Since writing this post, Twitter has been inundated with these ‘Twitter train’ auto-follow systems, and they’re all garbage. Yes, every single one of them is a waste of your time (and, in many cases) money.Â Please read the article below to understand why.
There are too many to keep up with, but new additions to the list (that you should avoid at all costs are):
and dozens and dozens of others. Some are blatant phishing scams, too.
Bottom line? Don’t sign up for this junk. Do things properly.
* This one’s a real shame, as it’s by the makers of FriendOrFollow, which is a great site, and this reallyÂ dilutesÂ the brand.
As Twitter matures and grows in size and stature, it is exponentially rewarded with the benefits of the larger network: a richer, more diverse pool of users, which equates to a broader database of news and topic discourse. Conversely, it will attract the downside, too, which includes spam, trolls, a decreasing signal-to-noise ratio, and that consumer favourite of the online world, the internet marketer.
I’ve been thinking about this article for some time now. I’ll continue to update it as and when more information becomes available. I expect something of a backlash here, but that’s less important than the message. Which is, admittedly, a long one, but worth a few minutes of your time.
Internet marketing – the sale (or acquisition, in order to mine or re-sell) of goods, advertising, sales leads and affiliate products via the online medium – dates back to the very beginning of the internet itself. It’s not all bad – in many ways, as the internet continues to reflect ‘real life’, it makes sense that all aspects of that, including commerce and advertising, are adopted. It’s probably fair to say that a lot of e-commerce is quite respectable, at least inasmuch as it’s adopting fair practice with regard to both its pitch and the quality of goods being offered.
However, where this distinction begins to blur is generally when internet marketing in and of itself becomes a profession, and gives birth to the internet marketer. This is not always the case, naturally, but often when somebody promotes themselves under that title, certainly on Twitter, their methods and intentions are not always entirely above-board, nor of any discernible value.Â (File alongside ‘social media guru’ and ‘SEO expert’)
Internet marketing is a very popular subject on Twitter, as is promoting the concept that the internet marketer – and there are a great many – is a kind of guru or soothsayer, who will lead his followers to unimaginable riches and power, that they know something about how to sell on the internet that you do not. Often this expertise is packaged within some kind of system that, once purchased, will quickly and easily reap the same benefits for the buyer.
On Twitter, typically the promise is for thousands of ‘targeted followers’ with little to no work on your behalf. It’s an entirely automated procedure – just sit back, watch that follower number grow, and start counting the money, baby!
Often a tantalising sample of this system is available for free – despite its ‘$99 value!’ – and this draws you in, because the information within seems solid and dependable (even if it’s generally just repackaged content that is available for free elsewhere). Things look good. How could the system not work – all these other people are saying it does right there on the page – they can’t all be plants, right? Hand over your money, and away we go.
Several weeks or months later, you realise that any benefits have been, at best, negligible, and probably not much better than simply being active on Twitter. Moreover, it’s quite apparent that any followers you have picked up are not ‘targeted’ at all – how could they be, when all of these systems rely on the exact same concept?
Follow thousands of people. Wait for them to follow you back. Unfollow all those who do not. Repeat.
That’s it. That’s the system. That’s every internet market’s Twitter system. Sure, there might be some minor variations, usually around the price and promise, and some utilise different methods of determining who they follow, but this is essentially what you’re paying for, albeit in an automated fashion. You know, so you can just sit back and count the money.
You’ve read this far and maybe you’ve got some idea of what I’m talking about, so let’s talk specifics. Here is a list of known internet marketing scams on Twitter.
Who’s Behind It: Gary McCaffrey
The Blurb: “Imagine you got 1 twitter follower today, and that number doubled every day for 1 month, how many followers do you think you would have? The correct answer is: Over 10 million followers!”
TweeterGetter is, I think, the granddaddy of all of these systems, which means that it’s also largely responsible for the rest. You’ve inevitably seen tweets like this pop up in your timeline:
He’s even convincing local wildlife.
What You Get: Sign up, and the system automatically sends out a recommendation from you for TweeterGetter, which links back to your own special page. When this happens, you will automatically follow the six people ahead of you in the system. As folk visit your page, and sign up, they will follow you. But wait, it gets better:
“Now when those people refer others via their link, their new followers will also follow you in position 2 and so on down 5 levels deep. By the time you reach the 5th position, you will have thousands, if not tens of thousands of new twitter followers… and it NEVER stops growing!”
