Twitter Spam (Photo: Juanlarzabal on Flickr)
The last couple of weeks a mixture of work, family obligations and a cold that wouldn’t end have kept me occupied, but now I’m finally back on my feet and I’d like to share two tools with you that I have recently used to remove fake accounts from a client’s Twitter-followers: Manageflitter and Twitblock.
How do you identify spam/fake accounts?
There are number of services that help you clean up your follower list. To identify spammers and fake accounts, they normally use a number of criteria that they weigh differently. Among the most common criteria are:
- Standard-avatar (egg) or photo?
- If there is a photo: Is this a photo that has been used by many other accounts?
- Number of tweets
- Time of last tweet
- Has the bio been filled out?
- Has the location-field been filled out?
- Does the account follow much more people than are following it back?
- Is the account only broadcasting information or engaged in conversations?
Based on these criteria, the different services calculate a score from 0 – 100 %, describing how likely they think it is that this account is a spammer or fake.
Do you need to remove spammers?
Twitblock is very clear on why a user profile has triggered the spam filter (click to enlarge)
As long as you are not following them back, spammers and fake accounts can’t really do you much harm. However it can be a little bit embarrassing when services like http://fakers.statuspeople.com/ show that a significant portion of your followers are fake. More importantly, it distorts the perception of how many people you can reach through your Twitter account. And it’s not fun to explain to your management: “Yes, we have 50,000 followers. But only 30,000 of these are real!” So it can make sense to periodically clean up your account and remove the obvious spammers.
Spammers and fake accounts can be a real issue if you are automatically following users back or aren’t paying attention to whom you follow. But hopefully you are not doing that anyhow. Keeping in mind that the people you choose to follow say something about you, NGOs and non-profits should be wary of the company they keep.
Twitblock or Manageflitter?
If you are managing a comparatively small account with no more than 3,000 followers, then Twitblock is probably your best choice. Twitblock is free and I really like that it is very transparent about how it calculates the score. Personally, I find that the best criteria for spam is whether a profile image has been used on many other accounts and with Twitblock you can easily see where that is the case. Unfortunately, Twitblock has a limit of 3,000 followers it looks at.
Manageflitter’s strength is that you can bulk-block large numbers of profiles.
Manageflitter (affiliate link) on the other hand can handle large accounts. The flipside of this is that it is not free (at least not if you want to force people off you followers list), however the 12 USD price tag is hardly prohibitive. One of the best things about Manageflitter is that you can block a large number of followers simultaneously. While most other services ask you to select users that you want to block one at a time, Manageflitter allows you to select 100 users at a time and force them of your follower list. If you want to block thousands of fake accounts, then this make a real difference. Obviously such a bulk approach bears the risk that you also accidentally block legitimate users. And indeed, false positives are an issue. However I found that Manageflitter is fairly accurate for spam scores in the 80 – 100 % range.