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Twitter: a numbers game for kudos and scamming

Posted by on June 21, 2015.

It’s a shame that Twitter has been reduced to a numbers game: “Oh, look how many followers I’ve got;” or “See, I have many more followers than followings.” At its best it’s just a variation of the age-old macho game of ‘my big red Porsche is bigger than your big red Porsche’. But at its worst it’s ground-laying for future scams.

GC1We’re not going to differentiate in detail – we’re just going to look at the absurdity of it all.

Let’s start with Gilberte Collins. A couple of days ago he-she-or-it followed me (see the image on the right taken from a TweetDeck column). At the time, the account was following 712, and had 516 followers from just 8 tweets (see below). How do you get that many followers from just 8 tweets?


GC3To make things worse, those 8 tweets were all retweets of Lydia Moore – and Lydia Moore is is just Gilberte Collins writ large. This he-she-or-it also has only 8 tweets (the very same 8 tweets); but has amassed 3,680 followers.


LM1But back to Gilberte Collins. I didn’t follow back – and Lo! I have been unfollowed in retaliation. In fact, it probably wasn’t retaliation, simply part of the numbers game. To retain the attractiveness of the account, there must be more following than followed – and the account had become out of kilter.

Everyone who didn’t follow back had to go. When I checked today, the number of followers had risen slightly to 531, while the number of followings had been drastically pruned back to just 26.



This is not the work of a human being. This is the work of a bot, gathering gullible followers, either to sell on to D-list celebrities desperate to appear more popular than they are; or for Direct Message scamming. Either way, if you followed Gilberte Collins or Lydia Moore or any other incredibly popular account that has only generated less than 10 tweets, just be careful of offers that come via Direct Messages.

But of course not every not-follow-reaper is out to scam you. Apart from scams, the other driver is simply kudos. When I was 8 I wanted more marbles than my friends. It’s the same thing.

A couple of days ago I was followed by Maria Cristine. Maria may or may not have a commission arrangement based on how many punters her tweets drive to a particular website figuring in a high percentage of her tweets.



I won’t be followed by Maria for long – notice the third tweet? I’m on notice!

But my real pet peeve is the list-gatherer. Lists are used to make your displayed figures look better. The most difficult part is to dream up compelling list titles: things like ‘top journalists’, ‘great authors’, or ‘free thinkers’ are some of the ones that have been thrown my way. Your Twitter account is added to a relevant list (I find ‘authors to die for’ particularly compelling). The target (that is, you) is then informed by Twitter that ‘New WaveAge Publishing’ has added you to ‘authors to follow’ – and you feel so good that you simply follow back automatically. Your ‘follow’ appears among New WaveAge’s ‘followers’, but your list entry does not appear among its ‘following’ figures. It’s a way of boosting ‘followers’ without any visible increase in ‘following’.

And as for the lists themselves, you’ll probably find that New WaveAge has dozens of lists and each one contains many thousands of names.

Not all lists are cons, and not all follows are scams. But a lot of them are. Don’t be taken in. Just repeat after me, “I am not a number, I am a free man.” I think I’ll start a list of ‘free men’.

Within minutes of publishing this post I was added to another list: Founders, CEO’s & Winners (that aberrant apostrophe is not mine!). It sounds good doesn’t it It sounds like I’ve finally arrived — finally been noticed. And when I looked at the list-maker’s website, the ‘Real Marsha Wright’, I began to think, this is it, I’ve been spotted by one of industry’s movers and shakers.

Dream on. Marsha has built 170 lists. Forty-three are called ‘Founders, CEO’s & Winners’. They all seem to have more than 4500 members. So, I have been spotted and lumped in with, approximately, 200,000 other founders, CEOs and winners. Gee, thanks Marsha.

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