Monthly Archives: January 2011

Proof: You don’t have to follow lots of people to get followers.

We’ve been getting so much spam recently, I asked a friend who owes me a favor to unfollow spammy accounts for us, provided they don’t follow us (I’ll review people following us myself—and report as spam any that warrant it).

Getting followers just by following others: Not a great idea

Occasionally someone sees how many followers we have and thinks we must “grow our followers” by following tons of people all the time. I think this chart from Twittercounter.com (actually two charts overlaid on top of one another) refutes that pretty clearly:

Even though we’re (temporarily!) unfollowing a bunch of old accounts that have become too “spammish,” new people continue to follow us uninterruptedly. And no, we also don’t pay to advertise our account anywhere, or use any of the “get more followers” type websites or groups. This chart is accurate: We aren’t doing anything specifically aimed at getting new followers right now. The rate at which new people are following us is also basically unchanged, as you can see by this monthly growth chart:

Do you have to follow lots of people to get followers?

No, you don’t. And to those of you who want to know all about why and when and who we follow or unfollow…I’m not going to share that at this time. Why? Because we don’t want people to try to figure out how to get us to follow them. We don’t want to play that game. (Besides, we follow and unfollow people for a variety of ever-changing reasons.)

A little over a year ago, someone put us on a list of accounts that always follow back. I contacted the person who made the list and asked them to remove us from the list. He was incredulous, even after I told him that we were NOT following everyone back. He argued that everyone on the list would get more followers just from being on the list. But who wants those kinds of followers?

So, how do you get more followers?

While I think this is the wrong question to ask, I understand why people ask it, so here are some tips:

  1. The ULTIMATE guide to getting Twitter followers
  2. Which do you want? Twitter Followers? Or Twitter Influence?
  3. Use Twitter to get influential people to help you
  4. Win Friends And Influence People On Twitter In Just 5 Seconds A Day
  5. How to get more followers on Twitter without using Twitter

And both http://www.agent-seo.com/social/13-tips-to-get-more-twitter-followers/ and http://www.examiner.com/canada-social-media-in-canada/twitter-10-great-ways-to-get-more-followers are worth a look.

Should we organize against Twitter spammers?

Note what causes Twitter to suspend an account: Violations of their automation and spam policies are probably the most common cause of account suspensions, because except for child pornography or privacy violations Twitter says they do NOT “pre-screen content [nor] remove potentially offensive content.” So other than spam, content alone won’t usually get an account suspended. However, Twitter will consider suspending an account if there is a legal (copyright, trademark, privacyimpersonationinappropriate parody), or law enforcement issue involved.

What can YOU do against a Twitter spammer?

First, report them. Second, teach others how to report spammers. A good link to share when educating others is http://j.mp/ReportSpammers.

And while Twitter is always trying to find ways to automatically find spam accounts without human intervention, the faster a lot of spam reports reach twitter, the faster it is likely to be then checked and potentially suspended. Which raises an interesting point: Should you not only report spammers to Twitter, but to other users as well, to try to get them to report the spammer? @littlefluffycat pointed out that if you add the hashtag #takebacktwitter to a tweet about a user, other people will report or proactively block that user as well as they think appropriate.

I don’t think there’s much point in blocking a user in advance, since with thousands of new spam accounts all the time, the odds that you’ve blocked the one that will tweet you before they get suspended is pretty low. But more concerning is that when users organize against other users it’s always possible for someone to try to abuse the system—to try to harm someone who doesn’t deserve it by getting others users to unwittingly ostracize the person. If a Twitter account gets a large number of blocks or spam reports it may be checked or automatically suspended, and it would concern me if that happened unfairly.

Plus, blocking/reporting as spam doesn’t guaranteed they will be suspended, it just eventually causes an automatic (or sometimes manual) check of their account. It would be nice if there were more Twitter “admins” who could check accounts for spam and suspend faster as needed, but you’ll never beat an automated system (bots creating spam accounts) by throwing more humans at the problem.

What do you think?

Should Twitter users find ways to organize themselves to fight spammers?

