Don’t become a Twitterspammer

Just as email can become a nightmare due to unsolicited emails from spammers, so, too, can Twitter. Use of a keyword or phrase like “iPad”, “iPhone” or “laptop”, for example, can make you the target of tweeters offering chances to win free kit if you click on the link in their tweet (some of which can lead to ‘phishing’ sites that might allow others to hack your Twitter account).

Even an apparently boring word like “furniture”, which I included in a tweet this morning, can result in you being followed by retailers of homewares. I don’t have a problem with that – these businesses put themselves on my radar in case I was looking for an alternative to Habitat, but I was focusing on that company’s demise not my immediate furnishing needs.

Beware the Twitterspammer!

But what really annoyed me today was one Twitter user who, it appears, simply browsed Twitter, found people working in the AEC industry and sent each of them an unsolicited, identically worded tweet about fire escapes (not something I’d ever declared any interest in). Looking at his public timeline, he sent the same Tweet today to nine people, having sent the same Tweet to more than 20 people on Tuesday 21 June. Browsing his recent timeline, this appears to be a tactic he’s used a lot, some with links to a BBC story, others with links to a YouTube video.

I should have ignored it, but, without naming names, I asked my followers if they had also received a similar Tweet – a couple had, and there was a bit of gentle banter between us.

Next, I got a snotty public tweet from the perpetrator (yes, it’s name names time!): Simon Loker, marketing manager of Halifax, Yorkshire-based Fire Escape (UK) Ltd. He accused me of mocking the fact that people die in fires, adding “you seem like a really nice man NOT – Twitter is for communication”! (I should add that I hadn’t even clicked on the link so had no idea it was even about fire fatalities.)

When I politely pointed out he was spamming people and Twitter is for conversation not spam, he loosed off three more sarcastic tweets misinterpreting me as saying Twitter is only about conversation. It obviously isn’t, as I pointed out: “By all means tweet a link, but do it once to your followers. Don’t send unsolicited links to people who aren’t following you.” But he persevered with his misunderstanding: “don’t try and search contacts and send them anything – @EEPaul says you can’t do it”.

Mr Loker, who started using Twitter just over five months ago, plainly doesn’t grasp the essence and (n)etiquette of Twitter:

  • I have no problem with people contacting me, but it’s nice when they do it with a polite, personalised approach, not an identical tweet sent to dozens of others.
  • It also pays to research whether recipients might have an interest in your business, products or services.
  • Listen first, talk later: monitor what your contacts talk about and then find a relevant opportunity to initiate direct contact.
  • Followers should expect a steady flow of new, interesting and useful information – not repetitive sales messages.

To date, Mr Loker has sent out over 1900 tweets, and has amassed 108 followers (gasp!). That the number isn’t greater is no surprise. His recent tactics are little different to how he started. When he began his Twitter campaign in January 2011, he sent the same YouTube video link in ten of his first 16 tweets – including his third tweet, to Twitter celebrity Stephen Fry.

Blocked

When I get unsolicited broadcast emails pushing goods or services of no interest to me, I report them as spam and block the sender. Fortunately, Twitter allows me to do the same, so I should hopefully receive no further Twitter barrages from @SimonLoker.

2 comments

  1. Spot on, Paul, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    When you check someone’s Twitter page you can see what sort of person they are and also how many tweets they’ve made, how many they follow and how many follow them. Actually I ignore the followers because you get some people who’ve made one tweet and have 100 followers so there must be something else going on, bots perhaps?

    But the thing is you get a feel for the person. If they chat about this and that and are just a normal person then I’m happy. If they just post ads I block them. But if I get an unsolicited tweet which is clearly in response to on of mine (e.g. I mention an iPad and instantly get ads for iPads) then I report them.

    It’s interesting how often I check the profile of someone who starts following me and it says “account suspended for suspicious activity”. So good old Twitter is policing the system. We just need to block and report as appropriate to keep Twitter useful.

    Brian Smith, Stamford, UK

  2. Hi Paul,
    As you know this is very common practice amongst new users of twitter who mistake it for email and other direct marketing tools.
    Email has become severely damaged as a communications tool because of the abuse by spammers. However, users of twitter who try and spam get short shrift because they can be blocked. I’m sure Mr Loker is learning his lesson (his tweets suggest he’s not getting much success with this tactic!)
    What concerns me though, is that he thinks it is acceptable to behave in an insulting manner towards you because you offered him some friendly advice. That tells me (and everyone who saw it) all I need to know about him. I know who I’d prefer to follow!
    Su

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