Twitter Spammers Are Stealing Your Tweets

Twitter, followers, tweets, spam, fake, accounts

Never tastes as good as you hope it will…

With each technology that advances our culture, there is the inevitable down side. With the telephone came bad telemarketing and phone scams, with the television came crappy infomercials (and in my opinion, reality TV), and with the internet came spam. Each of these has advanced in their own way, and the typical scheme has been to sell you something. Twitter spam is becoming it’s own beast and seems to serve multiple functions. Some are pretty obvious, like the:

“Hey @robzie81, how would you like 1,000 followers in 5 minutes? Click here —> http://bit.ly/clickforgarbage”

Or one of my recent favorites:

“@robzie81 Someone is spreading vicious rumors about you http://bit.ly/clickitstupid”

These ones get the delete pretty quickly, but there are some that I’ve seen becoming pervasive in the Twittersphere that are a different breed. They’re Twitter accounts, obviously made by people who’s first language is not English, with stock images as their avatar and occasionally very poorly written bios. These accounts typically have a handful of followers, likely from their own circle, pretty legit sounding names, and the content of the tweets is typically flush with keywords. Some are copy/pasted from other users’ tweets, with any @ references removed and thus making them make no sense, like:

“Can’t wait for my training session with #itsbeentoolong”

Something seems out of place there, doesn’t it? I also come across some other copy/pasted versions that seem legit at first, until you see them show up 30 times in a search, word for word. Examples:

“Dear shaving commercials, stop shaving hairless legs. If you want impress us, please shave a gorilla.”
“I’m so hungry! “Didn’t you just eat?” “Yeah… So?””
“My poor school :( I have lost everything in my classroom. Floods up to my waist took over everything. God help us. :(“
“I wasn’t that drunk ‘Dude, you were in my closet yelling “where the heck is narnia”‘

There are some tweets that are poorly written, but are obviously targeted to show up in business searches. Keywords for everything from spas and salons, gyms and restaurants are planted in tweets like the below:

“It’s my lucky day..I buy new bikini with 50% off :)”
“hello friends…,is there anyone ever try acai berry, i heard it’s good for diet and health”
“I am thinking about getting a 1971 Ford Pinto for a new car”
“Oh no, my dog pee on my pillow again…twice this week grrr…”
“On early call out for a military exercise, one of my colleagues used this excuse: I had to round up a group of Giraffes on the motorway (…”

Twitter, tweet, business, keywords, spam

Hm. Do we see a trend developing in this search stream?

My guess is that these accounts directly relate to the first example I mentioned: Paid Twitter followers. This then leads me to my final point, and please excuse my use of all caps, but: NEVER PAY FOR TWITTER FOLLOWERS. The likelihood that your account will be followed by the garbage accounts above is pretty high, and they will do nothing for you. Organically building your Twitter presence will get you real followers (and the occasional bot that will follow you, but what can you do?) and will create a community of conversation that will actually be useful to you. Take the time to put out interesting, relevant content, follow other people and businesses that you find interesting and they will often return the favor if they find your content worthwhile.

What other kind of Twitter spam have you seen, besides the notorious bikini-clad porn accounts? Any other creative things you’ve seen? Have any of you bought into the ‘pay for followers’ scheme already, and if so, what kind of followers did you see?

Let me know below with your comments. Also, be sure to check out some of the best/worst REAL Twitter users have to offer by checking out my weekly post, Found Tweet Friday.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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Interview with Sociabell CEO Yoni Ram

Social search is garnering quite a bit of hype now that Google is further integrating Google+ into every aspect of the search engine, and with Microsoft and FUSE Labs gaining traction on their social + search experiment So.cl. In light of this, I decided to revisit Sociabell, the social search app for Facebook that allows you to search all networks and search engines directly from Facebook’s search bar. Sociabell’s CEO, Yoni Ram, was kind enough to spend some time answering some interview questions for me about Sociabell.

Sociabell social search app for Facebook

  • What inspired you to start Sociabell? 

During a surf trip in Costa Rica, I arrived at an Internet Café. As always, I opened my Facebook account to get updated and chat with my friends. I also had to search for a place to stay, and find some local restaurants, bars, surf spots, etc. I constantly moved back and forth between Facebook, Google, and other sites. It was time consuming. The clock on the Internet Café kept ticking, and I felt that there must be a better way for Facebook users to search the web. If Facebook is my “home base”, the website that is always open, and it already has a search box, why can’t I search Google, YouTube, and more directly from there?

