In Twitter’s ongoing war against fake followers, the most recent update to the platform disables third-party apps from auto-following the distributor’s or developer’s Twitter account. Additionally, apps that automatically create accounts are also now banned from the platform. Finally, a little-known feature that was sometimes exploited in third-party apps, the feature that enabled an account to automatically follow back new followers, was prohibited from the platform. As of late 2013, developers are prohibited from developing any application that automates the follow process or the account creation process. However, these changes are not the only ones that affect accounts that use fake followers.
Twitter has attempted to identify several characteristics that fake accounts and spam accounts tend to exhibit. The system automatically identifies and flags accounts that exhibit these characteristics. The account is submitted through the Twitter audit process. If the account is found to be in violation of a policy, in most cases, the account will be temporarily suspended, and the account owner will be required to agree to some conditions before the account is reactivated. A second offense generally gets a longer suspension and additional conditions. Repeated account suspensions will result in permanent deletion of your account from the platform.
How Do Accounts Get Flagged for Audit?
- Following/Follower Behaviors
Some account behaviors automatically flag accounts for audits. For example, if you follow or unfollow a large number of users in a short period of time, your account may be flagged as a spam account. If you have few followers, but follow many accounts and send a number of tweets, your account can be flagged as spam. If users report your tweets as spam, your account will likely be audited as a spam account.
- Reports from Other Users
If an account is reported by other Twitter users as spam, the account will be assessed based on a set of characteristics. One such characteristic is the Following to Follower ratio. A Twitter user can follow up to 2000 other accounts before the ration is taken into account. After following 2000 other accounts, the user must maintain an even ratio. In other words, he must have 2500 followers to follow 2500 accounts.
- Extremely Offensive Content
Though Twitter does not generally censor content, images and content considered extremely offensive or illegal is prohibited on the platform. Images of illegal activity, death or other extremely offensive content will very likely get the account flagged for an audit. Again, these audits are generally prompted by reports from other users. However, if the account does not regularly post such content, the conditions of relieving the suspension may simply require that the user remove the content and agree to a set of content conditions.
Fake Followers: Do They Help or Hinder?
The ongoing debate for advertisers and others who want to promote their brand on Twitter is whether fake followers help or hinder promotion efforts. Fake followers can be purchased for a relatively low cost, but what is the ROI for the purchase of a few thousand fake followers. Though many believe that a large number of followers will attract additional followers, this tenet is only partly true. If you have a large number of Twitter followers, users may follow your account to find out what the buzz is all about. If they see there is no buzz, or if they perform a cursory analysis of your followers, you may not only loose the person as a follower, you may loose them as a potential customer.
Sometimes, fake accounts will randomly follow other accounts. Many times, users are surprised to find that a significant percentage of their followers are fake accounts. One problem with fake accounts as followers is that Twitter users are quickly becoming savvy with regards to judging the legitimacy of accounts. Few followed accounts, few followers, the default egg instead of an avatar, very little information in the user profile, as well as nonsensical tweets and random retweets can all identify fake accounts and fake followers.
Though purchasing fake followers may give your account a temporary boost, you run the risk of putting your account under scrutiny from both the Twitter platform, as well as your customer base. So, how do you know if you have fake followers? There’s an app for that!
Online Auditing Tools
If you advertise on Twitter, you probably want to pay close attention to your audience, particularly the individuals who follow your brand. When you exceed 2000 accounts you follow, every single follower and followed account becomes valuable. This is when online auditing tools become most useful. Several free auditing tools, such as TwitterAudit.com, Status People, and Social Baker’s Fake Followers app assess the quality of your followers, and provide you with an authenticity score. Additionally these tools identify those accounts suspected to be fake. You can generally unfollow suspected accounts right from the online tool.
Alternatives to Fake Followers
If you are tempted to purchase a batch of fake followers, consider a few alternatives instead to promote your brand. The best and most effective way to attract followers on Twitter is to produce quality content. You can post interesting brand messages, videos, links and images to your timeline and your followers’ timelines. Link to articles of interest to your target audience.
If you’re going to pay for followers, at least use a high quality service to build real followers (like us, shameless plug), or Twitter advertising themselves.
One of the biggest mistakes many advertisers make Twitter is posting excessive, random tweets without interacting with others on the platform. Random tweets about your brand do not necessarily portray your product in a good light. However, marketers who befriend others,participate in conversations, retweet others’ posts and show an interest in the content posted by other users are most successful promoting their brands on Twitter.
Advertising experts suggest that six to ten well-worded tweets per day promoting your brand are sufficient to keep your brand in the forefront of users’ minds without seeming intrusive. However, your Twitter experience may differ. Advertisers who are highly engaged with their audience may find that the platform enables them to identify potential target audiences for paid advertising on the platform.
Keep It Organic
As with other platform, Twitter seeks to keep the platform organic, useful and free of spam. Marketers who can truly engage their target demographic on Twitter have a natural head start for promoting their brand. Additionally, Twitter users are a very savvy group, and can be sensitive if they feel that ads are being thrust upon them. Interacting with your followers and those you follow apart from brand promotion is key to gaining the credibility necessary for mastering the business side of Twitter.
Maintaining an organic Twitter presence can score big with potential clients. When users post questions to you in a tweet, responding in a timely manner has a hugely positive effect, not only on the recipient of the tweet, but for all those users who witness the transaction. Retweet and favorite tweets that mention your brand in a favorable way. Sending personal replies to tweets is also a great way to reach new customers.
Use your Twitter brand account to determine how your advertising dollars are best spent on the platform. You can purchase promoted tweets, trends (hashtags) and accounts to formally advertise your product or service on the platform.