Awhile back, in an apartment building where I lived, I saw something very strange. A person had a living green plant situated outside their door in our windowless hallway. It sat there for days. Then, as I was getting ready to leave, I noticed something even stranger. The person had added a little plaster column outside their door and had put the plant on there as if it was a little porch. It looked really pretty, and it almost seemed like a good idea, but eventually the column and the plant disappeared, probably because the person realized that plants need sun, not just fluorescent light, to thrive.
This has been on my mind of late because I too had an idea that I thought was really good, but lately I’m being proven wrong. As I’ve mentioned here before, I hand-pick who I follow back and who I don’t. There are a few things I look for.
1. Do you have a picture of a human being, or do you look like an egg? I can’t assure myself that the person in the picture is you, but a picture is much more encouraging than a pastel egg.
2. Do you have your bio filled out? I’ve learned to distinguish between fake bios and real bios, so don’t think you’ll fool me that way.
3. What are your last few tweets like? Are they all RTs of your own stuff? Are they all tweets of your own blog posts? Or are you talking to people?
For many months now – a year in fact – these methodologies have really done well for me. But, much like a super virus, spammers always seem to get smarter, and I readily admit, I’ve been fooled by a few of them.
But I still didn’t follow YOU back.
Now what’s that all about?
How the spam-bots lure me into a sense of security
There are two things that spam-bots on Twitter have started to do that have showed the chinks in my following armor.
First, as I indicated above, they’ve learned that they look less suspicious if they fill out their bios on Twitter. Now, a lot of the spam-bots use variations on a theme. For example, a lot of them begin their bios with “Kansas by way of Indonesia plus a few years in Switzerland” or something like that. At first these traveling bios got me interested, but now I say yucky.
The second thing they do is they @ people, sometimes in ways that are obviously fake, but lately, they’ve been @ people in very convincing ways. No link involved, nothing particularly fishy. Just every few tweets, @so and so great to meet you!
It’s just downright mean. As much as I’d love to sift through every person’s every tweet to see patterns of behavior, I generally look at about, oh, three. If I see realistic @ replies within those first 3 tweets, I’m usually sold. Or was. Now nothing is sacred.
So why am I not following you?
By now you must be feeling very frazzled. You don’t do any tricks like that. You’re not a spam bot (are you??). So why would I let myself get fooled by these folks yet not take a chance on you?
Well…the spam bots they know what I like. Sort of.
So learn from the spam bots and try the following:
1. Use a human picture, preferably of yourself. You can use a picture of your infant, but that always kind of trips me up. How does a six-month-old know how to use Twitter? And run a business?
2. Fill out your bio. And use that space to tell me why I should follow you, please. I appreciate that ham is your favorite food and that you follow whomever you follow religiously. What will I gain from following you apart from your winning personality?
3. Talk to people. About stuff not relating to you. If I’m hedging on someone, I’ll click to their profile to see what else they’re doing. Sometimes it’s like that moment in The Shining. You think someone’s been tweeting their hearts out but all you see is “Thanks for the RT soandso, so and so, so and soo sooo, and sooooooo!” “Thanks for the RT s, t, tu, v, w, x, and yz!” Just a sea of thank yous, followed by a sea of RTs. It’s freaky, man. Talk to people like humans do. Er, real humans, not the bots pretending to be human.
4. Avoiding the temptation of spamming me is also nice. If you immediately tweet me and say, “Hey look at this neat link I found!” I will assume you are a spammer, even if the neat link is a website proving that the Big Foot is real.
5. Assurances that you are human are also helpful.
As a bonus point – if I see that you are engaging in chats, I will almost always follow you back, because that shows me you want to share, not just post and promote (or as I like to say, peepee).
There you have it. Save me from my new cult status among spam-bots and help me follow you instead of them. It would be a personal favor if you’re of a mind. And it might help you out too, which would be super awesome.
This is post #90 in The Engagement Series. Holy smokes, just 10 more to go!
Image by Sasan Saidi. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Sasan