In recent weeks I have seen a definite increase in Twitter spam, and it's something that I think Twitter needs to get on top of and smother. Make no mistake: spam is always a threat to the user experience.
Sometimes spammers will follow you. Other times they’ll just send you a tweet. All of the time they totally suck.
It’s not at all difficult to spot a spammer... here are 12 ways to identify one of these timewasting losers on Twitter. Spam, be damned.
They have no avatar
If you can’t be bothered to upload a picture of any kind then it sends a bad message. My brain instantly tunes out to all tweets that I see that are not accompanied by an avatar.
They have a sexy avatar
A common tactic among spammers is to grab a picture of a nubile girl and use that as their avatar. Hotpants and cleavage are trending in this area.
They have a ridiculous following-to-follower ratio
A tried and tested way of spotting a spam account is to look at the following to follower ratio. Following 2,000 accounts in the hope of a few autofollows back is the name of the game. It’s a sucky game. More often than not you'll see accounts with zero followers. Quite the giveaway.
They have posted no tweets
Nobody in their right mind follows hundreds or thousands of people but fails to use Twitter to tweet! That said, spammers are wrong-minded…
They post the same tweet over and over and over and over and over again
Spammers love repetition. They can’t get enough of saying the same thing. CTRL+V is the spammer’s favourite weapon of choice.
They use the same link in all of their tweets
Sometimes the messaging will be mixed up, but the links will all look the same. In an age of URL shorteners it's a telltale sign that the account owner is playing the numbers game. And that's what spammers do.
They aren’t followed by any lists
Automated – or low-rent - accounts tend not to be added to Twitter lists created by other users.
They include a random number string in their user name
You see this a lot. Numbers in user names set off alarm bells in my head. More often than not they are an indicator of spam.
They don’t bother with conversational tweets
Most human-powered Twitter accounts will mix things up a bit. There will be tweets with links, and tweets without links. There will be retweets. There will be @replies and conversational tweets. If you don’t see enough variety in a user’s tweetstream then it could be that the account is powered by rules and built on feeds. Never a good sign.
They don’t have a bio
Some genuine people don’t do bios, but most do. Many spammers don’t bother.
They have a dodgy bio
Alternatively, some spammers include a bio that will often include the phrase “make money”. Run away, as fast as you can!
They camouflage their bio link
I’m always a little nervous when I see a Bit.ly (or other URL shortener) used for a bio link. However I’ve used one in the past, simply to track click activity, so it’s not always a sign of a spammer (I use an about.me now, which has a great stats dashboard). If you are ever unsure of a Bit.ly link just add a ‘+’ onto the end of the link and you’ll access the stats page, where you’ll also see the long link.
What did I miss? How else can you spot a shyster?
[Image by smemon via Flickr, various rights reserved]