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What is and isn’t spam on Twitter: Part 1
There has been discussion amongst our 12 Days of Twitter delegates recently as to what they think constitutes spam on Twitter, which is often a difficult question to give a definitive answer to.
There are particular actions on Twitter that can easily be determined as spam; however there are also certain types of behaviour that are a little more subjective. So in this two-part blog series I’m going to break down the different elements to help you more easily determine what types of activity on Twitter are spammy and what activity may just be par for the course!
What is spam on Twitter?
These are the actions on Twitter that are definitely considered spam by Twitter itself and the Twitter community. They include actions that are unsolicited, that users haven’t chosen to happen or instigated themselves.
An @mention with an unexplained or unrelated link
Have you ever received unexplained @mentions, often immediately after you’ve sent a tweet? Often you will receive @ mentions with just a link that more than likely have no relation to anything you have tweeted about. They often appear from spammy accounts that tweet the same link at many different users.
You may also receive @mentions that feature links in relation to getting more followers like the ones below.
Direct Messages with unexplained links
Similarly, if you receive a direct message from a user with a link with no explanation, this is also spam. It is more than likely that some of these accounts will have been hacked and may be unaware that they are sending these Direct Messages and that their accounts have been hacked.
So the best thing to do is to have a look at the profile of the user to see if they have a legitimate, genuine Twitter presence. If you get one of these messages, never click on the link (or it will send the same spam message to your followers). If it has come from someone you know on Twitter, send them a DM to say you think they’ve been hacked and recommend that they change their password.
Mass following and unfollowing of accounts
Twitter does not like you to follow and/or unfollow large amounts of users on mass. You may notice that once you follow 2,000 users on Twitter you will not be able to follow anymore until you have as many followers, so you will need to unfollow users to ensure you have at least a 1:1 ratio.
Twitter says that it takes into account whether your behaviour is considered spamming if ‘you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time’ and/or if you’ve ‘followed and unfollowed people in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive follower churn)’
You may notice that users will include popular and often trending topics on Twitter, whether they be phrases or hashtags in order to bring attention to their tweets when people search on these phrases, or see them in the trending topics. This is a common example of Twitter bad practice that even major brands have been found guilty of which damaged their brand reputation online.
Trending Topic hashtag hijacking by major brands
Trending Topic hashtag hijacking by spam accounts
These are some of the main types of spam activity you will see on Twitter, however there are other types of activities Twitter also class as spam, including username squatting and the sale of followers. For a full list have a look at The Twitter Rules.
In the next on our blog series on spam we will look at other types of activity on Twitter that can be considered as spam in What is and isn’t spam on Twitter Part 2!