Someone in the bike scene has a creepy crush on my mom. Or, anyway, that’s what I surmised when the Twitter account cicLAvia asked to follow my mom. That’s right – I got this email from my mom tonight:
Subject: Twitter Requests
do either of you know who the following people are (The first one might be an Alex thing–I don’t understand how this works if you accept followers from an organization??
The ones I don’t know are:
See, my mom is on Twitter (crazy awesome right?) and cicLAvia tried to follow her. Who is cicLAvia? It’s a new initiative by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), and it seems to be aimed at closing down a section of LA streets for a period of time to make a linear park for pedestrians and cyclists. Sounds cool, right? It’s a nice concept, but guess what? My mom lives east of the Mississippi, and she’s not a bike activist, so she’s got no interest in cicLAvia. So what gives? Why is cicLAvia following her?
It’s called follow spam. cicLAvia has been following hordes of people, in the hopes (I can only assume) that they will get followed back. On Twitter’s blog they describe at as:
Follow spam is the act of following mass numbers of people, not because you’re actually interested in their tweets, but simply to gain attention, get views of your profile (and possibly clicks on URLs therein), or (ideally) to get followed back.
You see, at the time of this posting, cicLAvia has followed 770 people on twitter, while only 220 people follow them. That’s a sure sign of follow spam – do you think you can pay attention to the updates of 770 people on a daily basis? Of course not – following that many accounts is indicative of something else. The fact that only 220 people follow them indicates that of the 770 people they follow, less than a third thought cicLAvia relevant enough to follow back.
How is follow spam working here? cicLAvia follows people, and if those people follow them back, then they go through that person’s followers and follow all of them. Let me explain it concretely, using my own experience as an example. Suppose cicLAvia follows me (Westsidazz twitter.) I get notification of that, I check out their twitter page, and I’m curious about the project, so I follow them back.
Here’s where it gets spammy. cicLAvia figures “hey, we got us a hot one here, they’re interested in bikes!” Now cicLAvia goes through my 190 followers, and the 132 people I’m following (notice how much more reasonable it is to follow 132 people, not 770), and they follow each of those. Why? Cause there’s a chance they’re into bikes too. cicLAvia is hoping to get some of them to follow them back to build their power as a Twitter user. Among those people is my 59 year old mom, who’s hip to this twitter thing. She’s careful with her online presence, so she writes my brother and I asking who the heck these twitter accounts are.
You know, cicLAvia is a cool idea. And I’ve been trying to turn over a new leaf with LACBC, and have a neutral to positive relationship. I mean, we don’t always agree, but we don’t need to be public about it. But, I really take issue with this. Firstly, it’s disingenous. Secondly, it’s spam. Thirdly,
STOP FOLLOWING MY MOM!
PS – Also, don’t follow my baby brother. Kthxbai.