Why we didn’t tweet your link

We get asked a lot about sending links to us. First, realize around half of the posts suggested to us we have already seen. Of the remainder, about half don’t fit into the @TweetSmarter account (as outlined below).

If you still want to to send us links, please read this whole post to understand what we’re looking for. And actually send a link! Don’t just say “I tweeted something you might like.” Realize particularly that we don’t want emails or DMs containing lots of explanation, just links to a site.

So, why didn’t we tweet something you sent to us?

First, realize every day and week is different. Sometimes we adhere more closely to these guidelines. Don’t tweet us and say “but you tweeted such-and-such yesterday.” Each day is slightly different for a variety of reasons. Here are the main overall reasons, in order:

1. It’s not current

  1. We mostly try to tweet things that are less than 48 hours old. Didn’t realize that? It’s one of the reasons we have nearly 300,000 followers. We find the good, new stuff. (And it takes a lot of time to do it!)
  2. Almost every old post ever suggested to us we’ve already tweeted, or read and decided against tweeting.
  3. Some old posts worth tweeting we’ve already tweeted a more current version recently or have scheduled to be tweeted soon.
  4. Yes, sometimes we repeat very old classics that have great content, are still relevant, and that we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on. So don’t see a couple of old posts one day and get the wrong idea: 99% of what we tweet is new.

2. It’s not significant enough

  1. It’s something we tweet a little, but not a lot of.
  2. It’s something we’ve already covered enough (or too much).
  3. It’s a summary or based on another post, and the other post is a better choice (but: sometimes not).
  4. It’s something we might have tweeted on another day, but on the day you sent it there were higher quality things to share.

3. It’s something we’ve already tweeted

  1. You forgot to check to see if we already tweeted it (this happens a lot).
  2. You checked, but we changed the wording so you didn’t realize we had already tweeted it.
  3. We tweeted something very similar already.

4. It’s poorly written

  1. It’s full of unrelated content, lots and lots of talking about your life, excessively long introductions, not getting to the point for several paragraphs, not making it clear what your point really is, etc., etc.
  2. If English isn’t your first language, run your post by a native English speaker before promoting it. If the content quality is good, we’ll be more forgiving. But we get complaints, and have also noticed that people don’t retweet things that seem written strangely to them. It’s not prejudice: we tweet a LOT of things where clearly English is not the first language of the writer. Content quality is what’s most important.
  3. Auto-translated spam posts begone!
  4. It’s a hollow shell: An outline for a post with very little actual content filled in. Boy, there’s more than one big blog I’d love to call out on this one!
  5. It’s one very short idea that isn’t that useful. Short posts are fine! But you must have some useful details or insights to share. We’ve tweeted one paragraph posts, so any length is fine, but I’ve noticed that many short posts really don’t have that much to say.

5. The site design or ads are poor

  1. Main content loads slowly.
  2. Hard to tell content from ad/links/sidebar.
  3. Hard to read (poor choices of animations, color, fonts, etc.)

6. It’s off topic

  1. We tweet about Twitter and a little about social media generally. A little about technology that affect that internet or Twitter apps. We generally emphasize posts of interest to all users, but also tweet specifically for business users at times. In other words, social media technology for business users is borderline off-topic. Twitter for all users is spot on, content-wise (it still needs to meet other criteria).
  2. If you send us things completely unrelated to what we tweet about (e.g. rap videos), expect to be marked as a spammer. If you send us off-topic requests (e.g. “Tell people to follow me”), expect to be marked as a spammer. How often does this happen? Several times EVERY day.
  3. Realize that we test new kinds of content, and respond to feedback about what we tweet by tweeting more or less of some things. We try to stay responsive to user’s needs.
  4. We don’t want ANY off-topic material of ANY kind tweeted to us. It’s a full time job finding good current ON-topic material. Don’t make our job harder. Yes, we tweet, for example, non-Twitter humor from time to time. That’s because we have lives outside @TweetSmarter and sometimes see things we want to share. We don’t want any help finding non-Twitter material.