In the development process we came up with our second main feature: Social Search – with one click you can share your search query from Facebook search box to the News Feed, and let your friends help you find what you’re searching for. It can be “a good restaurant”, “a boutique Hotel in NY”, or “an idea for a birthday gift”. We discovered that people are also using the Social Search to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions, for example: “Dan is searching for peace and love” or “Alice is searching for someone to stop Joseph Kony!”.

  • The integration we’re seeing from Google+ and Microsoft is a strong indication that social + search is gaining serious traction. What are you doing to maintain relevancy and differentiate Sociabell?

While Google and Microsoft start to offer different combinations of social and search, our goal is to provide a better search experience for Facebook users, specifically for those who see Facebook as their “home base”. In the future, when Facebook rolls out their new search, we will continue to develop Sociabell to offer Facebook users an enhanced search experience. Our unique position – being between the two giants Facebook and Google, lets us provide Facebook users with capabilities that Facebook is not likely to offer (e.g. searching Google and YouTube directly from Facebook’s search box). As one of our users wrote us: “Finally, one search box that does it all!”.

  • What plans do you have for improvements to functionality and design of Sociabell? What can we expect to see next?

As we see so far, we are really onto something. Our users love Sociabell and get pretty addicted to it. We receive very positive feedback, with many ideas and requests for new features. We are constantly exploring new ways to evolve our product, and our current focus is on allowing customization and personalization of the search panel.

It sounds like Sociabell has a respectable leader heading it in the right direction to handle the current trend in social media. I can’t wait to see the personalization options that Mr. Ram mentions. Facebook has been almost rapid-firing new features lately, so we’ll see where and when they finally land on a social search option to compete with the likes of Google and Microsoft. Perhaps Sociabell will receive a call from Facebook accountants offering to buy their already well-integrated app and save Facebook the development time.

If you haven’t already added Sociabell to your Facebook apps, it’s definitely worth it. It’s free, and they respect your privacy (a rare aspect in the social and search world these days). Thanks for reading, and special thanks to Mr. Yoni Ram for participating in this interview. Check out this video, highlighting Sociabell’s functionality. Now go get your social on!

Can’t Keep Up? Which New Social Networks to Consider or Ignore (Part 1)

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve begun dabbling in other social networks, just to see what kind of things are popping up now that Facebook had its less-than-stellar IPO. Although obviously Facebook will be hanging around for quite a while, there are definitely some others outside the top 5 (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest) that may be worth noting. A couple I’ve been invited to as Klout perks (and I’m a sucker for free stuff and exclusive access) and a couple are already establishing themselves well. Let’s take a look.

Image courtesy of So.cl

So.cl (pronounced “social”) is an experiment in social search from Microsoft and FUSE Labs. It has the appearance of a social network (most closely resembling Google+) but is more of a piggy-back network. So.cl gives up some functionality that other big social networks have, touting in its FAQs that it is an experiment on the fusion of social and search. In their words So.cl “Let’s you use search to express and share ideas though beautiful story collages.” Here’s the setup.

  • You have a feed that you can filter by Everyone, People I Follow, My Interests (which you pick upon setup), Conversations (between you and other So.cl users) and your own posts. You have the option to like posts (using the “:)” emoticon button), “riff” on a post (add your own visual reaction via an image that you search for), comment or share. So far, clicking the like button doesn’t seem to undo the function, so be careful that you’re sure you like a post.
  • So.cl has a function called “video parties” that I initially expected to be similar to Google+ Hangouts. Turns out, you can join one and add videos for others to watch (typically revolving around a theme). It ends up becoming almost a crowdsourced MTV (y’know, since MTV doesn’t actually show music videos anymore). This function is pretty cool. You could start a party of 80′s hair metal and get a group of people who love big hair rock to all add videos. Anyone can join (there doesn’t seem to be a private setting, so you may have to watch for eventual trolls to ruin the fun). You can even keep the videos playing in the rightmost column of your page while you continue to work away, creating background music for you while still allowing you to view the video without being stuck in a chat room-like setting.
  • You search (using Bing) for terms and post updates all in the same box. This is not by accident. Your searches are completely public (unless you click the button to the right of your search term box, thus locking it). The reason for this is that your searches are meant to become visual representations on your post so others can see. So.cl display search results from the network, from people you follow, and from general internet results, much like Sociabell does for Facebook. You can also opt to make So.cl your default search in your browser so that you can “benefit” from So.cl (as the site claims). People, please be careful with this. I already called out a guy who searched for popular adult film star Alexis Texas, and his search (along with numerous pictures of her abundant derrière) showed up as a headline on the top of my feed, and likely many others’ as well. He promptly deleted the search term post from his profile after I commented. Embarrassing.
  • The posting mechanism is very similar to Google+ in that you add links separately from your post text, and you have the option to go back and edit your post after it goes live. Just like in Google+, there is an arrow button to the right of your post that allows you options to edit, delete, acquire embed code and translate.
  • Directly from the homepage, there is an Applet button that you can drag to your browser’s bookmarks bar, which will allow you to post to your So.cl profile from any website you find interesting. Also, similar to other networks, you can @tag people you follow in posts and comments.
  •  In the FAQs, So.cl makes it abundantly clear that all activity is meant to be VERY PUBLIC. There is no illusion of privacy associated with So.cl and you should proceed as such. Whereas this may not be the place to record your deepest, darkest meditations, I can see brands taking full advantage of this soon. So.cl could be to Bing what Google+ is to Google. I have yet to find any info on whether you’re more likely to show up in search results from Bing.com, but So.cl users that are searching for things relative to your business may find you as a resource to answer their questions within the social network.

