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Blocking Twitter Spam Followers: Does It Matter?

by Joe Loong on August 24, 2009

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Categories : Social Media,Twitter




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.

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    • thursdayb

      I don't really block spammers, personally. Because I don't auto-follow anyone who follows me, I only go through new followers in a batch, making it seem less practical to block spammers. I've been hoping for some sort of tool to automate the process, so I'll have to take a look at TwitBlock.

    • Jadxia

      I check out everyone who follows me to see if I would find their posts equally interesting. So obvious spammers are naturally weeded out in this process (since I'm already at this twitter account, one extra button click is no big deal). I figure the less I 'encourage' spammers, the better for all.

    • http://www.joelogon.com/blog joelogon

      The Twitter “block user” functionality is a lot easier now — it no longer bounces you back to the user's profile page after you block them (which was odd). Judging by the TwitBlock formula, hopefully every legit block from a real user helps weed out the spammers.

    • http://nevertoolateguitar.com/ Never Too Late Guitar

      Blocking all spam is a good thing. I see a lot of these “block your spam followers” sites like TwitBlock. But what I really want is to weed out spammers that I'm following since they actually effect my twitter experience, via the status updates I see from all the people I follow.

      I wonder why there aren't as many “friend blockers” out there.

    • Mesmolin

      I block obvious scammers. Why? We are a community organization and certainly don't want real members complaining about some of our Twitter followers.

    • http://twitter.com/essembee Sarah

      I've been trying to block spammers, simply because they make me look bad!
      I look like people are actually interested in what I have to say, but the moment you click on my followers list, you see that the overwhelming majority of them are spammers, so I'm probably not all that interesting, really!
      I'd really like a way of selecting more than one follower at a time on my list, so that I can block them in bulk- there are just so many of them now that it's too time consuming to delete them one-by-one.

    • Grenae Thompson

      I definitely think blocking spammers matters. I'm relatively new, but as another commenter said, I don't want people to judge me by my followers (although, there are probably others I should boot). It's more annoying than anything to click on my followers and see pictures of “Britany” or “Candy” with their 1 Tweet and Following 500+ people. I like the idea of an “instant nuke” button that automatically returns me to “Home.” That some people have nothing better to do than send out spam is beyond me.

    • Grenae Thompson

      I definitely think blocking spammers matters. I'm relatively new, but as another commenter said, I don't want people to judge me by my followers (although, there are probably others I should boot). It's more annoying than anything to click on my followers and see pictures of “Britany” or “Candy” with their 1 Tweet and Following 500+ people. I like the idea of an “instant nuke” button that automatically returns me to “Home.” That some people have nothing better to do than send out spam is beyond me.