7. We don’t want to encourage you

  1. We prefer to give positive feedback and help people learn, rather than negative feedback. But sometimes that’s a challenge, and the easiest thing to do is to ignore you for a bit.
  2. You obviously mean well but aren’t quite listening to our feedback yet (we’ll give you a few chances to listen).
  3. You send us a lot of borderline junk, just barely good enough occasionally and never awful enough to keep us from trying harder to stop you.
  4. Quit saying “You’ll love this!” Arggh! Usually that’s from people who send us borderline content of their own making to promote themselves. No, we DON’T love it.

8. We don’t want to encourage them

  1. Some blogs put out borderline spam or just plain junk, mixed in with a few decent posts. We don’t really want to send people somewhere if we think 90%+ of the content there is poor.
  2. Some blogs have a policy of phrasing things in the most inflammatory or misleading way, and then adding a small correction at the bottom later. This is a really, really bad idea. One of the biggest social media blogs in the world does this regularly, which makes us reluctant to share their material.
  3. If I see so much as even borderline soft-core porn, forget it. And that’s getting harder to avoid these days, as a lot of blogs are monetizing with racier images advertising other content. If there are like 20 pictures of cheerleaders after the post, and one is borderline, we’ll probably overlook it if the content is good. But if those pics are at the top of the sidebar, and most of them are questionable, forget it.
  4. Of course, if we get a malware warning for a site, we won’t tweet it. And we might not tweet anything from that site in the future. Yes, most malware nowadays actually comes from ad networks that blog owners have little control over (since even Google and Yahoo let malware get through, it’s hard to avoid). But some sites have just a ridiculous number of ads, and even though they make their content clear and stand out from the ads,  malware warnings for their site happen frequently. Seriously 50+ ads is waay too much.

9. It’s already ridiculously well known

  1. For example, we don’t Tweet Mashable posts a lot, because we actually get complaints when we do! “Seen it already” “Why should I follow you if I already follow @Mashable” (We don’t ignore them completely, though.)
  2. If we’re late in finding out about something that everyone is talking about (maybe we were sleeping—we do sleep, you know), and it isn’t really on-topic enough, sometimes we’ll pass rather than tell everyone something that doesn’t really matter that they probably already know.
  3. Of course, if it’s on-topic, we’ve been known to overtweet things. Balance is a learning process sometimes :)

10. We screwed up

  1. We make small errors all the time. (We have to work very fast to get through all the work involved and still have some time for other things.)
  2. If we make a big screw-up, we LOVE hearing about it! Seriously, if it wasn’t for feedback of all kinds from our fantastic community, we couldn’t do this job.
  3. It happens. Our apologies…and we’ll try to make it up to you :)

11. Why did we tweet some of your links for awhile and then stop?

We change how we find links all the time. We check our best sources first, and then sometimes check other sources. Usually “other sources” means tweets. And since we’re testing new kinds of search and new sources all the time, inevitably we see a lot of things before we see them in tweets.

12. Why didn’t we credit you for your suggestion when we DID tweet it?

We try not to let this happen. If we found something on our own before you suggested it, it may go out as scheduled without crediting you, because we found it, not you. But sometimes, especially for great community members, we’ll credit you even though we found it without your help, just to be encouraging :) Note that if we see the same link from two people we’ll often credit both, and always at least credit the first person we saw it from.

No, it’s not going to be good for both of us

Saying that if we do you a favor you’ll do us a favor is not a good approach. We’re here to serve a community. I’m not saying we don’t favor content from some people some times, but when it happens it’s generally because they’re people also with a great track record of serving the Twitter community over the years.

P.S.

You may also want to check out Top 10 Reasons I Did Not RT Your DM Request by the wonderful @buzzedition

Can you trust Twitter?

No, you can’t.

Despite all the well-intentioned employees that work there, and even if you are well-informed on their rules, policies and latest issues, Twitter can:

  1. Break features and provide no information;
  2. Change features without any notice or documentation before or after;
  3. Change your password without any cause on your part or notification from Twitter.

And Twitter offers insufficient protection against you being:

  1. Hacked and Suspended;
  2. Spammed;
  3. Abused.

But…is this bad? Who’s to blame for problems?

Imagine your car breaks down in a bad area and you are assaulted. Later it is determined that the breakdown was not the fault of your mechanic, that the area you were assaulted has low crime and is regularly patrolled by police and the person who assaulted you was from out of town and not a resident known to law enforcement.

