Are Spam & Porn the Death of Twitter?

November 2, 2009

By: John Newcomer

Yogi Berra once said,  “Nobody goes there anymore.  It’s too crowded.” This may also be the fate confronting Twitter. It became too popular, too fast.

In February 2008, there were only 475,000 unique users on Twitter. Now there are more than 7 million. That growth, in less than 2 years, represents a 1,382 percent increase. Impressive, but guess what? Because of this success Twitter has been invaded by the carpetbaggers and morally corrupt opportunists of the internet. Unless Twitter can stifle the invasion, this phenomenon may just be an exploding star.

What Twitter Isn’t

Twitter is not a social network used by teens. While teenagers drove the popularity of MySpace and Facebook, teens think Twitter is lame. In fact only 11% of the Twitter market is comprised of teens. It turns out that Twitter is used to broadcast ideas to the outside world or to market products. It’s more commonly used by professionals to network.

So what is going wrong?

Spam!

Yes, if you have a Twitter account, you know what I’m talking about. You might think you are popular with a whole hoard of people following you, only it’s not a hoard of people waiting with breathless anticipation for your next message. It’s spammers following you.

Click on a “follower” and it may just be a company trying to sell you something. Sad but true. You are just not as popular or as insightful as you thought you were. Turns out it’s just the spammers following you.  It gets worse.

Porn!

Porn bots are all over Twitter. As fast as Twitter tries to clear the porn, new bots appear. You think you have a new follower, and you click to see who it is, and there it is– an invitation to a porn site. The tip-off to a porn tweet is when it has “0 followers,” but has made hundreds of tweets. Once you figure that out, you don’t have to click on the link, but why is it there anyway?

I know — porn sites are like cockroaches. The world could be destroyed in a nuclear conflagration, and the only two things to survive would be roaches and porn sites. But who wants to put up with the spam and porn when you are trying to network professionally?  It gets worse.

“pay-per-tweet” marketing!

A friend recommends a product on a social network, and you are inclined to buy it. After all, it is a personal recommendation. One step removed is an acquaintance or remote business associate on Twitter recommending a product. Chances are you would give a bit more consideration to buying the product.  After all, it is recommended by one of my loyal followers.

There is one tiny problem. Companies now pay people to Tweet product recommendations. Yes, that tweet about how good the new instant coffee is may just be a paid-for tweet, and not a heartfelt recommendation. Oh, the deception!

Most Tweets are “Pointless Babble”

A recent study by Pear Analytics reviewed 2,000 Tweets and categorized them as either News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational, or Pass-Along Value. Guess what? The big winner was Pointless Babble, accounting for 40.55% of all tweets. Conversations accounted for 37.55% of all tweets. Yes, 78.1 % of all tweets are either Pointless Babble or Conversations.

Spam accounts for 3.75%; Self-Promotion 5.85% (and this was probably paid for promotion) and there was no accounting for the porn which is on the rise.

News accounted for 3.6% of all Tweets, and Pass-Along Value was 8.7%. That’s right only 12.3% of all tweets have value.  And to get this 12.3%, you have to navigate around the primordial sea of Spam, Porn, inane Conversations, and Pointless Babble.

Unless there is a shift, Yogi just might be right-“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”