Yes, that’s right, it’s a pyramid scheme.
The Cost: To be fair to McCaffrey, it’s free. Although these automated tweets are so hated that you’ll be doing well to see any kind of net benefit to your follower count. That said, McCaffrey is, in many ways, the exception that proves the rule – see below for more on this.
Who’s Behind It: Unknown
The Blurb: “MyTweetFollowers.com is the best place for you to grow your twitter network and gain a ton of followers. We recommend giving it a shot, it’s free and will help you get the followers you need. You login and then follow people to be added to free section where people will follow you in return. The VIP riders on MyTweetFollowers.com will be getting a lot more follows than the regular ones so make sure to buy yourself VIP.”
What You Get: VIP
The Cost: Various, from $20/day to $250/30 days. You can always try the free version. Didn’t work? Wow, didn’t see that coming.
The Blurb: Goes on for about twenty pages – you’ll need to check the site, I’m afraid.
What You Get: ‘Harness The Power Of Twitter’ manual ($147 value!), 12-set video package ($127 value!), ‘Getting Started Quickly On Twitter’ ($77 value!), Twitter Tools Guide ($47 value!), Twitter Interviews With ‘Twitter Experts’ ($47 value!), Follow Me Button Package ($17 value!), plus a series of bonuses, all with value.
The Cost: $77. But just think of all that value.
Who’s Behind It: Brian Kelly
The Blurb: “I’ve been conducting an “experiment” of late with some newly acquired software in an attempt to acquire a large number of *targeted* Twitter followers (and no, I did *not* utilize TweeterGetter). The results have been nothing short of astounding.”
Click on the link, and there’s more: “How I Generated Over 10,000 *Targeted* Twitter Followers In Just Over 3-Weeks! AND earned over $1,000 in The Process.”
What You Get: ‘Hummingbird‘, a ‘professional marketing tool for Twitter’.
The Cost: $197, although you can use the word ‘RECESSION’ to get a 15% discount. So it’s not all bad.
Who’s Behind It: Bill Crosby
The Blurb: “The Completely Automated Twitter Growth & Money Making System for People That Want to Set Up A System ONCE, Forget About It, and Have it Grow and Make Money EVERY Day!”
Twitter Traffic Machine is, I suspect, the biggest/most successful of all of these scams, and while the site does have a lot of blurb for you to read, they also have this video.
I love Bill Crosby’s statement at 0:37:
“I figured out how to get 16,000 targeted followers in 90 days, and make a bunch of money from it, all on autopilot.”
He’s actually telling the truth, but some of his words are entirely superfluous. If we strip away a few of these, we can see exactly what he means.
“I figured out how to make a bunch of money all on autopilot.”
What You Get: An automated mass-following system.
The Cost: $27. Hey, at least it’s cheap.
Who’s Behind It: Bobbr
The Blurb: “TweepMe is the 100% opt-in group of Twitter users who all chose to follow each other on Twitter. When a new member joins, every other member automatically follows the new member, and the new member follows them back. The process is gradual and happens over the course of weeks or months depending on the number of TweepMe members.”
The real irony here is despite claiming “5 million connections made”, the TweepMe Twitter account only has 1,569 followers. Do they not use their own system!? Heavens, say it ain’t so. And if they do, well…
Check out the accounts under their ‘A few of our members’ section – all of them have a questionable follow/follower ratio. From what I could see they all follow more people than follow them. That said, TweepMe isn’t really promising the same ‘targeted audience’ that the other systems are. But then, if you just want more followers, why not just follow more people?
What You Get: Lifetime membership. Wonder if that’s guaranteed if the website ever closes?
The Cost: $12.95.
Who’s Behind It: John Chow
The Blurb: Twitter Follower delivers its blurb exclusively via video.
John Chow, of course, is a reknowned internet ‘dot com mogul’ with a hugely popular blog, and is one of the original probloggers. He has a loyal and pretty sizeable following, as you can tell by his article about Twitter Followers, and the comments left by his readers.
It doesn’t alter the fact that it’s junk. John Chow has done well for himself and good luck to the guy for being one of the pioneers of the ‘make money online’ obsession, but all you have to do is spend 30 seconds on his gaudy monstrosity of a website to get an idea as to how he’s done this, at least of late. His early stuff was actually pretty good. But what does he care? He’s livin’ the dream.
