Twitter, a popular social media website, has millions of accounts created by businesses and individuals alike. Most people use Twitter in social, interactive ways, by posting their status updates in 140 characters or less, and by reading other people’s tweets on their home page, or timeline. Businesses have long been taking note of Twitter’s potential for reaching widespread audiences in interactive ways. As a result, many social media tools are available to help businesses and marketers identify and target potential customers with which to “interact” on Twitter. The only problem is, companies and Internet marketers aren’t always able to dedicate resources to personally interact with their customers on Twitter and send out targeted, personalized marketing messages.
This all leads to one big, familiar Internet problem: Spam. Twitter marketers use social media tools to automatically follow back anyone whose tweets contain keyword phrases. For example, an insurance MLM marketer may set her account to automatically follow back anyone whose tweets mention the word “insurance.” These tools even sometimes allow the account to send automated sales and marketing messages to your account, once it’s been identified as belonging to a potential customer.
Twitter is overrun by spam, so much so that the website has created an easy way to report and block spam accounts in one click – by clicking the “Report for spam” link in the spam account’s profile. But the most common way to find out you’ve been targeted by a Twitter spammer is to already be spammed – to see their spammy at-replies in your “Mentions” page or their spammy direct message in your inbox. Worse yet, these very same tactics are employed by Twitter spammers that are, shall we say, more adult in nature, so that being Twitter-spammed can be very unpleasant indeed.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to avoid being spammed in the first place.
Don’t mention any brand names in your tweets.
Many Internet marketers set up their social media clients to automatically follow and spam anyone who tweets about their company’s competitors, or the products it resells. For instance, an online book retailer may follow back anyone who mentions Amazon. A tablet PC retailer may be set to spam anyone who mentions iPads. Mention eBay, and you may get spammed by someone’s eBay affiliate link. A car insurance marketing scheme may target anyone who mentions car insurance. The possibilities are endless, so try not to tweet about specific brands.
If you must tweet about a specific brand or company, mask or obscure the name.
Twitter spammers set their spam bot tools to identify and spam tweets that mention specific words and phrases. If you change the word or phrase even by one character or space bar, the bot won’t target your tweet. Need to really vent about your last Amazon order? Try venting about your “Am*zon” or “Am azon” order instead.
Go through your followers list regularly and see if you find any spam accounts following you.
It’s not always easy to identify if a Twitter account belongs to a spammer, because some spammers do occasionally hop on to tweet their followers and make it look like the account is being run by a real person (all the better to spam you with, my dear!) Worse yet, some social media tools allow spammers to pre-write a bunch of “real sounding” tweets, such as favorite quotes or snippets of free-association Twitter-style thoughts, and then set the program to post the tweets at later dates, to make the account look more real.
In general, though, it’s a good idea to look through your followers list on a regular basis to see if you can find any spammers. If anyone is posting the same kind of sales pitch or marketing link over and over, if all they have in between are “inspirational quotes,” or if it at all looks as though the account belongs to a real, live human being, chances are excellent you’re being followed by a spammer. A dead giveaway is if the account has any of these qualities and is following more than 10 times the number of followers. If an account is following 19,000 people and only 32 are following back, chances are good it belongs to a spammer.
If any of your followers look like spammers, block them immediately.
This is a good idea not just to stop people from sending you spammy messages, but also because spammers are often lazy and will follow other spammers’ entire followers lists. Being on the follow list of one spammer means you could potentially end up on the follow list of hundreds of spammers. It’s easy to block someone on Twitter, too: In your followers list, click on the account’s name. Then in the profile information on the right, click on the button with a little graphic of a cog. You’ll get a drop down menu, from which you can select either “Block [this user]” or “Report [username] for spam.” Take your pick and click on one of those.
As a last resort, set your Twitter profile to private.
Private Twitter profiles can only be seen by the people you approve. This means that you get to pick who can read your tweets, and avoid spammers altogether. Of course, as I mentioned, this is a last resort for most people, because part of the fun of Twitter is having your tweets discovered by cool new people you don’t know. This is impossible if your profile is set to be entirely private.
However, if you aren’t into meeting new people on Twitter, if you’re looking to avoid spam replies altogether, or if the account belongs to a child whose interactions on Twitter you want to closely monitor and limit, setting the account to private is simple. While logged in, click your own username in the upper right, then select “Settings.” Scroll down to the “Tweet privacy” field and check the box next to “Protect My Tweets.” Click the “Save” button at the bottom of the screen, and your account will automatically change to private.
Spam is a fact of life for Twitter interaction. Fortunately, you’re not helpless against it. Twitter gives you a few tools with which to fight back against Twitter spam, and if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll significantly reduce the amount of spammy Tweets you see in your at-replies — if not eliminate them altogether.