Will Twitter Spam Ruin Your Reputation?

Yesterday I noticed a near 10% spike in my followers.  You notice something like that.  I thought maybe it was an unexpected response to having my book on conflict resolution published.

It was not.  Instead it was a small army of spam porn accounts complete with embarrassing profile pics and porn links.  That Britney one with the peculiar punctuation and what I think is a hot dog is particularly dangerous.

Spam accounts cause a real problem for a professional using Twitter to communicate. 

A potential client could look at who follows me – why wouldn’t they?  If they see that I am followed by a bunch of porn spammers, what impact does that have on my reputation?

Sure, I can delete, or block, accounts, although the Twitter tools for doing so are slow and fallible.  They keep on coming back.

Now, you and I know that just because someone follows me, does not mean that I am associated with them, but then again you and I are fairly savvy about that sort of stuff.

To a potential client, or referrer, or colleague, I will be judged by the company that I appear to be keeping.

The answer is that I have to manage the followers and ensure that embarrassing contacts are not in there.  This is an unwelcome administrative chore especially when 50 of the scum turn up at once.

I could just leave the stuff up there, but then someone looking at my followers will draw the conclusion that I approve, don’t manage my online reputation, or am simply apathetic. Not quite the image I want to portray.

It becomes impossible for me to demonstrate Twitter, how it works and the like to colleagues or clients because I cannot click through to my followers confident in knowing that there will not be a new porn profile glaring out. 

I cannot even use Twitter, or the followers page at home if my children are around, or my wife for that matter – that is something I would rather not have to explain.

I now need to spend 15 minutes clearing my followers out.  Next time, who knows, I might just clear out altogether.

Twitter, do us a favour, and sort this out. 

Fellow Twitter users, is your followers page ruining your reputation?




Filed under General Technology, Law, Lawyers and Social Media

15 responses to “Will Twitter Spam Ruin Your Reputation?

  1. Hi Neil

    Such a great blog post and so true. Especially when you are wanting to demonstrate the power of the twitter platform to colleagues, friends and/or loved ones and feel that you can’t through fear of ‘not knowing’ who’s in there today…

    Have you tried http://truetwit.com …it might help…

    Congratulations on the book launch by the way. I’m looking forward to reading it…



  2. Thanks Lee. http://truetwit.com certainly looks helpful. I will have a look tonight. It looks as though they have taken steps to avoid the whole “Give us your user name and front door key” trust problem as well.

    I hope it will assist other readers who share my concerns.

  3. Adrian higgs

    Spot on, Neil. Great post.

    No more to say than that, really – you’ve already said it.

  4. peninsulawyer

    TrueTwitt looks interesting – I have followed people who use it and gone through the captcha and it struck me as a good idea. I wasn’t sure how it worked for API clients though – I presume that you follow via Tweetie (or whatever) and then get an email asking you to go through the TrueTwitt confirmation.

    I agree that those who are au fait with Twitter will appreciate that your followers choose you (and not the other way around) but it certainly can look embarrasing – especially if it is your corporate account.

    I did see a hilarious series of tweets from one law firm (can’t remember which) responding politely to all the spammers along the lines of:- “Thanks for following us, but we are a respectable law firm and not really interested in that type of service”!

    Ideally Twitter should just sort this out – I thought some kind of feedback style system might be possible like on Ebay where new accounts or accounts reported as spam had to do a Captcha to follow people, but once you became a more established user it would fall away.

  5. Rob Cameron

    Neil, you are spot on. It is frustrating and potentially very embarrasing when these ‘followers’ appear in your list with some very lewd profile pictures as well.

  6. Yes it’s certainly the porn ones, but also the ones offering megabucks, megafollowers mega white teeth that annoy

  7. You’re spot on with this Neil. The porn bots have been around for a while yet Twitter seems to have done nothing about them. Then as Elizabeth says there are the sales and marketing bots.

    Surely it can’t be rocket science to implement Captcha? At least then you know there’s a good chance they have chosen to follow you rather than used a program. I would like to see better tools for managing followers than the clunky, slow method Twitter currently gives us.

    Some folk I follow send out a “hello to new followers” message and block those who don’t respond. Something I think I will start doing.

