I posted this over on the Twitter developer mailing list to try and get a discussion going. I thought I’d post a copy here for my readers to discuss – maybe you have more ideas than I do. I want to make it clear that I do not condone what some users of SocialToo are doing to gain Twitter followers. Will I stop them? I can’t – as long as Twitter allows them to do it, I can’t make a decision one way or another on who is doing this and who is not. No matter what, I have to respect my users, and most (almost all) of them are using Twitter for legitimate reasons. I do think changing the limits to what I suggested in the e-mail (below) will fix the problem Twitter is trying to solve though:
-Currently the follow per day limit is 1,000 follows per user per day. There is no limit on the number of unfollows a user can do per day (that I know of), and it appears as though there is also a limit of around 10% for the number of users a person can follow more than follow them back. The users taking advantage of Twitter have figured this out. So here’s what they do:
A “gamer”‘s typical activity is that they will follow as many people as they can – most up to the 1,000 limit they’re allowed per day, until they hit the ratio of 10%. The higher the follower base they gain, the longer they’re able to do this. They then hope a good portion of those 1,000 people follow back. Those that don’t use tools like mine (which weren’t intended to be used this way) to unfollow everyone who is not following them back. This is often much greater than 1,000 for the users that are really good at it. The process then starts over. They’ll use tools like Hummingbird (Google it) and Twollo to find people and automatically go out and follow them. This is why I refuse to create auto-follow filters to find new people on my service. It’s way too spammy if you ask me.
Why do they do this? 2 reasons: 1, “supposedly” having more followers means more visits and clicks in whatever you’re trying to promote. (I don’t believe this) and 2, many of these people also have auto-DM set up to send links and messages to each person that follows them back. Back when I offered this service (we disabled it for this exact reason) people told me they were seeing significant clicks on the links they would send to people via DM after they followed them. Therefore, more follows==more clicks==more revenue. I don’t blame them if that’s what they’re really seeing.
So for this reason I think having limits in place is a *good* thing. I don’t think the follow limit is in place due to traffic reasons, since there are many more calls that cause more traffic on the API and there is no limit to unfollows, so I really think Twitter is doing this for the purpose of reducing spam and “gaming” of Twitter. This is a good thing.
However, I think Twitter may be approaching the limits the wrong way. Here’s what I think would be more effective, and beneficial for the legitimate users that want to follow back and at the same time not allow those who want to game the system to use the methods I described. Twitter needs to impose limits based on whether the individual is following the user back or not.
For instance, if I follow @dacort and he is following me back, that shouldn’t count against me as a hit against my follow limit. However, if I try to follow @dacort and he is not following me back, it should count against me as a hit against my limit. With this, users could easily auto-follow back if they choose to, and it would still be difficult for the users trying to game the system and spam Twitter. In fact, you could significantly *reduce* the limit this way and make it virtually impossible for these users to use Twitter in that manner. If you were to look at the relationship between the users when counting against limits, you could probably reduce the follow/day limit all the way to around 200 per day instead of 1,000 per day. I don’t see any reason for the 10% follow/follower ratio with a low limit such as that.
However, as stands, the more followers you get, if you are using Twitter legitimately, you have no way to extend the courtesy back if you choose to do so, since after a certain point you will be following many more than 1,000 users per day. And even if you aren’t, it will take an extremely long time for many individuals to finally catch up to follow those following them if they want to at 1,000 follows per day.
I know there are some that disagree with the auto-follow concept. However, I also know most of you also want Twitter to be an open environment where people can choose to use it as they please. Doug, Alex, etc. I’d love it if you guys could at least consider changing the follow limits as I mentioned. The current limits are doing nothing to prevent the spammers – my suggestions I believe will, and will keep it an open environment for the rest of us.
Sorry for the long discourse – I would really love to hear others thoughts and suggestions.
Feel free to chime in on the developers mailing list, or let’s discuss here – what suggestions do you have? Are there any holes in my proposal?