What’s Going on With Twitter and What Does it Mean for Your Following?
Permission to Speak Freely...
Twitter is kind of a skanky, disreputable social media tool. We’re sure that’s not what they set out to be. And let’s clarify up front; if you like Twitter, it doesn’t mean YOU are skanky or disreputable. But Twitter has always played pretty fast and loose with the “best practice” standards of the social media world. For years, Twitter has allowed users to buy followers – cheaply and easily. They’ve also permitted all sorts of third-party tools to manage followers and create a large following without really interacting on the platform. That means that if you see an account with thousands, or millions, of followers, it didn’t necessarily mean that this person was so reputable and important that lots of people followed them. It could mean that this person knows how to play the system. Some of the biggest accounts on Twitter still seem to be full of fake followers (and no, we’re absolutely not talking about Trump here, so calm down.)
Twitter is also one of the last social media platforms that seem to openly disregard porn accounts and scammy accounts like bitcoin investors and #followback accounts. Sure, it formally prohibits them in its policy, but anyone who’s been on Twitter for more than five minutes knows they don’t enforce many of their own policies. According to the watchdog group, FightTheNewDrug.com;
"With an estimated 10 million “pornbots” Twitter accounts dedicated to posting all types of pornographic content, that means there are more pictures of porn than of pets, people, or products. And what’s worse? Right now, Twitter won’t automatically remove abusive users or these pornbots, only block them from users who report them."
So. it’s kind of shocking to Twitter managers (like me) when Twitter actually does something sorta ethical to clean up the platform.
Fake Followers and Accounts on Twitter are Being Deleted
In recent months, Twitter users have been surprised as Twitter deleted fakes followers without notice. Now, no one is pretending that Twitter’s effort is comprehensive, but it is happening on a large scale, and to some pretty big-name accounts. The news started to leak out last summer as one big-name Twitter account after another started losing fake followers by the millions including Ashton Kutcher, Rhianna, and Katy Perry. Some accounts lost more than half of their big followings. Others lost as much as 75% of followers in a single day. Cup O Content did a small experiment last summer to see how serious Twitter was about deleting fake followers. Our Twitter account has a few thousand followers, so we wondered if our small account could fly under the radar. We purchase one thousand followers and waited. The fake followers came onboard in batches of 300 or so. Within a week, we had 1,000 new followers. And within the month, Twitter had removed them all. Unasked, the company that sold us the fake followers repopulated our account within a few days. And Twitter removed them again within the week. So, we can confirm first-hand that Twitter is not cool with fake followers or fake accounts.
Many APIs are Losing Access to Twitter
Cup O Content likes a Twitter management tool called ManageFlittr. It allows us to quickly manage followers, determine which are fake or spam, which are non-English speaking, and which are not following back. This week Twitter suspended ManageFlittr's Twitter API access. Across the net, other social media professionals are reporting API access on other Twitter management tools are also being suspended without notice or explanation.
After Facebook’s congressional nightmare last spring, social media platforms got the message that they were responsible for protecting their followers' data. With this in mind, it’s likely that Twitter and other social media platforms will continue to restrict access, to APIs especially, making it harder to game the system (and harder to illegally extract data.)
Cracking Down on Multiple Twitter Accounts
Many people use multiple accounts to increase followers and link back to sites or landing pages. Each account may have a different name or photos, but these multiple accounts come from one organization, often tweeting the same stuff over and over across dozens or even hundreds of accounts. Who are the biggest abusers of multiple accounts? Porn, political organizations, and businesses (esp. online sales).
It’s not too hard to find multiple accounts once you start looking for them. They usually use the same photo (or a set of photos) over and over or repeat the same description across accounts, or the feature same hashtags in their description. If they use a cover photo, it’s often just the profile photo blown up. Or no cover photo at all. Or no description.
What’s the harm of multiple accounts? (Assuming you are okay with the content?) They clog up Twitter. They amplify messages by making it look like thousands are saying something (instead of just one person.) They make it hard to find the information or people you want, because of this “Twitter Junk Mail” that fills up your feed, sometimes posting hundreds of messages a day.
We’re thrilled that Twitter is eliminating duplicate accounts. Those accounts annoy us and make it harder to do our jobs of legitimately building followers based on valuable content and original information.
And What’s the Outcome for Twitter?
Twitter’s not doing this because the wizard gave it a heart. They’re doing it to increase stock prices. Wall Street is happy to see much-needed clean-ups happening and has rewarded Twitter with increased stock prices. Summer clean-ups spiked Twitter stock, so Twitter execs have learned a lesson. Big clean-ups=better stock price. In fact, yesterday Zacks named Twitter the Bull Stock of the Day – in the same week that Twitter did another round of API suspensions. Coincidence?
What’s Next for Twitter?
If Wall Street keeps rewarding Twitter for clean-up efforts, you can bet that Twitter will keep evolving towards best practices. At Cup O Content, we’d like to see Twitter turn into a more reputable platform that feels safe and professional. We hope that Twitter will continue to repudiate back-alley practices and come into the light.