The social network seems to be very popular with users outside of the U.S. Keep this in mind if you use it, as the time frames when it is going to be most active may be slightly skewed to your own. I think So.cl has potential to garner many more users, as it is already off to a strong start, and seems almost poised in direct opposition with Google+ (you use your Facebook or Windows Live login to set up your account). I’ve talked to some users who have found interesting uses for the network. One guy named Rodrigo Viana actually managed to get help on his homework! He used the network to crowd source tutoring. How’s that for a positive use of social networking? Although it is specifically mentioned that So.cl is not meant to replace other social networks, I have a feeling that there should be a parenthetical addition adding (yet) to that clause.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I discuss another interesting network to look at, and one not to even bother with.

Now go get your social on!

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Could Sociabell be Facebook’s Google+ Killer?

By now you’ve certainly heard about Google’s increasing involvement of Google+ into search.  You may have also heard of the social + search experiment from Microsoft and FUSE Labs called So.cl. Guy Kawasaki dedicates a chapter to social search functionality in Google+  in his book “What the Plus?” (If you haven’t bought this ebook yet, you seriously must. Even if you think you know Google+, Guy knows it better than you. And it’s $3.). Combining the realms of social networking and search is the next evolution in the way we interact online. The most important part of this feature is that you remain engaged with the your social network while searching. Facebook’s search function is severely lacking in this way.

Enter: Sociabell. I found out about Sociabell in one of Social Media Examiner’s This Week In Social Media columns.

Sociabell’s web page highlights its interconnectivity to all things social

Sociabell is a browser add-on for Facebook users who use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. The completely free add-on turns Facebook’s search bar into a social search. When you type a query into the search bar, you will see the standard drop down options that you get from Facebook: people you are friends with, pages you ‘Like’, relevant apps and an option to see more results. What Sociabell does is add another box to the right of Facebook’s standard options and allows you to jump right to other social networks: Twitter,  Craigslist, Google, Yahoo, Bing, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon and Google recommended results (but notice, no Google+). You also have the option to share your search with your friends, which creates a post and allows them to answer your question or recommend a site to find what you’re looking for. When you click on one of the above mentioned social outlets, the results automatically open in another tab, thus allowing you to maintain your presence on Facebook. Although, if you’re like me, you would normally just open another tab to Google something anyway, but allowing you to do it through Facebook’s user interface means you are less likely to navigate away. Sociabell states on its page that the add-on collects no personal data, but it’s not clear to me whether your search through Facebook’s search bar is still being tracked by Facebook. My guess is yes.

This is what Sociabell turns your Facebook search bar into

Sociabell is not currently supported on mobile and the Safari add-on is in the works. Friends only see what you are searching for if you share you search, so you don’t have to worry about Sociabell throwing under the search engine bus. If Google+ is clinging to the social search function as one of their big selling points over Facebook, then this is something that deserves their attention. Facebook should also take notice of Sociabell, since they’re in the “buying up useful things” mode of thinking anyway. The biggest concern that the developers at Sociabell have is Facebook taking their idea and actually finding a way to integrate it into the functionality of Facebook itself. As of right now, this browser add-on is pretty slick, and if I’m Google+, I’ve got my eye on what’s going on here.

Have you heard of Sociabell? Are you using it? Does the idea of being able to search all of your networks from Facebook appeal to you? Chime in below!

Now go get your social on!