I’ve been bot-bombed!

Just as I was getting excited about reaching the 2,000 follower milestone on Twitter, I suddenly jumped to 26,000 followers.

No. I’m not that popular.

Smelling a giant stinking rat, I perused my follower list and saw that I was being followed by the likes of @TAKAKOD8STIN and @ELKEg00CALL. Brilliant.

I was afraid this might happen one day. You spend years earning a genuine, mutually respectful following, diligently weeding out the free iPad merchants and the curiously single bikini models, only to be bot-bombed overnight and your follower metric to become instantly meaningless.

Giant robot chasing a crowd of fleeing people.

Why did it happen? I do not know.

Maybe someone didn’t appreciate my social commentary. For example, I recently wondered whether Julian Assange would start publishing Ecuador’s diplomatic cables. Did a WikiLeaks fanboi take offence? Unlikely.

Another lead stemmed from Twitter itself. When I looked up the profiles of the phony followers, @DoctorKarl, @mariekehardy and @774melbourne were suggested as being “similar” to the bots. Did I upset Auntie ABC? Hardly.

Conspiracy theories aside, the only rational explanation I can think of is that someone, somewhere purchased a batch of followers, and they were mistakenly assigned to me.

Well, despite 26K looking mighty attractive, I had no intention of leaving it that way. To do so would not just be misleading, but also a bit sad.

But how does one shed so many followers?

The best free tool I could find was TwitBlock which analyses your followers and lists those which it thinks are junk (according to certain criteria). This is great, except it maxes out at 3,000 followers and you have to block them one by one. It also continues to scan your followers while you’re trying to to block them, which means the list is constantly shuffling. Very annoying!

I asked the developer of TwitBlock if he might add check boxes to facilitate mass blocking, but he politely declined on the basis that it would encourage thoughtless blocking. I found this understandable, yet my problem persisted.

The best premium tool I could find was Tweepi which enables you to do a range of follower management tasks. Tweepi only lists a maximum of 100 followers per page, and you can’t select all of them in one go via the top level checkbox (which they blame on Twitter’s terms of service), but I discovered a neat trick with the shift key that made “forced unfollowing” a hell of a lot quicker.

Having said that, you’ll notice I haven’t gotten very far.

One of my friends, @ainsliehunter, suggested I grab a nice red, spend a night in front of the TV and cull away. I’ve been doing just that – in addition to squeezing in some opportunistic blocking while on the wrong end of endless dial-in meetings.

If you have a better suggestion, please let me know…!

25 thoughts on “I’ve been bot-bombed!

  1. Cheers Fay. Hopefully my experience helps others who find themselves in the same position.

  2. Many bots are seeking folks who will follow back, so it’s always worth waiting a few days to see which unfollow before taking on any work yourself. But of course your hypothesis of a misdirected purchase is reasonable, and if that is the case, would mean they would likely all still be there after waiting.

  3. @TweetSmarter – That’s a good point. Glad I don’t auto follow!

    @Jeff Harman – Thanks Jeff, I’ll check it out.

  4. @Dex – I have SocialBro (well, the free version). Which aspect of it would be useful in this case?

    @ChuckBaggett – Cool, thank you.

  5. Sorry to learn of the bombing raid on your account. I’m still (happily) at a manageable follower level. However, this post gives me some valuable options should your fate befall me.


  6. Thanks Mark.

    The bad news is I’ve been bot-bombed yet again. Now I have over 40K fake followers. Even with perseverance, this is becoming unmanageable without better tools.

    In the meantime, I’ve protected my tweets so as to approve all new followers. Apologies to anyone who wants to follow me on Twitter – please do ask for approval. I’m not just being a douche.

  7. best bet is just to leave them. Depending on what you want the followers for. More importantly is who YOU follow and have in your feed, shouldn’t worry too much about numbers following you…

    + Probably a positive side-effect of this is that many “real people” will follow you more easily. People follow the herds and someone with a lot of followers “must be good” to follow.

  8. Thanks Ryan. Happened to me twice in 2 weeks – from 1 700 to 22 000 to now 83 000. I didn’t think I was naturally that popular. Thank you for the tips everyone.

  9. Whoa, and I thought I had it bad.

    It shoots holes through my misassignment theory. The people behind it couldn’t be that incompetent to do it multiple times over, could they? On second thoughts, their career choice is selling fake followers.

    Crack open a red, Alison.

  10. Did you find a solution to this? I am a new twitter user so I had 10 followers. Then suddenly, 400+. I certainly did not buy them! the names are all things like kutvgfre. i went through and deleted them one by one, then “protected” my tweets, but now I have over 1000 requests. I looked t the twitbloc but what good is that if you still have to go through each one! There might be some legitimate requests. I am considering closing my account over this, no help from twitter of course.

  11. Hi Gail.

    Twitter’s lack of action on this issue is certainly disappointing. Nonetheless, I would urge you to hang in there. I find Twitter invaluable for knowledge sharing, and sooner or later it will probably be replaced by something better anyway. You’ll want to be in the mix.

    I found Tweepi useful in getting rid of the early rounds of bombing. The problem was, I get getting bombed irregularly over a series of weeks. I didn’t want to pay the monthly Tweepi fee so I cancelled my account and resigned myself to the fact that I’d be carrying thousands of fake followers for a while. I figured I’d leave it til Christmas, then pursue another solution.

    The strange thing is, I saw my follower number go up and down like a yo-yo. I don’t know if the yo-yo responsible for it realised that he was mis-assigning the followers to me, but it would happen repeatedly.

    Then one day it kind of stopped. I jumped back onto TwitBlock and luckily only several hundred bots were following me at the time. So I reported/blocked them all and (fingers crossed) all seems well once more.

    My advice to you would be to wait a month or so, then jump on to TwitBlock again. 400 followers may seem like a lot, but if you divide it into segments you’ll get through it in no time. Oh, and make sure you report, not just block.

    Good luck!

  12. Hey, don’t know if you still need this. The same thing happened to me yesterday and I found this tool: http://followersbegone.com/ it mass deletes fake followers, though if you have a lot it tends to slow down so you have to stop the scan a run it again several times. I still haven’t found a way to mass delete the requests now that I’ve locked down my account, though. And they’re still coming in!

  13. Thanks Kele. I was able to get rid of them slowly (and repeatedly) via a combination of Tweepi and TwitBlock. After several weeks it just stopped. I hope it stops soon for you too.

  14. Me and you both man. Went from 700 to over 16K today within 2 hours…for no reason!!! Im so confused.

  15. Sorry to hear that, Chris. Maybe give it a few days and see if they disappear again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.