Jun 022013

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by Dr. Earl R Smith II

I have been writing a series of articles on how your social media habits can negatively affect your personal brand. The responses have been so positive that I’ve decided to continue the series. This time I want to focus on a particular vulnerability of two kinds of accounts. The first is your Twitter account while the second is your Facebook and/or Skype account.

Twitter Baited

deja-vuFor those of you who have the option set, Twitter has a neat service. They tell you when you have new followers and whether you are following them. The notification comes in the form of an email sent to your primary account. I have found this service to be very useful. It gives me the basic information on new followers and, if I am not currently following them, a link to log on and elect to do so. It also makes it easy to decide not to follow a particular account. I just do nothing. After going down the list of new followers, I delete the message. It’s clean and fast.

Lately I have been noticing that the service, while incredibly useful, seems to have a blind spot. If you read my prior articles (Are You a Social Networking Slob? And Cleaning Up Your Twitter Account) you will recognize the term ‘scammer’ as I used it. For those of you who haven’t read the articles, it refers to people who ‘sell’ followers. They will promise you thousands of new followers for some amount of money. I take it as evidence that there are fools dumb enough to fall for these traps that the scams appear to be spreading.

If you want to see what I mean, just peruse the Twitter accounts of some of your followers. Many of them suffer from a rash of hucksters running this kind of scam. A recent account that I review had every fifth follower running a version. Needless to say, I un-followed this clown. These scammers run their scams because they are profitable. They run them partially because inconsiderate slobs like the clown mentioned above give the scammers lots of free publicity. After all, this clown accepted the scammers as followers. They must be legitimate. (Of course, I opt for the obverse conclusion. “This clown accepted the scammers as followers. I don’t want to, in any way, be connected with morons like him.”)

The second reason that these scammers flourish is that their operation has almost no costs associated with it and there are a percentage of people using Twitter who are simply too stupid to live. So, criminals flourish. The question is, are you helping them. Another question is, “is Twitter working to shut them down or facilitate their activities”. And that beings me to the blind spot.

Recently I have been getting a lot of followers who write in Cyrillic scrip. They seem to come in waves and those waves have increased slightly since I started writing these articles. They were all new accounts with no, or almost no, followers. I routinely blocked them and that, as they say, was that. But I have noticed something strange that has caused me to change my approach. None of these followers have ever shown up on notices that I receive from Twitter. Saying it another way, Twitter seems to be unaware of new followers of a certain type.

I’ve looked at a few of these accounts to see what they had in common. They seem to be clone accounts with few followers and repetitive tweets. I suspect that they are the results of ‘scammers account cloning mills’. “You want thousands of followers? OK, send me $50 and I will get them for you. Oh Alexei, run of a couple thousand accounts. I’ve got a moron who just sent us $50.”

My question is, “Why aren’t these new followers showing up on the Twitter emails?” I don’t pretend to have an answer to that question but one possibility is that the scammers have figured a way around having them listed. Certainly, if Twitter knew that this kind of thing was happening, they would shut it down. It does, after all, significantly degrade user experience. We won’t know until Twitter becomes aware of this situation. So, here’s my suggestion. Instead of just blocking the scammers and the bogus accounts, block and report as spam. It is the option directly below ‘block’. That’s the change I have made.

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