It was a sunny grey morning in Manchester, the sun was behind the moon, it was raining, the working day had started and the PushON Twitter account had gained over 200 followers and … wait, what‽ The PushON account has gained over 200 followers in the space of a night? Considering the account typically gains 20 new followers a week, that simply cannot be right. As popular as we are, an increase in following of that magnitude in such a short period of time definitely did not add up.
After some quick Sherlock-style investigation by the PushON social team, we deduced that @PushONltd was being hit by hundreds of spam accounts. Throughout the week we monitored our account and watched as the same account under different names and questionable profile pictures followed us. Each account promotes the same link and we quickly realised that we were in the midst of a curious case of Twitter follower spam.
Using an array of social tools we soon established that this was no coincidence and in fact these accounts appeared to be coming from the same source. As you can see, they are all from the same location, they follow the similar number of account, joined Twitter at the same time and tweet the same amount. But the plot thickens. Even as this post is produced, our following steadily grows with more spam. Below shows a snippet from Twitonomy of our most recent followers
We then proceeded to observe their following patterns and it appears all of these accounts are following the same accounts over and over again. Varying from @Econsultancy to @sengineland to @Inboundorg and of course, @PushONltd, we are all continuous victims of the attack, and the attacker appears to be targeting digital marketing accounts.
Looking into each of the fake accounts we’ve noticed that each exclusively shares content from the site Scoop.it. As a platform which allows users to upload and easily share their content it’s likely that this spam attack has been set up to gain cheap visits from digital types. Though for a website that’s been around since November 2011 with fairly reasonable growth it’s a bit of a lazy tactic to help promote themselves – that is, we should add, assuming scoop.it is in any way associated with the spam, which it might not be.
We continue to update on SocialAudit and we watch in dismay as our fake followers number increases.
We’d all love the opportunity to have a large following on Twitter, but we need to point out how damaging it is to acquire fake and spam followers. You should never attempt to increase your following by buying followers or encouraging spam. All you will gain is a dent in your credibility.
“This approach to aggressively marketing a website is nothing new, whilst it has hints of a guerrilla campaign it is certainly nothing but spam. Most analytics accounts will have seen an influx of referral traffic from Semalt over the past year, with others such as ‘buttons for website’ also creeping in. In the case of the first site mentioned, their constant spam crawling has obviously gained them a lot of traffic from inquisitive webmasters. However, given that they claim to be an SEO company there has been a fair bit of backlash from understandably disgruntled online marketers. Thankfully it’s easy to exclude these visits in analytics by ticking this handy box in the admin settings; equally you can set up a filter against the specific domains or block them in the ‘referral exclusion list’.
When it comes to social there is no such filter, especially on an open platform like Twitter. As it appears that a few hundred of our comrades have also been hit with these spam accounts the only action we might be able to take is to block and report each.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on their activity anyway; with a bit of digging we might find some more answers or help to oust them.”
Jonny Pennington, Marketing Team Leader