I’ve gone back and forth about how aggressively I police followers on my Twitter account (@joelogon). When I first wrote about this in February, I had 218 followers, and was pretty strict about managing followers (save for a few lapses).
Likewise, in March, I complained about obvious spammers who still managed to gain reciprocal followers, presumably from auto-followers, or folks otherwise trying to inflate their follower counts.
After a while, though, I stopped really caring so much. Despite my early complaints about Twitter spammers, it still wasn’t that much of a problem, with the bulk of the issue at the time being relatively benign: Marketers and silly Twitter users playing the follower-collecting game, much as we saw in the early days of MySpace. (Other similarities between Twitter and MySpace can be found in the Cody Brown blog entry, “MySpace Is to Facebook as Twitter Is to ____,” that folks were buzzing about earlier this month).
Since it wasn’t that big of a deal, and since Twitter spam was relatively easy to ignore, I just didn’t pay that much attention to my follower list. While I never crossed over into deliberate follower-seeking behaviors (like begging, or posting trending topic or other hot keywords specifically to troll for followers), I let my follower list creep up steadily past 400 (chump change, even in the land of chumps).
As Twitter became more mainstream (marked by the celebrities coming in and blowing all the merely “Internet-famous” people out of the water), and as Twitter spammers become more prolific, more persistent, and more pornographic, I found myself turning the “nuke spam follower” dial back to “ruthless.”
Even as I did, I thought back to a post by my friend Stephanie, “Followers Are Not Your Friends,” where she advocated not fussing over spam followers (or followers of insufficient quality, whatever that means). I agreed with her up to a point, but parted company when she likened having concern about spammers in one’s Twitter followers to worrying about not having control over who reads your RSS feed.
The difference in this case, is that the list of your RSS readers isn’t published, whereas your Twitter followers are visible. While it’s not an endorsement per se, for people with human-manageable numbers of followers (say, in the low hundreds), I think that one’s follower list does kind of say something about you (though, of course, not nearly as much as your list of Twitter friends — the people you follow.)
But there are so many other, more pernicious forms of Twitter spam (hashtag spam, fake @replies, etc) that not swatting the obvious spammers in your follower list seems minor in comparison, right? Well, if the number of blocks factors into Twitter’s decision to nuke a spammer account, maybe it does matter.
On a related note, check out TwitBlock [link via Mashable] which ranks your followers and other Twitter users by their spammer potential (I am happy to say I’m a zero on this scale), as well as flags potential spam accounts by their reuse of avatar pictures (link potentially Not Safe For Work due to increasingly obnoxious pornographic avatars — another reason to beat down Twitter spammers.)
It’s getting hard enough to distinguish spammers from real people (both because spammers act more like real people, and some real people act more like spammers), so I do think it’s important to do what we can to knock them out, and if a mechanism to do that is policing one’s own follower list, I guess it does matter.
What say you? Do you think blocking spam followers matters? Leave a comment.Google+