What You Get: Access to the Twitter Follower database. And if they somebody has the audacity to not follow you back, they get removed, keeping that database super-sweet. And just as irrelevant.
The Cost: It’s free. Although you have to hand over your email to John, which I suspect means you’ll be receiving a few other promotions from time to time, too.
Who’s Behind It: _lilmatt
The Blurb: “TwitterTrain.net is here to help you get tons of followers for your twitter. It’s simple, you just enter your login information above, then click login. After logging in you will be redirected to a page where you will need to follow the last train riders. You will need to follow all riders to join the train. After joining the train you will start seeing your follower count grow. The train will automatically reset when its full, Enjoy!”
Graham Cluley has some very interesting observations to make about the security risks involved with this service.
GetMeFollowers.com is essentially the same site/premise – indeed, both are ‘affiliates’ of each other. @_lilmatt is definitely behind GetMeFollowers, and I’ve made the assumption he is linked to both, but this may be incorrect. Either way, his bio claims he’s a “16 year old funny ass kid”.
What You Get: See my comments section for the author’s response.
The Cost: The basic service is free, but VIP clients pay anything from $5 to $160. But what price a stolen password?
Who’s Behind It: Chugg
The Blurb: “Join friends with similar interests!” You do this by handing over your username, password and email to an anonymous website – what more reassurance could a visitor ask for?
What You Get: The opportunity to have your account repeatedly spammed and/or phished.
The Cost: “Free during beta”. I think there’s meant to be a link on that icon, but it goes nowhere.
Why These Systems Won’t Work For You
Here’s a scoop of reality: Nobody – nobody – would choose to sell any system that makes gazillions of dollars unless that same system has stopped working, has never worked, or only works for them because they’re the ones selling it.
I don’t care what the business or model is. Currency and commodity systems don’t work, and don’t make money for anybody but the guy selling them. Horse racing and other gambling systems don’t work, and don’t make money for anybody but the guy selling them. Lottery systems don’t work, and don’t make money for anybody but the guy selling them.
Why would it be any different on Twitter?
Now, let’s clear up something here – what I’m talking about is specifically buying a system that makes a promise to make money for you. There’s a world of difference between this and a wise investment, although that margin has perhaps withered a little in the past couple of years.
Moreover, I’m not saying these are ‘bad people’. They’re not evil. They’re not out to get you, and your little dog, too. Like all of us, they’re trying to make a living. What I object to is the means in which they choose to do it.
All these ‘Twitter power systems’ are variations of the same long con, and work around similar principles (certainly in a sense of ethics) to pyramid and Ponzi schemes. Sure, most of them promise 60-day full money back guarantees, but that’s a known con/sales tactic in and of itself.
How I am so confident that this stuff doesn’t work for anybody but those at the very top of the tree? And how do I know that they all operate around the same principles? It’s very self-explanatory, to be honest – while it’s true that all of the ‘internet marketers’ in the list above have tens of thousands of followers, not one of them has a strongly positive follow-to-follower ratio. Meaning, they all have about the same, and often less, people following them than they are following themselves.
At the time of writing, Twitter Traffic Machine’s Bill Crosby has 40,048 followers, but is following 40,710 himself.
James Rivers, of Twitter Power System, has 43,486 followers, but follows 44,893 himself. Likewise, Peter Francis and Stuart Laing, also of TPS, have similar ratios (albeit with lower numbers overall).
Brian Kelly, of Twitternet Marketing, follows 44,695 to his 46,809 followers.
The Exception That Proves The Rule
Gary McCaffrey somewhat bucks this trend. McCaffrey has 40,145 followers, but only follows 194 himself. Moreover, McCaffrey’s growth on Twitter is undeniably clean:
But this isn’t actually much proof of anything. It certainly doesn’t suggest that his follower count was made possible because of his system. Moreover, if you check out the people who are signing up to TweeterGetter, few of these guys have lots of followers. Indeed, the majority have a very inversely proportionate ratio in their follow counts – our old friend MeTheSquirrel above has just 96 followers, but is following 438.
