Twitter Has Spammers, Too

I'm a pretty heavy user of Twitter. I've got a few followers, I pay attention to what a lot of people say, and I know a number of people that follow what I say. I enjoy this new method of interacting with people-- it's been a lot of fun. But, like every other way of electronic communication, spammers were bound to discover it and attempt to exploit it eventually. In the Twitter-sphere, the way spam works might be a bit different than in email, but I'll be darned if it doesn't just jump right out at me, with my background in spam fighting and email best practices.

Here's a few of the different kinds of spam I've seen on Twitter.
  • Generic spambots. They follow everybody in the world until they get shut down. Since my Twitter handle starts with an "A", I'm guessing I show up somewhere relatively near the top of some huge list of Twitter usernames. Their tweets all seem to be things like, "Hello, I am from Russia and I am lonely, will you click on my profile?"
  • Targeted spambots. They watch for certain keywords that people tweet, then immediately follow those people. I learned this the hard way when I started talking about "payday loans" (as I'm tracking a number of co-reg email senders), and suddenly I've got a bunch of new followers who all want to help match me with the right instant loan.
  • Brainless content republishers. I watch a few different Twitter queries over time, to look for articles to link to, and to help find Twitter users that I might be interested in following. Here is an example of one of those. What they've done here is mis-used a neat tool called TwitterFeed. They're watching a whole bunch of RSS feeds for blogs other than their own and posting the first sentence or two of each blog post and linking to it. Why do this? It looks to me as though the intent is to make them look like an active Twitter user with knowledge to share. Except, they've got nothing; they're just blindly linking to other peoples' posts, via a robot, every time a new post is written. That's far different than manually choosing to re-tweet a link to a blog post you personally find interesting. (In case you're wondering about this person or company's respect for social customs, check out their fabulous Free Blast Offer: Send to 10,000 email messages to any list, even if it's not opt-in. Looks like an email spammer who found a new way to spam.)
  • Useless marketers who have no concept of personal space and try to inject themselves into conversations even when they've got nothing to add. Laura Atkins and I have noticed this a few times lately, and I ran into it again tonight. I asked on Twitter if anybody had any recommendations for a good thriller to read on my Kindle. From reading his stream, this guy clearly is watching for terms like "Amazon" and "Kindle" and then replying, with a link to Amazon with his affiliate link embedded. What is this guy actually adding to the conversation? Nothing, that's what.
What do you think - are there other kinds of Twitter spammers that I'm forgetting to include here?


  1. Thats most of them. You get the odd hashtag spammer as well. Say the iPad is announced, a bunch of spammers will tag their tweets as #ipad, or worse use fake iPad giveaway contests to harvest Twitter followers and/or email addresses.

    Sometimes the hashtag spam is simply an overlap of usage. The #Exchange hashtag gets a lot of use in the MS Exchange community, but also by currency conversion traders, link traders, and some others.

    The worse kind at the @ reply spammers, and thats how most Twitter malware attacks are performed. Eg, "Hey @aliverson, is this you? "

    What can we do? Free communications always attracts the darker side of the web.

  2. Hi, Al. I respectfully disagree with your assessment of my intentions. You asked for a good thriller to read on your Kindle. I took the time to go into and find a best sellers list of thrillers, specifically for the Kindle. Then I replied to your post with an appropriate link. In my opinion that was providing you a service, not spamming. Not only that, you ASKED for a recommendation. So to say that I added nothing to the conversation is incorrect. Yes, the link included my Amazon affiliate tag, but how is that hurting you in ANY way? What I do is NOT spamming, it is providing a service and most people in the Twitterverse have the opposite reaction and thank me for helping them find what they're looking for. It's plainly obvious that your 7 years of focus on anti-spamming has left you over-sensitized to even the most sincere attempts at marketing for your business. I apologize for intruding on your Twitter space and I will do my best not to do so again in the future. Thank you for your time.

  3. Puh-lease, reading your Twitter history shows us that you have a search set up so that whenever somebody mentions "Kindle" you reply with an Amazon affiliate link. The only value there is for you, as people probably don't realize it's an affiliate link.

    You're actually a great example of how marketers try to bend social media to make them money, instead of providing real value or engaging in two way communication.

  4. I'm taking the deletion of my friends' posts defending me from this comment section as an apology for what you wrote. Apology accepted. :-)

  5. No, actually, what I deleted were two comments -- another one from you that had a link to your website (I don't want to provide your Google-fu, and this blog is not a chat board) and an anonymous comment telling me I'm a big meanie. Don't have any clue who your friend(s) is/are and don't really care.

    I'm still sure that spammer is the appropriate categorization here. Lazy and trying to make money off of others without adding any real value.