Yet you’ve had a terrible experience—who can you blame? Probably that is the wrong question to ask. And so it is with Twitter. As they continue to hire rapidly and adapt their infrastructure, they are:

  1. Providing more information about feature changes and problems all the time;
  2. Adding protections against hacks and spam;
  3. Making features more stable;
  4. Very responsive via their support ticket system when you have significant problems.

The problem is that Twitter has neither the employees, infrastructure or a prior plan for dealing with the current scale of how Twitter is used around the world. They are playing catch up, and the problems they have to deal with are growing all the time, so it’s easy to overlook the good work they are doing. In particular, besides working on short-term fixes, they are also making long-term changes for the better.

The world has never seen anything like Twitter before

When Twitter was growing its fastest, it was a challenge like nothing anyone had ever dealt with before. (Notice that none of the three founders wanted the CEO job.) It created challenges of all kinds, because Twitter is not just a service, it is a community. Twitter the company has to deal:

  1. Not just with infrastructure to handle growth, but with community issues;
  2. Not just with spammers, but with abuse and misinformation;
  3. Not just with corporate security, but with user security;
  4. Not just with paying to stay afloat, but with long-term viability.

And there’s a lot more that could be added to this list. One of the reasons we’re on Twitter is to try to help them and users through the difficult growth. As a community, we’re all in this together, and the more we can help one another, the better it is for everyone.

Which do you want? Twitter Followers? Or Twitter Influence?

Note, if you are looking for ways to get more Twitter followers fast, read this.

There are many ways to use Twitter well. But only a few ways to use it badly. Here are two common strategies:

  1. Try to get tons of followers so your account looks “important” or “respectable.”
  2. Try to get lots of important people to help you and respond to you. (This means many fewer followers at first, since you’ll follow only a select few people.)

Which one is going to make you the happiest, smartest, richest, most influential? Strategy #2. This is sometimes called the PLN (for “Personal Learning Network”) approach. (And it’s best if you start by helping and being a resource for other—building a positive reputation—before asking for help yourself.)

If strategy #2 is how you’re already using Twitter, congratulations! However, it’s ridiculously hard to talk people out of strategy #1. You hear things like “everyone is doing it, and I’ll look silly having so few followers compared to others.”

Consider starting another Twitter account

With that in mind, why not try a combined approach? Have two accounts. The one that gets a lot of followers is for your brand, business or persona. The other one is the real you, where you network and add value to whoever is the most important in your niche. Lots of folks already use Twitter this way, and it works well for them. Some popular people even split off additional accounts for specific purposes, such as one for engaging in #hashtag chats, one just for sharing their links, another for an alternate “persona,” etc. I’m not suggesting or recommending this, just pointing out that it’s common and works well for some people. Always remember Twitter Rule #1! Do it your way.

What I’ve learned from years of helping people on Twitter is that most folks try a number of bad approaches and then figure out the better ways to use Twitter over time, but they’re often stuck with some old, bad habits. For the ones that overdid the “follow everyone hoping for more followers approach,” a second account where they can apply the better Twitter habits they’ve picked up over time might be worth considering.

The key to strategy #2 is to find and create great relationships, and this means the more you give the more you get. Start by being a resource, mentor or inspiration for people that can benefit from your help, and only then make connections with influencers who can help you.

How we use Twitter

You can read some of the details here, but first let me say my wife Sarah (@SarahJL) and I (@Oppora) engage differently. She’s mostly active on Facebook, since she’s extremely social and has a number of large and ever-growing, real-world networks in dance and voiceover. I’m primarily active on Twitter as @TweetSmarter, since it’s a full-time job that doesn’t leave much time for anything else! In our shared relentless search for great content to share with Twitter users, we come across other great stuff as well, which we post on some other Twitter accounts such as @LaughItUp, @WritersGroup and @CreativityBoost. To keep it simple for folks, we also engage from those accounts as “real” people, but let anyone know who chats with us a lot about @TweetSmarter and our personal accounts.

Of course, as always, use what advice makes sense to you and discard the rest!