The mystery behind FOLLOW and UNFOLLOW on Twitter revealed
It looks like the cat is out of the bag today. If you live and breathe Twitter like I do you probably saw that the accounts: @PoliticalUpdate, @ThreeOclockPot and @twtr_us were suspended. It seems these accounts were suspended possibly due to a blog post by Louis Gray which you can read here, titled “The Newest Annoyance on Twitter: Follow and Refollow Spam.”
While Mr. Gray did an awesome job at providing some excellent data proving these accounts were run by robots (programming scripts) that seemed to follow and unfollow him at the same time every day, he sort of missed the boat on why this is happening.
Quoted from Mr. Gray’s blog:
So what is the benefit of such a clearly robotic practice? Is the idea that the follow notifications are a form of advertising, giving me a chance to see their name more than once, and increasing the times I’ll go to check out their Twitter page? Do they also think we’re naive enough to not notice?
No, these robots, accounts or scripts could care less whether a specific account notices them or not. They aren’t excited you’re getting email notifications and they don’t hope you check out their Twitter page, blog or whatever their promoting.
These accounts are strictly after eyeballs. Let me explain… If you take a look at the Twitter Top 1,000 list at TwitterHolic.com you would have noticed these accounts at the top of most of the movers and shakers Followers list. Mr. Gray was correct that this is a form of advertising. You can see Mr. Gray’s current Twitter ranking on Twitterholic here:
Now really, this isn’t the greatest example of trying to explain this but you can see Mr. Gray is ranked #956 out of the Top 1,000 on Twitter as of March 8th, 2009. A better example is to look at some people in the Top 100. If someone were to FOLLOW and UNFOLLOW all of the Top 1,000 multiple times a day, just like the banned accounts mentioned above did, they would find themselves at the top of the Twitter accounts Follower list.
Let’s try this out so you understand what I’m talking about. I’m going to go and follow the #1 ranked Twitter user http://twitter.com/cnnbrk, they have 421,913 followers. As soon as I follow them I’m the user at the top of the list. See the pretty graphic I’ve included.
Do you get it yet? Some of you might not, so let’s put it this way. Let’s compare Twitter accounts to real estate. The Twitter accounts with the most followers are the most prime real esate because those accounts are getting the most eyeballs and activity. So if you can put your name in front of 20 users (the amount of followers per page) several times a day, then these robot accounts have done their job.
Now take these robot accounts and multiply this example by all Top 1,000 Twitter accounts and you have 20,000 potential views on each account until it gets pushed off of the first follower page of each account.
Essentially what you have is free advertising and promotion. It’s similar to going over to Google Adwords and buying a sponsored placement for the keyword, “Twitter” and every time someone searches for Twitter on Google they see your account. Obviously, Google charges per click, so it’s a MUCH better deal to just go and FOLLOW and UNFOLLOW all high profile accounts and wallah, FREE Advertising for your Twitter account.
Now another reason someone might do this is to hit their target market. If you’re in the news business, you would target all major Twitter news accounts, like CNN Breaking and be at the top of their follower list since that is your targeted demographic. If you’re an up and coming rapper, it might be smart to be at the top of @iamdiddy’s Twitter Follower list. (As a side note: I absolutely love Sean Jean clothing, founder is @iamdiddy)
Anyway, I hope that explains the “mystery” behind this practice. I don’t particularly see anything wrong with this practice as long as it’s performed by addicted and caffeinated humans. However, the accounts mentioned above were suspended because they had an automated system doing the dirty deed for them at the same time every day, multiples times.
Let me know if you have any question by either leaving a comment here on the blog or dropping me a DM or @ message on Twitter over @webaddict.
Peace, Love and Chicken Grease,
“The mystery behind FOLLOW and UNFOLLOW on Twitter revealed http://cli.gs/nX5hEV #Twitter #Follow #Unfollow”
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