Pop music affectionados of the year 2000 will no doubt remember Eminem’s lead single, “Slim Shady,” on which the colorful rapper challenges all those frauds out there with:
I’m Slim Shady, yes I’m the real Shady
All you other Slim Shadys are just imitating.
So won’t the real Slim Shady please stand up,
Please stand up. Please stand up?
In the world of Twitter, before you follow someone, you need to be like Eminem and call out the “Spam Shadys” who are just imitating. Distinguishing the real deals from the frauds can be tricky, though. Spam Shadys are a sneaky bunch, and by blindly following them, you can create some serious problems:
- Your website can be attacked by malicious viruses.
- Your Twitter account flagged and possibly shut down.
- You can infect your Twitter followers, thus eroding their trust in you.
- Your clients and potential customers will likely not follow you if they notice you’re following Spam Shady profiles.
So, how do you recognize the real Slim Shady from Spam Shady? Here are 10 items you should look at first:
- Profile Picture: Default Twitter avatars and provocatively posed girls are dead giveaways as are cheesy product pics. Also, check out the Twitter background. Standard backgrounds are still common, but don’t assume custom versions mean they’re legit. If it looks like an infomercial ad, it probably is.
- Follow to Follower Ratio: Unless they’re Ashton Kutcher, profiles following relatively few to none others, but with 35,000 followers are usually trying to push something on you that you don’t want. Conversely, if someone is following 35,000 people, yet has a handful of followers (or less), there’s a high chance it’s not legit. Also, be cautious of profiles with more than 500 people and a one-to-one follow/following ratio; they could be using an auto-follow feature, opening them up to Spam Shady accounts that could affect you too. An average following to follower ratio should be around 1:3 and 2:3.
- Listed: If someone has a large following, but they’re only listed a few times or not at all, that’s a red flag. Even if it’s legit, not being listed means no one derives much value from that profile, and you probably won’t either.
- Mutual Follows: Still unsure? Look at who you mutually follow. Send one of those people a DM and ask for a reference. If it turns out to be Spam Shady, now you’re upping your Twitter cred by helping a friend out too.
- Their Tweets: If all of their tweets mention something about getting a deal on an iPad, that’s a gimme. Also, check the date of their last tweet; if it’s been a while, the account may have been shut down.
- Engagement: A good differentiator is noticing whether or not there’s a lot of @ replies and re-tweets. Engaging with others on Twitter is the best way to know if a person is keeping it real.
- Bios: Gurus, ninjas, and rock stars roam Twitter like trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Getting you to follow them is the treat, and their favorite trick is to disguise themselves as experts, particularly in areas like real estate, diets, exercise, and ironically, web marketing. If you want to follow an industry expert, go with a known name or at least someone with a verified account.
- Website: If someone doesn’t list a website, or at least additional contact information, that’s odd to me. If they do include a website, go there. I’ve been burned by more than one Spam Shady who seemed cool, but then their website was a front for selling Canadian pharmaceuticals.
- Similar Interests: Click on the “Similar to” link. Do the listed recommendations match up to the interests on the profile in question? Or do they look like a Spam Shady police line-up?
- Auto DM: An auto DM sent to a new follower has a place in certain situations. Otherwise, if you get a message that reads, “Hey thanks for the follow. I look forward to your tweets. You can also follow me here [link],” then they’re not really looking forward to your tweets.
Any one, or a combination of the above, will expose the Spam Shadys along with those you may already be following. It may take a while, but considering the consequences, it’s worth it to scrub the scrubs with these clues in mind.
While you’re at it, find out who’s not following you any more by registering your Twitter account with services such as Friend or Follow, Who.Unfollowed.Me, or JustUnfollow. Some of these services offer a feature that sends you a weekly email with the latest round of people who stopped following you.
If Twitter spam is a serious, recurring issue for you, change your password regularly, and notify the Twitter help team of the problem. Also, there are services like TrueTwit you can register for that filter out fakes by sending a DM to new followers and asking them to click a verification link. Be conscious of #10, though, and use the setting that allows you to customize a personal message explaining the DM.
As a final note, just as you’re calling out all those Spam Shadys in the Twitter-hood, you don’t want to be mistaken for one too; so make sure no one can call you out using this same list. Be the real Slim Shady, not all those other Spam Shadys just imitating.
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