    Who you follow could also affect a potential client’s view of you. I follow a real mixture of people, many of whom I may not agree with but whose opinions make me consider my own position and keep my mind active.

    I’m off to cull my followers now…

  8. Hello Jamie and thanks for commenting.

    The verifying programs are an interesting solution. The problem is that they throw in a real barrier to the spontaneity of following which is unattractive.

    When I have been asked to verify myself I have sometimes done so, and other times thought “I’ll do it later” or “fuhgeddit” – both of which have the same outcome.

    Oh well. Keep up the manual checking for now I guess.

  9. Nick Sharratt

    To echo neildenny’s point, I think this is actually a very difficult rocket science worthy issue as it involves people, and people are inherently tricky problems compared to ‘simple’ engineering problems.

    Remember too that Twitter is still a very small start up company barely 4 years old and still fragile, especially with sharks (google etc) circling with their own takes on the same instant social micro-blog ideas.

    If Twitter implement anything which has that little bit too much of a negative impact on user experience then people will abandon it for the next place to flock in no time. Balancing the impact of the spam bots against that and also the search engine deals etc to keep the share price/venture capital flowing to support continual growth is certainly non-trivial and shouldn’t be underestimated.

    But i agree – it’s a real pain as it is too (but not enough for me to quit is the key)


  10. Life is too short to worry about who is following you on Twitter.

  11. One solution would be to use TrueTwit to verify your followers

  12. thesearch4me

    I am new to Twitter, but have already noticed this trend which is so annoying and down right rude! I, like you , use Twitter professionally and am starting to get my JOB to consider using it for their business too. Last thing I need is to open it up and have porn showing when I show the owners of my company what I want to do…. Especially considering the clients we work with! Great post!

  13. Neil –

    I don’t know… In terms of online reputation management, I think it’s vital to address and focus on the things you can control. The choices YOU make reflect on your judgment: whom you choose to follow tells me something about you. Who might follow you, on the other hand, does not communicate anything real, IMO, about you – particularly to those who know anything about Twitter. This following/follower business is also so transient (which is part of the point of your post) – and you can monitor it and block ppl – so I would not be concerned about this one. N.B: that’s big, because I’m typically concerned about everything in this arena: http://bit.ly/cfcJVP.

    But even for (or perhaps most importantly for) those who do NOT know the space, this is an important lesson about the Web that ppl need to understand: expecting some weirdness, frankly, is part of the price you pay for playing the game.

    To thesearch4me: you can be very open with your bosses about this. You can promise that you will represent the company in the best way possible (i.e., you’re not going to do anything stupid), but you can’t say that for every knucklehead with their own agendas on the Web. All you can promise is that you will vigilantly monitor the brand and what’s said about it, and correct problems that can be corrected.

    When ‘selling’ social media to our bosses, this is not a factor to avoid. It’s a fact of (online) life that there are unscrupulous people that can wander into your brand house now and again, and that it can be tended to but not PREvented. Companies considering Twitter and these other communities need to know that upfront.

    Stephanie Fierman

  14. Thanks to TheSearch4Me and StephanieF Fierman for your recent comments, much appreciated.

    They reveal several points.

    1. The long tail of a blog post – this post is nearly 10 months old and still gets visited and discussed.

    2. The porn spam on the followers list is embarrassing

    3. We need to remain aware of the newcomers to social media all the time. While we might move on from our initial teething problems and evolve into experienced social media users, there will always be people who are starting their own journey.

    Some of those people will the ones looking at our followers list and possibly being surprised at what they might see. Although us old hats know that a followers list is not of their choosing, there will still be a link made between less savoury followers, their graphic avatars and our personal or corporate brand.

    4. Weirdness abounds. I love this point Stephanie and am contemplating what a Weirdness Filter might look like. How can we measure weirdness, its quantity, and its shape…?

    5. We do need to be open with bosses and other people we are talking to. Of course there is offensiveness out there, that is as good a reason as any for getting out there and ensuring that it is we who shape what is written about us.

    Thanks again for contributing… its good to meet you both.

  15. Pingback: Joining Dots | March News and Links

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