Saturday, August 6, 2011

Twitter Follow/Unfollow Game

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Awhile back I wrote about how I disliked the fact that some people would follow me on Twitter and then unfollow when I didn't follow back. Sometimes that's because they are looking for people who are willing to interact and not following back makes two way communication more difficult. I can understand that motivation but I think it's only true in a minority of cases.

I've discovered something worse though. Apparently some people have been told that to be true Twitter superstars you have a positive ratio of followers to follows. So what do superficial people who just want to look good without actually earning it do? They follow a bunch of people, wait a couple of days for the inevitable follow backs and then unfollow all of those people. Then they repeat the process.

Yes, this does annoy me. 

Here's a bit of philosophy. When you game a system you destroy that system. I'm not stupid, I know that human beings do this kind of thing and that is  not going to change even if there is a good chance they'll have reason to regret going down this road later.

Lets expand on that last point, social network influence sites are increasingly popular and powerful. I've talked about Klout and PeerIndex before and they'll continue to come up in the future. The value of these sites is in assigning some sort of number to a particular individuals influence. People who try to game the system to inflate their score undermine the credibility of the score. If that happens it undermines the credibility of the companies assigning those scores as well and you can be sure they'll take that personally and come up with ways to detect and account for the shenanigans. It's not even that hard to do in this case. For example, Klout seems to have no problem scanning all of Twitter every day. All they have to do is look at who you're following today, who you've followed in the past and how long you follow others on average. If I ran a company like Klout and I were feeling nice I'd just lower a persons score if I detected this kind of thing. I'd also flag them as somebody worthy of extra scrutiny in the future. If I were feeling less nice I'd make available an additional score that showed the ethics of the person based how they built their network. A scarlet letter so to speak.

It's very easy on Twitter to create a new identity and start over but it isn't nearly as easy to do so on other sites and there is a big push by both Google and Facebook to force people to use real identities.

I don't expect anyone to stop doing this kind of thing because I say so but I do suspect that currently emerging trends and technologies will at the very least blunt the effectiveness of this approach. There is also a very real chance that public exposure and shaming may be in the cards.

For better or worse, anonymity is increasingly scarce both in real life and on the web.  It's very important to keep that in mind when developing an approach for your social networking interactions.

Speaking of social networking interactions, you can find me on Twitter as #emkey1tweets.

Image via Wikipedia
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