One day a few weeks ago, I had a bunch of new Twitter followers within a few hours. They all fit a similar profile. They all were women with an attractive photo. All the names of these women were listed as first name_last name, and they all came from California. Their profile had a notable quote or said something along the lines of "Likes wearing collared shirts and drinking Diet Coke." And each of them had a celebrity focused tweets such as "Drew Barrymore Brings Saltine Crackers to Lunch" that seemed as if they were created by some random word generator.
Did I suddenly become popular from a bunch of west coast blonds with an interest in celebrity gossip?
Hardly. Welcome to the dark side of social media, where scammers and schemers abound. I follow a very simple model with my Twitter account. If someone follows me, I look to see if they are of interest. If they are not, I do not follow them back. There are thousands of Twitter trolls that are just looking to build up their follower list, not to mention the scammers and spammers that are looking for an angle to send their junk.
The Twitter trolls will follow everyone, and they expect you to follow them back. Almost 100 percent of the time, they will unfollow you within a few days. And Twitter has a blocking and reporting mechanism to take care of the spammers.
But this was different. I was the target of what appeared to be a coordinated effort, but to do what? None of the "women" had noticeable spam content in their tweets. They all seemed innocent enough, some were professional woman; some were students. So what was the intent of so many following me in a few hours?
I was going to block and report them all for spam, but instead I decided to see what would happen with these 2 dozen new followers.
Sure enough, about 10 days passed, and they all unfollowed me over the course of a day, in batches of 4-6 at a time. And in case you were wondering, I do not sit on my Twitter account all day. I use a few different tools that alert me when someone follows or unfollows me.
I just checked my unfollower utility, and saw my list of "women." After clicking on each profile, I uncovered the reason for this mass following. Each of these accounts had one tweet per minute, going back hours, maybe even days. Each account had tweets that used almost identical language with a URL:
This scheme is simple. The scammers follow thousands of Twitter accounts, and hope they will get followed back in turn. They use innocent tweets to appear as real people. They then wait a week or so until they flood each account with spam tweets all day. Imagine if I had followed all these bogus accounts? I could have potentially had thousands of spam tweets in my timeline every hour, effectively making Twitter useless as an information sharing tool.
What I noticed is that each of these fake Twitter accounts had several thousand followers apiece, meaning that in their desire to build up their list, people will follow back anyone without due diligence.
Here at CA Technologies, not only have we have embraced Twitter and social media as a way to share information and stay connected to our customers and partners, we have also infused it within our solutions. For example, our CA Service Desk Manager and CA Open Space solutions enable an Improved user experience through access to a community of subject matter experts. This helps provide the most appropriate level of support to the right user at the right time, and also helps reduce high costs of service delivery.
So by all means, you should leverage the power of social media too.
Just beware when a bunch of California women who tweet about celebrities show an interest in you.
And to learn more about social media and Service Management, be sure to view the recorded webcast "A Social Media Case Study in It Service Management" featuring industry visionaries, Charlie Betz, Research Director, EMA, and CA Technologies customer Bill Riley, Head of North American Marketing, Stefanini IT Solutions (formerly TechTeam Global). This webcast focuses on how leveraging social media within a service desk management framework can provide another support channel for customers to resolve IT issues eliminating the single-threaded approach to technical support.
Darth Vader image from Wikipedia site.