Keeping An Eye Out For Those Tricky Twitter Spammers.

After reading a post on Los Angeles blog, lalawag, I thought it would be insightful to put something together myself. A while back I wrote a post commenting on how the number of people following you on Twitter were rather irrelevant and I still stand by it – although everyone’s ego is always getting the better of them and they want more followers. Admit it.

Quite recently I’ve seen a remarkable jump in the number of people following me. Within a one day span, I had perhaps over 500 new followers.  At first I suspected that I was on Twitter’s infamous “Suggested User List”, but after parsing through, I didn’t see my name come up. I don’t know who on Twitter would have mentioned me so I simply took it in stride and then noticed something…most of these accounts were probably spammers. And this got me to ponder further the legitimacy and the worthwhile-ness of this post.

So I leave you with this: a post that will help highlight the spammers in your Twitter stream. Hopefully this will help you spot them easily without having to spend an exorbitant amount of time deciphering whether to keep them or not. Just kick them to the curb with a simple “block”, and be done with it. There are more valuable things you could be doing without worrying about these spammers.

Twitter spammer

Want to join me at the beach?

In the above example, there are probably some clear indications why this is a spammer. I’m writing this post on September 27, 2009 and the first thing you notice is that this person is now following you, yet they haven’t posted a new tweet since July 27, 2009? So what have they been doing recently that merits them following you? Just sitting around monitoring what’s going on and not saying a thing? That’s not a person interested in conversation.

All good Twitter profiles should have a bio to let people know just a little bit about yourself. In this instance, the bio is a little bit suspicious because it sounds like a classified ad that wants to meet up with people – almost like it’s a ad for a clandestine rendezvous that you would expect for rather discrete behavior.  Indication of spam…if it’s not, then it should be a bit more grown up and save that talk for Myspace.

But perhaps the most clear indication that it’s a spammer is the number AFTER the Twitter handle. If you look at the above example, it’s “CindyBarnes1” – the “1” is a dead giveaway. Be very suspicious about numbers after any handle or if the handle doesn’t even form a real word.

Twitter spammer

You’re going to enjoy these deals if you click on this link!

Typical spammers have a sole mission…to make you click on a link. Who knows what it will point to – will it install a trojan horse or a virus? Does it contain malware? Will it try and make you buy Viagra? What about perhaps being one giant phishing scheme and then leads to identity theft? Whatever it is, do not click on any links you think are suspicious, even in the above example.

Remember in the earlier example where they posted one update and then suddenly decided to follow you? Well this is no different except they’re trying to entice you into clicking on this link. There’s no value to you. It’s just pushing out data and totally valueless information. You can find values on much more credible websites.

Another sign of a spammer is the avatar. If you want to be taken seriously, are you going to be posting a image of you dressed like that? And let’s not forget about the profile of this wanna-be Twitter user…oh wait! A profile doesn’t exist! If you don’t have a complete bio, then you’re considered a spammer in my book.

And what’s with the fact that you have 236 followers and are following back 1,759 people with only one update? I doubt that you’re that credible and a legitimate user.

Twitter spammer

“What are you doing now?” wasn’t meant to be taken so literally.

If you want to be taken seriously in the Twitter community, you’re going to need to remember that you need to offer value to others in order to be followed back. Simply putting out there that you are “out to lunch with a few friends” doesn’t give me incentive to follow you back, nor should I expect the same treatment if I did that. Twitter’s initial question is to get the juices flowing and show you that you can communicate more than literally what you’re doing at this very moment. Talk about what interests you and what you’re doing right now that may be of interest to others like “out to lunch with a few friends and saw that a new Barnes & Nobles was being built next door to work.” or something similar or more in-depth. The point is to stop thinking so selfishly and instead post things that would have meaning to others.

Twitter spammer

Scantily-clad woman avatar selling credit?

Something’s amiss in this Twitter profile. While this “individual” has perhaps had multiple updates, if you look carefully, the updates are coming from an automated RSS feed via Twitterfeed. While there’s nothing wrong with having feeds post to your Twitter account, combined with the fact that the Twitter name is awfully suspicious and the avatar doesn’t match the purpose of the profile, then you’ll know that this is a spammer.

Make sure that if you’re trying to be a professional entity, everything needs to match up. The avatar, the bio and the tweets. Leave nothing out lest it be considered suspicious and merits a block.

Twitter spammer

I’m legitimate. Trust me. Click here.

They almost got you here. The avatar looks “trustworthy” and the name matches the Twitter account, right? And they even have a complete profile! But here’s where they’re going to get you…

Be especially cautious with the web links in the profiles. While URL shorteners are a great tool in the age of abrupt conversation, they can also be used for devious purposes, especially when you don’t know who is sending them or what they are. If you’re not sure about the link, copy the link and go to a respective URL shortener website directly and see if it can’t be expanded.

While they look like they’re also engaged in a conversation, notice that it’s only three updates. No real replies or retweets to anyone. And check out the misspellings and poor grammar. For someone involved in business and consulting, that’s a bad sign of a poor education or a spammer. I’d go for the latter. Don’t click on anything on this page except for the block button.


They choose to follow you now & actually use Twitter later.

Perhaps one of the most common types of profiles you’re going to see on Twitter. This person has apparently decided to follow a whole bunch of people first and then decide to actually post an actual update or even an avatar later on. This is really remarkable that this is even attempted. When you see these profiles, just look at how incomplete they are, especially with just a name. If they don’t have any updates, no profile or even an avatar, then they aren’t worth your time in following back.

There are many other spammer types out there, but hopefully after taking a look at these examples, you’ll be able to spot them. Remember that Twitter has a @spam account ready to help you combat these plagues on the community. Simply send a direct message to @spam and let them know the Twitter name and soon they will bother you no more. And a friendly “block” won’t hurt as well.

Safe Twittering!

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.