Hilary Topper, president of HJMT Public Relations in Long Beach, says...

Hilary Topper, president of HJMT Public Relations in Long Beach, says it's better for firms to have authentic followers. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Twitter has been cleaning house and purging millions of accounts as it cracks down on spam and suspicious activity.

Some celebrities and major influencers saw a significant drop in followers, but even some small-business owners saw their follower counts decline.

“It was like an all-of-a-sudden drop,” says Hilary Topper, president of Long Beach-based HJMT Public Relations, who recently saw her Twitter followers drop from 11,100 to 10,400.

Still, she wasn’t upset by the decline.

“I think a lot of the brands, especially small businesses, think it’s better to have a higher number of followers, but in reality you want relevant, authentic followers that are engaged with you,” says Topper, author of "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Social Media, but were afraid to ask ..." (iUniverse; $17.95).

The Twitter account purges will actually help average small-business owners, not hurt them, she says, by cleaning up their follower list. The changes also will help lend authenticity to the platform.

“There’s a lot of pressure on all social media platforms to make sure accounts are real and authentic,” says Nancy Richmond, a professor of social media at Florida International University in Miami. “I think it looks bad when you have fake people following you.”

Scott Darrohn, co-founder of fishbat in Bohemia, says it's important...

Scott Darrohn, co-founder of fishbat in Bohemia, says it's important for firms to generate their own engaged followers. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

It’s not genuine, she says, noting that she probably lost about 1,000 Twitter followers in the latest purge. She still has about 142,000 followers.

Richmond says she’s had a problem with bots, or automated accounts, following her.

“When I see them, I report them and then I usually block them,” she says. “I think this [purge effort] creates credibility.”

Twitter says its efforts are ongoing.

“As part of our ongoing work to stop spam, we take a number of steps including challenging accounts when we detect suspicious behavior as well as suspending accounts that cannot verify their identity or ownership,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an email to Newsday.

According to a Twitter blog post in June, the platform’s systems identified and challenged more than 9.9 million "potentially spammy" or automated accounts per week in May. That was up from 6.4 million in December and 3.2 million in September.

The company has taken other measures, including the removal of locked accounts that were deactivated because of suspicious activity.

As the platform continues to challenge accounts, account owners may see their follower number fluctuate, according to Twitter.

That’s OK because it’s not a numbers game, say experts.

“The whole reason you have a Twitter account or any social media account is to have an engaged audience that’s interested in what you have to say,” says Scott Darrohn, co-founder of fishbat, a Patchogue-based digital marketing firm.

The firm’s corporate account lost about 300 Twitter followers as a result of the latest purge.

Sometimes small businesses resort to buying a list of followers from random websites, but this can be a mistake because “they’re not engaged with your brand,” Darrohn says.

Firms should try to generate their own followers, he says.

“If you have time, you really want to look for Twitter users that are not only good for the brand, but also have a lot of followers themselves,” Darrohn says.

Start following the people you want to have following you back, says Kate Talbot, a San Francisco-based social media strategist and marketing consultant.

Search for people who are relevant to your industry, and also search for and start engaging in Twitter chats, she says.

A Twitter chat is a conversation around a particular hashtag. You can follow the discussion and engage in conversations with other followers that are part of the chat, she says. That can lead to them following you back.

Specifically, look for social media influencers that you can engage with and perhaps get them to talk about your brand, says Topper.

“You’ll get real followers through these influencers,” she says.

Also, work to create diverse, engaging content “that speaks to your own business or brand,” says Talbot. It should include video, links and photos.

“Think about how you can be part of the larger trending conversations and how that relates back to your brand,” she says.

Richmond agrees that good content is key.

“If you don’t have the content that matches who you want to reach, they’re not going to want to follow you,” she says.

How to tell

Signs you're being followed by bots, or automated accounts:

  • They’re following a ton of people, but have few followers
  • Every post looks the same or is repetitive
  • There’s little engagement with their followers
  • There’s a general lack of creativity to the posts
  • Their profile photo looks suspicious

Source: Nancy Richmond, Florida International University

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