TWAM! TWOT! Here comes the Tweet SPAM and Twitter Bots!

19 06 2011

As someone who uses a number of social media tools, I like Twitter’s ability to send automated posts when I have published a blog or updated my delicious library. But I sometimes wonder if my followers in Twitter actually want me to share this information, or whether my posts are Twitter spam (TWAM).  So I started to wonder where is the line on automating tweets and actually participating in the twittersphere? The other question that came to mind was what qualifies as TWAM or Twitter bots (TWOT) and what is savvy networking between Web 2.0 platforms?

There are three types of activity which could be described as TWAM. These are:

  1. Integrated tweets with Blogs and other Web 2.0 tools (Facebook, Delicious, Linkedin)
  2. Automated tweets with tools like Hootsuite and Tweetspinner
  3. Direct messaged and @username sales information from people you follow

1.) Using the ability to network Web 2.0 tools can be a very effective way of sharing information. However, in some instances, it can be annoying to your readers. For example, linking your Tweets to your Facebook account is not really useful for your Facebook friends as they are not participating in the conversation on Twitter. The exception is when you are linking to news and re-tweeting information that would interest your Facebook audience. The worst use of this function is when people reply to other tweets and this comes up as a Facebook status – as your Facebook audience would have no clue about the context of the conversation.

2.) In short, my opinion on the use of automated scheduled tweet tools like Tweetspinner and Hootsuite is that it is a poor way of engaging your audience. Many companies and government campaigns have used this sort of functionality to share information, but many have missed the mark. For example, to tweet when someone has uploaded a video to a Youtube channel is useless in itself, unless there is some information about the artist, title, theme, etc.

3.) The third activity is undeniably TWAM, as spammers are using Twitter as a tool by replying to your @username, which then causes the Tweets to show up in your timeline. When you are direct messaged the same way, then it is a bit more complicated – technically it is not TWAM, as only people you follow can message you directly. Simple solution for the direct messaging – unfollow! As for the unwanted @username tweets – report this as spam to Twitter.

Twitter provides the following definition of spam and how to manage it:

What is Spam?

Here are some common tactics that spam accounts often use:

  • Posting harmful links (including links to phishing or malware sites)
  • Aggressive following behavior (mass following and mass un-following for attention)
  • Abusing the @reply or @mention function to post unwanted messages to users
  • Creating multiple accounts (either manually or using automated tools)
  • Spamming trending topics to try to grab attention
  • Repeatedly posting duplicate updates
  • Posting links with unrelated tweets

How Do I Report Spam?
If you think you’ve found a spam profile, follow these steps to report it to us:

  1. Visit the Spam account’s profile
  2. Click the person icon. This brings up a drop-down Actions menu (see image below)
  3. Click on “Report @username for spam”

The use of Twitter as a means to create an interconnected social footprint is one of the tools strengths. And why not use it? Social media networking tools are meant to be networked.

John Woodman provides this analysis on what isn’t TWAM:

What Twitter spam is not. Twitter spam is not those twitter accounts that constantly plug a product, business opportunity or some kind of sales pitch that fills up your Twitter feed. Why isn’t this spam, because you’ve opted to follow them. You’ve given the permission to see what they have to offer. The rub is that many marketers will start their accounts out looking like just another Joe on Twitter, but then as soon as they get enough followers they (sic) account morphs into a full on marketer. So who you thought you were following turned into be something else.

Although a useful tool for improving website traffic and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the limitation of using Twitter as a form of publicity is the life of the tweet, as it is lost in the conversation. Given that the life of a retweet is an hour there is only a small window of opportunity to get your information out there. That said, sometimes tweets do go viral like this animation shows:

This video shows a sample visualization of 1.2 billion tweets with their retweets and replies over time. The spiral represents the time axis. Each blue dot is a tweet, with the size of the blue dot representing the number of retweets and replies to that tweet. Each green line shows a retweet to the original tweet and each orange line shows @reply to the original tweet.

Retweeting social media activity and other tweets are a couple of ways of participating in the conversation, but to be really effective tweets need to respond to other voices in the community. There is a balance between information sharing and TWAM and it really depends on your followers and the subjects they are interested in.

If you are using social networking between platforms to share research interests and publishing Twitter has rules and best practice for automating tweets

Other posts on TWAM:

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