Monthly Archives: November 2011

How To Animate Your Twitter Avatar

Just a personal note before we begin: I think most animated avatars are not a good idea. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should 😉

How to do it

Officially, Twitter does NOT support animated avatars. If you try to upload one it may or may not succeed. Some people are successful only after many attempts on different days.

But it’s easy to do: simply find or create an animated GIF and then upload the image file as your avatar. Remember to clear cache afterwards (see ) to make sure you can see if it worked.

Once you have an animated GIF, you can also use it for your background. If you use a very large animation, or if you set your background to tile, you may want to make your sidebar transparent (here’s how) so the animation shows through.

Options for making an animation

If you’d like to use an online service to make your own animation, try some of these websites.

If you’d like to search the web for an existing animation, try adding keywords to this search for animated GIFs.

If you’d like to create one yourself from a video using Photoshop CS5, try this technique:

New Twitter Spam Network Driving People Nuts

There has been a new wave of spam these last few days, so I thought I’d again talk a bit about the tactics spammers use on Twitter.

Why is that many Twitter users see lots of spam come in over 3-7 days or longer and then mostly disappear?

This is because spammers try to send out a LOT of spam all at once over a few days, rather than spreading their efforts out over longer periods. That way, once Twitter starts to catch them, they’ve already sent out a lot of spam.

Their basic principle is to try to spam as many people as possible as quickly as possible before Twitter catches on and can effectively auto-suspend accounts. The idea is that more spam you send out quickly, the more people in total you will reach. But spammers have been getting better and better at pushing the limits on Twitter’s system of catching them, and sometimes now new spam networks can push for a couple of weeks before being well shut down.

As Twitter begins to figure out what kind of system and tweets are being used to send the spam, and starts to suspend the spamming accounts faster and faster, it become harder to get the new kind of spam through. After a bit, the spam network will stop sending out that particular kind of spam, and being preparing for their next big push, using what they have learned to try to create methods of propagating spam that are harder to detect.

Stopping spammers is not as easy as you might think

One reason it’s tough is that there are many networks, some with several thousand spam accounts, and many of these accounts are set up to act like real people. These “fake users trying to appear real” only send out small amounts of spam so they can’t easily be caught and get suspended. With the push of a button, the network operator can start to move spam out through these thousands of real-seeming accounts, each sending perhaps one or two a week.

There are many other approaches spammers take as well, depending on particular goals. A spammer might burn (allow to be suspended) a large group of accounts if they need to send a lot of spam out in a hurry, perhaps to try make a certain link be counted highly by sites that track the popularity of links across social networks.  Trying to create a trending topic would be another example of trying to get something counted and promoted.

What makes it particularly difficult is that whatever Twitter does to stop spam, spammer take note of, and do less of it. It’s a cat-and-mouse game where spammers can keep trying new things once old methods stop working as well.

Twitter is upgrading their spam blocking

Twitter has said they are preparing to move to a preventative system that stops spam before it appears, but that they are still working to keep Twitter running well, and don’t have enough engineers in total to do everything. So yes, eventually, Twitter’s goal is to predict spam before it happens.

The one simple thing businesses must know about using Twitter

You wouldn’t go to a party and ask people to leave with you to go to your store, right?

Yet I see businesses join Twitter all the time and do nothing but promote their business.

Yes, you CAN use things like contests, specials, exclusive content (particularly effective on Twitter), events, etc. to drive people to your business, but first you have to build a positive reputation, and connect with some of the communities on Twitter.

What this means is very simple: You have to network first.

Make connections, be helpful, share interesting information, and over time add information about your business bit by bit.

Businesses too often get confused about what is really a very simple formula:

Get to know people first, share information about your business second.

Is Twitter Unfollowing People On Your Account?

UPDATE: Some users are reporting they are being blocked inappropriately from following others. Test show repeated tries will sometimes succeed though. No word from Twitter yet.

Maybe. Most likely Twitter has screwed up only the listing of who you follow, and will fix it shortly.

Twitter has done this before, where you can still DM people, but your listing shows that you don’t follow them anymore.

The first thing to do is check to see if you are REALLY still following them by using

This is part of a large group of problems that Twitter causes then fixes, often fairly quickly. They are known as Twitter darkmode.

Sometimes, even after a problem is fixed, YOU will need to fix your interface to see everything working again. See for tips on how to do that.

Also realize that if someone blocks you, it will cause YOU to unfollow THEM. But if you’re convinced no one has blocked you, and that it’s not just a Twitter display problem, let Twitter know via and read this for how Twitter handles tickets.