By: Hillel Fuld
As time goes by and I spend more time on Twitter, two things seem to be happening. On the one hand, I am finding that the number of great people and amazing relationships I build on a daily basis, is only growing. As more people join Twitter and the micro blogging service hits the mainstream, I am regularly meeting new folks that are not necessarily part of the “early adopter” community, and that is great. On the flip side, more and more people are talking about Twitter and its explosive potential, which results directly in people trying to manipulate the system.
I referenced these types in my last post “The Down Sides of Social Media! Yes, There are Some…” but I find that I am seeing these people more often now, and they seem to be learning new tricks all the time. It is important to not let these people give the rest of us a bad name, the same way we should not give cheap and spammy marketers the ability to ruin the reputation of true marketing professionals. I thought I would give a short list of things you should look out for before connecting with these so-called social media fakers (who call themselves social media experts 99% of the time, interestingly enough).
Also, it is important to understand why you do not want to connect with these people, and the reason is association. You do not want to be associated with such people who will ultimately pollute your social graph, which is all we have when it comes to the Web. Right now we are building our networks on the various social sites, but these friends/followers/fans will eventually say a lot about a person, especially in light of Google focusing on social and integrating social in their search results. So, be careful who you connect with on the social Web.
The following is a short list of “tricks” I have seen performed by many “social media fakers” in order to increase their following and build themselves an online reputation with no real justification:
-Reply to Elite Only: Wow, even writing this post and specifically this point is making my blood boil. Some people had Twitter sold to them by being told that on Twitter, you can talk to your favorite celebrities. While this is true, and you can definitely connect with people you never thought possible before social media, that is far from the point. However, I am not going to focus on the people that sit on Twitter ten hours a day and write to Ashton Kutcher, Alyssa Milano, and Charlie Sheen, those people are just plain stupid.
I am more interested in talking about the people who cover it up much better. These people will only reply to someone with over 1,000 followers (or choose any other arbitrary number). Here is a good way to check if you are falling into this trap. Check your Twitter stream at any given moment and make sure you have replies to people with a few followers as well. Let me emphasize, there is nothing wrong with connecting with people who have lots of followers, but if their followers are the reason you are connecting, you are doing something very wrong.
-99% Broadcast, 1% engage: While many people talk about numbers on social media, it is pretty clear now, that a follower count is close to irrelevant. However, a number I am VERY proud of on Twitter is the percentage of all my tweets that are replies. Last time I checked, over 85% of all my tweets are replies. That means I only “broadcast” my content 15% of the time and engage 85% of the time. Now, that might be a little overboard, but it is definitely important to engage over 50% of the time you spend on Twitter. If someone new follows me and there are no replies in their ten most recent tweets, that person goes straight to my Trash folder in Gmail.
Also, I have to emphasize that the backlash I get to all my Twitter posts about there being no right and wrong way to tweet is spot on. There are no rules except one, don’t be a spammer. If you are only broadcasting and not replying to people, whether or not you are selling Viagra or thousands of instant followers, sorry to break it to you, but you are a spammer. Not the type to sit behind bars, but the type that deserves to be blocked on Twitter.
-Keywords: This is old school spamming, but it seems the Web spammers got bored of blog comments and dirty SEO, so they ported it over to Twitter. By using keywords from the trending topics on Twitter, these people believe they will be discovered and followed via Twitter search. I know that this often works, since I have seen many people who are clearly spammers, not following anyone, but with thousands of followers. Boggles my mind every time. The way these social media fakers do this is by including words like “iPhone” or “Justin Bieber” in their tweets and profiles. While this might work in the short term, it won’t be long before these people are blocked and banned from Twitter.
-Sell Hot Air: This is for the more advanced social media faker. These people apparently believe the saying “Fake it till you make it” (thanks Zipporah), the problem is, in most cases, these people are way too transparent. Unfortunately, you will not be able to recognize this person as a social media faker until you put them to the test. Once they say the sentence “There is no way to measure ROI on Twitter”, you know you caught a big fish.
These people call themselves experts in their field, have close to no knowledge or experience in the space in which they are operating, and when it comes to delivering the goods, they are nowhere to be found. I have also found these people to send tweets to real experts in their field so as to create an illusion that they are connected. One test you can use to find such a person is by seeing who they reply to, then checking out the other person’s timeline to see if they replied. If a person is continuously writing to industry experts and getting no responses, that is a good sign that something is fishy.
-Follow the Crowd: Here is a common technique used by social media fakers and one that you can see almost immediately. They follow a lot more people than follow them. Why do they do this? Well, they are hoping that by following thousands of people, at least half will follow them back automatically, then they can use a tool to unfollow those that did not. It is a smart technique, but during that interval in which they are following thousands and have only hundreds of followers, these people are announcing to the world that they are indeed spammers and should not be followed.
By the way, the opposite is true as well. If you see someone who has thousands of followers and follows close to none, and his name is not Kevin Rose, you know there is something wrong. Generally speaking, I do not believe follower count matters, but follower count ratio definitely does.
Ask for follows: There are two ways to do this. Some ask for follows straight out, which indicates right away that this person is a spammer. However, I want to focus on the smarter social media fakers who do this in a much sneakier way. “I need to DM you something, can you hook me up with a follow?” or “Awesome to connect, would love to DM something over” are some examples I have seen of people asking you to follow them. Don’t get me wrong, I have on occasion asked someone to follow so I can DM them something, but I am talking once or twice in extreme situations. These people make it a strategy.
The bottom line is, if you see someone who is asking for follows, in a straight forward or sneaky way, you know that person is obviously not offering enough value to generate a nice following organically, and has to reduce himself to asking for followers. That is not the type of person you want to follow or be associated with.
While writing this post, I turned to my followers with this question, and got some awesome answers. However, one of the important responses I got was the question “How do I define a faker as opposed to a real expert”? My answer is that if this person’s expertise exists in real life as well, as in they can deliver on the promises they make online, then go ahead, sell yourself on Twitter. If, however, this so-called expertise stays on Twitter and does not translate in any way to some sort of ROI, I would say it is time to look for a new profession.
Did I miss anything? What other tricks have you seen spammers pull on Twitter and social media? Please let me know in the comments or you can reach out to me on Twitter. I am @hilzfuld there, and chances are, I will reply.