Twitter is a wonderful service. But it isn’t perfect. The popular microblogging service is increasingly the target of spam techniques that threaten the service’s utility and value.

Here the the seven techniques that spammers are employing on Twitter…

Hashtag/Trending Topics Spam


If you’re a spammer looking to reach an audience on Twitter, one of the easiest ways is to attach your ad to a popular hashtag or Trending Topic phrase. As you can see, the ad above has nothing to do with #iranelection.

Follower Spam

Spammers increasingly set up fake accounts to mass-follow other Twitter users. Oftentimes, they use provocative avatars (in violation of the 10 Twitter Commandments) and leave a spam tweet as their most recent so that it is visible to the followed when they view their followers.

Affiliate Spam

Thanks to companies like Magpie, which is responsible for the above ad, Twitter has become a platform for affiliate marketing. Of course, much of the affiliate marketing that takes place is not disclosed as such and is promulgated by accounts that are clearly bots.

Viral Spam

Businesses
eager to use Twitter for marketing purposes are increasingly employing
viral techniques to spread their messages. Oftentimes this involves
hashtag spam, resulting in the hashtag appearing on the Trending Topics
list and further propelling the ‘campaign‘. #squarespace and #moonfruit are two recent examples of the viral spam that has infected Twitter and it’s worth pointing out that a number of applications that are built around Twitter leverage this technique as well.

DM/Autoresponder Spam


It’s one of the more annoying forms of Twitter spam: you follow someone only to receive a DM autoresponse that’s spammier than the 200 spam emails you had to delete when you opened your email in the morning.

Self-Promotional Spam

There’s a fine line between healthy self-promotion and self-promotional spam. What’s spam to me may not be spam to you. That said, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that there’s plenty of self-promotion taking place on Twitter and it’s easy to tire of it, especially when it’s of the ‘RT pls‘ kind (another violation of the 10 Twitter Commandments).

Profile Spam

There’s nothing inherently wrong with commercial profiles on Twitter; there are plenty of them. But some of them are spammy.

Take @NissanWarranty, which is apparently run by a company that is authorized by Nissan North America to sell extended warranties for Nissan automobiles. @NissanWarranty isn’t tweeting much of value and is following nearly 2,000 people despite the fact that it has only 548 followers (I’m one of the lucky Twitterers who was followed for no apparent reason).

While this may be a perfect example of a company using Twitter poorly as opposed to being outright malicious, Twitter is no different than email: if you don’t follow best practices, you’re going to be considered by many to be ‘spamming‘.

Twitter Needs to Get Spam Under Control

If you have a Twitter account, chances are you’ve personally encountered the seven types of Twitter spam techniques. From what I can tell, spam on Twitter is proliferating at a rapid pace and it threatens the peaceful enjoyment of the service.

What’s so disconcerting to me is that much of this spam is clearly the work of automated processes (bots, etc.) and it’s hard to believe that Twitter is powerless to stop it. Detecting accounts that have been created by bots should not be the most difficult task Twitter has faced, nor should it be especially difficult for Twitter to use the same approach it uses with Trending Topics to detect spam tweets. Additionally, it’s quite surprising that Twitter hasn’t yet implemented functionality that would give every user the ability to report spam profiles and tweets.

Which begs the question: when one of the metrics that your investors value most is the “tweet view“, who cares about spam?