A quick recap of recent events
A few days ago I had an unusual influx of new followers on Twitter, many of them were clearly spammers. I was a bit shocked actually and I didn’t want to accidentally block a real person.
I did a little digging to try and figure out why I was getting the sudden landslide. I think it started with a post on tiny house design entitled, Tiny House Vacation Rental Idea. I suspect the keywords in that post drew a few unsavory folks because many of the new followers were “realty experts” selling MLM schemes.
I had blocked the most obvious ones but had actually left a couple of the questionable tweeps who had high follower counts. I figured it was safe to keep them; I mean how would a spammer get thousands of followers?
After blocking all the obvious ones I took a more careful look at these high ranking questionable tweeps. I noticed that they all had honest sounding bios and some even had no website link. They didn’t seem to be selling anything. Almost everything about the accounts made it seem like they were not spammers or even in business. Then I started clicking the links in their tweets.
The vast majority of their tweets were actually pretty good quality but I did find a few pointing to services like increasing the number of twitter followers and one or two buried MLM schemes. This made me suspicious enough to block them. It didn’t seem like a nice thing to do; but the flow of spammer follows immediately stopped like someone had turned off the tap.
My kingpin account theory
I think what’s happening is that the master schemester sets up a ‘good’ twitter account and tweets there as honestly as they can. They use their black hat techniques to build up a strong following for this kingpin account and then begin to sell a follower building service to novice schemesters. They essentially begin to sell their list of followers and follows like they would email addresses.
I know this sounds a bit paranoid but if you think like a schemester for a minute, it actually sounds like a nice little business plan. It also explains the sudden start and stop with the arrival and blocking of the suspected kingpin follower.
How to protect yourself
I’ve kept my account set to email me when someone follows me or uses my @michaeljanzen in a post. Here’s a screen shot of my settings page for reference.
Setting it up like this also means I must manage the account closely but it just seems like a better idea to have a list of quality followers and build a quality community than risking possible contamination from spammers.
Why block the spammer follows?
I suspect spammers move through Twitter like a virus through the body, clinging to new followers like cells, and then using the new connections to build larger lists. Spammers make their money through building large lists of people not by the quality of the list. It’s a numbers game.
Twitter has given us the perfect tool to protect ourselves, the ability to block. But I suspect many people simple don’t block follow requests for the same reason I didn’t block those kingpin accounts… none of us want to block real people. On top of this we all have a desire to have more followers.
Spammers and schemesters are using these two natural human tendencies to their benefit. They know we are reluctant to block. They know we want more followers. They sell their black hat tricks and the more connections they make the more services, e-books, and schemes they can sell.
The more of us that catch onto this simple game and use the tools we have available, the harder it will be for spammers to infiltrate our quality communities. I’m not suggesting that anyone spend an excessive amount of time monitoring their twitter accounts. I am suggesting that you be on the lookout for the kingpins.
What does a kingpin look like?
- Large lists, both follows and followers.
- Any mention of a scheme in their tweets.
- Any mention of a scheme or e-business in their bio or website.
- A bio that reads like a nice person.
- A bio that reads like an expert.
- A bio and tweets that build confidence with a mix of things to buy.
For a kingpin account to work it must have big lists and look like an honest person or an expert. Since this account will also be an important sales engine for their schemes the tweets will be a mix of things that show off their expertise to build confidence. There will also be a mention here and there of schemes, e-books, and services they recommend. Often they will not post things they sell themselves, or so it seems. Remember con artists sound like the most honest people, they just always have something to sell or promote.
In the last 24 hours
I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten a few follows from people with these suspicious looking accounts. I’ve blocked them. In none of the cases did they seem to be people that would be interested in me and since they follow thousands of other people they probably wouldn’t me either.
I’ll keep up my surgical blocking campaign and see what happens. So far I think I have them beat. I’m not sure how this extra effort will benefit me; but it does feel good to know that the few people that follow me on Twitter are actually real people that care about the things I do. I’d rather have a 100 real people following me than 100,000 robots.
If you think I’m right… please RT.