It’s All In The Numbers
Here’s a thought: if these systems were so good, why is it necessary for all these guys to be following roughly the same amount of people who are following them? You show me the fruits of a system that has a positive follower ratio – where the seller (or buyer) has 50,000 ‘targeted’ followers but only follows a few hundred himself – and I’ll gladly throw my hat in the ring. Heck, he can marry my daughter. Even I would consider investing in this system.
But it doesn’t exist. It will never exist, because these things simply do not work, at least in the way that they promise.
Now, you could fire these same accusations at somebody like Guy Kawasaki, who has 127,320 followers, but is following 122,972 himself. But Kawasaki has admitted that he uses Twitter simply as a marketing tool. Now, I’m not for a second suggesting he’s doing anything like the folk above, but in light of his purpose it’s all much of a muchness.
How do any of these accounts get so many followers? Not because of their systems, I can assure you. It’s simply because it’s a pretty established fact on any social network that if you mass-follow thousands of people a given percentage will follow you back out of courtesy. Unfollow those that do not (that’s the gist of all these systems, automated or otherwise) and repeat.
This is why you and I continue to get gamed by a lot of the same users; their ‘system’ will keep follow/unfollowing us, assuming that we’ll either eventually cave – and with such a polite approach, how could we not – or that by positioning themselves on the top of my own follower list they’ll probably get a few extra follows by proxy.
And look at it this way: even if any of these systems did work, what value is X thousand people who have only followed you because you followed them? These aren’t ‘targeted users’. Most of them – almost all of them – couldn’t care less about what you have to say or promote. They’ve only followed you because you followed them. Or rather, the system did, which makes it even less personal.
Bill Crosby makes the statement that each time he tweets a link, 2% of his followers visit it – about 400 people, he says. Is that targeted followers? The number seems disappointingly low to me. This past weekend I did an experiment when I tracked all of my links over 50 tweets, and despite only having about 2,700 followers, the average number of clicks my links received was about around the 3-4% mark. Around 80-100 clicks. Two of my links got over 500 clicks – almost 20%. (I’ll be doing an article on this project very soon.)
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it: 10,000 people mostly looking the other way has only marginally more value than zero, but it’s completely worthless relative to 500 people who actually care what you have to say because you grew that network organically. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if you don’t build relationships along the way.
Not that any of this matters – to get an idea of the relative worth of these systems, simply search for them on Twitter, and then check out the follower counts of people who have signed up, or are pushing the service in any way. I can assure you that in nearly all cases these individuals will have fewer followers than they are following themselves, often significantly.
There is, of course, a place for commerce on Twitter. It would be a very naÃ¯ve assumption to assume otherwise. But scams are scams, and a con is a con. Like all of these things, if there’s ever any measurable benefit, certainly in a monetary sense, it’s only for the (very few) guys at the top.
When you check out the forums of some of these systems, it’s worth observing that a lot of the target audience is other internet marketers. I don’t really have much of an issue with this – we all take some satisfaction in seeing con artists get outwitted by others in their niche – and if that was all it was I’d have left well alone. But of course it’s a trickle-down effect – there’s only a limited pool of internet marketers, despite how it seems, and ultimately it’s naÃ¯ve and gullible individuals who end up paying for all this stuff. A fool and his money might be lucky enough to get together in the first place, but that doesn’t make it right to exploit them.
The concept that we can all ‘get rich quick’ is well-established, and it’s certainly lucrative – to the planter of the seed. Couple that ideology with the equally attractive notion that it’s easy to ‘make money online’, and you have yourself a nice little nest egg.
The con is as old as man. And it’s not just this kind of internet marketing that’s an issue on Twitter. It pains me when I see A-list bloggers hooking up with ‘affiliate programs’ that promise hundreds of thousands of dollars, all of which can be easily achieved via a laptop on a beach. And some of these sell at ridiculous prices – thousands of dollars. They are all variations of the same kind of scam – that you can have something for nothing.
Well, all except the money you put down to buy the system, of course. And that’s the bottom line.
A REQUEST: If you ever see any of these systems advertising on my site, please understand that this is beyond my control as Google delivers these ads based on a keywordÂ algorithm. I will, however, block them as soon as I’m aware. I’ve already blocked Twitter Traffic Machine and TweepMe. If any of the others appear, please let me know via email or in the comments, including a screenshot where possible. Thanks!