Avoid guilt by association: Twitter and spam

Back in the days before the internet, Monty Python’s famous “spam” joke, was harmless fun. These days, spam is the bane of the internet and has made its way out of our email inboxes and into our social media accounts.

The cost of spam

Spam, in any and all of its forms, is more than just a nuisance, it’s an expense. In fact, if you fail to treat it with sufficient caution, it can get very expensive: just ask any organisation that has been hit with a malware attack.

There are plenty of other ways spam can hurt your wallet. For example, spam accounts on Twitter can cause you to generate misleading statistics and hence base your social media campaigning (and budget) on inaccurate information.

Twitter hashtags are spammer honey

In simple terms, the number of times a particular hashtag is used is an excellent indication of how popular a topic is, but this also means that the most popular hashtags are the ones that are most likely to come to the attention of spammers.

This means that being judicious in your use of hashtags will probably help to reduce your level of risk of being targeted by spam accounts. As an added bonus, the correct use of hashtags is good Twitter etiquette in any case and is something all Twitter users should aim to learn, those operating brand accounts in particular.

Dealing with the spam accounts you do attract

While watching your hashtag usage should help reduce the number of spam accounts you attract in the first place, the internet being what it is, sadly, it’s still odds on that you’re going to attract some. How you deal with them depends on how many followers you have over all.

If you have a small following

Those who are still building a following can deal with spam accounts manually for the time being. Common red flags for spam accounts include:

  • Lack of profile picture or a profile picture which obviously isn’t of them
  • Lack of information in the biography and/or conflicting information in the biography
  • Follows a lot of people but is followed by relatively few
  • Retweets continually but rarely (or never) posts original content
  • Fails to interact with other users.

Obviously, a bit of common sense has to be used here. Some Twitter users are what you might call passive users. They consume content and may retweet anything they particularly like (or see as important) rather than being in much of a habit of tweeting themselves. If you see an account of this nature, then try looking at how they react to your tweets. If they’re liking and retweeting them, even if they’re not commenting, they may just be a more passive Twitter user as opposed to a spammer who would be no great loss to you.

To get rid of the obvious spammers, blocking and reporting them is the best way forward for those with modest follower numbers.

If you have an extensive following

There will come a point when you will have too many followers to weed out spam accounts manually, at which time you can reach for an app such as Crowdfire to do it for you, or if you’re really lucky, maybe Twitter will have finally got to grips with the problem by then.