How bad is the underground Twitter economy? According to Barracuda Labs, pretty bad.
They looked at dealers who sell the fake accounts and the various people who have stuffed their Twitter followers with fake users, including one guy running for president. Most of these fakes are easy to spot: the abuser (the person paying for the fakers) has a big jump in their followers, and they are mostly comprised of users who have recently joined Twitter. On top of this, the newbies are following no one else and have never Tweeted themselves. Twitter of course isn’t just sitting around: they have their algorithms to try to catch and terminate these fakes, but like email spammers, it is a tough war to fight.
Where do you go to buy your fake followers? On eBay, of course. Right now you can find 20 different sellers, and if you Google the term you can find plenty more people that are willing to take your money and set you up with a long list of phonies. The going rate is $18 per a thousand, which is probably why the average abuser has more than 48,000 fake followers.
That is pretty depressing. I guess I just don’t look for the dark side, and tend to think that people are using technology for good rather than evil. Silly me. But I guess it was bound to happen.
It is hard to tell the fakes from the real people sometimes, especially if you aren’t looking carefully at what is going on. That is my problem with Twitter in general: it is hard to parse your Tweet stream as the number of abbreviations and leet-like speak is quite dense. I sometimes feel like I need my secret decoder ring. But maybe that is just me.
This whole fake follower issue brings up the subject of Twitter analytic tools, something that I wrote about for ReadWriteWeb last winter here.
There are probably dozens of different tools that you can use to analyze suspect accounts. If you haven’t used any of these before it is worth taking a closer look at a couple of them, they can provide some interesting stats for both your own Twitter usage and to see if your potential followers (and people to follow) are legit.
So, other than careful screening, what else should you do if you want to build up your following?
First off, build them slowly. Don’t try to add batches of them all at once. The slower your numbers rise, the slower they will decline.
Second, try to remember that Twitter it isn’t just about me (or you). You should retweet and link to other things besides your own content. (I should do this more, I know.)
Next, try to follow more people. Otherwise, you look like a dilettante. (ditto)
Reuse your tweets. Nothing wrong with sending out the same tweet a few different times over the course of a day or a week. Not everyone is paying attention when you want to inform the world about your latest brain storm.
Finally, if you are looking for a great Twitter marketing book to get more of these practical suggestions, I would recommend The Idiots Guide to Twitter Marketing that is co-written by my colleague Esther Schindler.