How to pick out Twitter bots from Twitter newbies

How to pick out Twitter bots from Twitter newbiesBy Paula Wethington @WethingtonPaula

If you follow back too fast on Twitter, or rely too much on automated searches when seeking out your fan base, you might very well be missing the newest and most likely fans to follow you back while following more spammers than you intended.

This is why I go through a pretty detailed process when sifting out bots from real people.

I don’t just look at the photo, the location line or the profile description. I look over the entire profile, about three to four tweets and sometimes also who they are following.

Here 10 clues that can lead you in the right direction:

  1. Does the name, profile, location, image and cover make sense as a whole package? If you have a good understanding of your target audience, you’ll know whether this adds up. I’ve seen some laughingly chaotic combinations on spambot accounts claiming to be from nearby towns.
  2. Who is this person following? If the account is following a lot of random celebrity accounts and I have no other clues that this is a real person, I pass. A real person in my target demo is probably following real people I already follow or know about.
  3. Are they posting clickbait headlines from a URL you don’t know? Yes, some legit Twitters autofeed blog content and headlines either as their sole content or to fill in the gaps throughout the day. But clickbait titles give a clue as to what you’ll find on those sites.
  4. Is the content Not Safe For Work? Block those accounts immediately; and if you are so inclined, report and then block.
  5. Does the cover art promote buying followers? Using the cover art and profile link to send people to a spammy website has been quite a popular tactic. It doesn’t matter a whole lot what content is posted; they’re trying to get you to click on the link in profile.
  6. Does the content match the hashtag they are using? It’s a popular spammer strategy to hashtag their way into an unrelated trending topic. That being said, the tactic is against the Twitter Rules.
  7. Are they following way more people than they follow back? I’m not worried about a 10 or 20 percent difference because it’s rather easy for small or growing accounts to skew off balance. I’m talking about a 50 or more percent lag in people who follow back.
  8. Are they following way fewer people than they follow back? This is the other extreme; and is sometimes a sign of a quick turnaround “follow / unfollow” strategy. There are very few accounts where I will accept a small percentage of follow backs on Twitter as a legitimate approach.
  9. Does the account profile include favorites and lists? Not everyone uses these features; and newbies or inactive people are less likely to understand them. But someone who has set up those features is more likely to be a real Twitter user than a spambot.
  10. If this is a business or organization, can you find their website independently to check the account name? Most, although not all, organizations include links to their official social media on their websites. This bit of research can help you verify the authenticity of a particular account in the absence of a verified check. And unfortunately, it’s been harder than some brand and business users would like to get that verified check.

Would you like more Twitter tips? Check out my Pinterest board on that topic!

This post was made March 18, 2017; and updated May 19, 2017.

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Author: Paula Wethington

Paula has over 10 years experience working in a variety of digital and social media formats on behalf of a newsroom; and over 25 years total working as a reporter at newspapers in Ohio and Michigan.

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