twitter game – Stay N Alive

"The Chappys": How a Utah Construction Manager Built His Own Trending Awards Show on Twitter

I’ve talked before about how growing a Twitter audience is simple. It turns out it’s even more simple than I thought – The Deseret News (owned by the company I work for) wrote today about a local Utah construction manager who created his own Twitter awards show called “The Chappy Awards”. In his “virtual award show” Dustin Chapman awarded various celebrities and media “Chappy Awards” on Twitter, and before he knew it, #2013Chappys was a trending term on Twitter and hundreds were all getting in on the fun.

Chapman, who created the awards show to (according to the Deseret News) “encourage the media. When something happens, I’m on Twitter following reaction. I’m more likely to turn to news stations and media sources that post things regularly on Twitter than not.”

And encourage the media he did. Awarding several local news celebrities a Chappy Award, he got numerous positive reactions from the award out of excitement (hey – who doesn’t like to win something?). They posted to their Twitter feeds their excitement for the award, and their some times much larger audiences would then learn about the Chappy Award and Chapman’s account @itschappy in the process. His Twitter account grew significantly throughout the day.

So if you’re looking for more followers on Twitter, start your own awards show. Create a hashtag, pick some well-known people, and boom-instant followers as they thank you for your kind gesture.

Some day I too will win a Chappy…

Check out the Deseret News article by Landon Hemsley here!

The Real Solution to Fix the "Twitter Game"

twitter-gameTwitter has been initiating a crackdown of sorts on sites that offer “automated unfollow” services such as my own  Since we announced we were removing it on SocialToo, at least 3 other services have also been asked to remove the functionality, which enables people to automatically unfollow others that unfollow them on Twitter.  I have also noticed Twitter is now cracking down on Twitter accounts that perform this practice.  When chatting with Twitter, their reasoning is that auto-unfollow “perpetuates the idea that Twitter is about follower counts”.  Assuming that this is the real reasoning behind the request, I’d like to suggest a more effective means of killing that idea: kill services that allow proactive follow in the first place and follower churn will go away.

Let me first explain what proactive follow is.  There are many services out there right now that enable you to find new followers based on keywords.  You specify search terms, perhaps based on your brand, and these services then go out and find people Tweeting with these keywords, and the service follows those people.  Some will even send a public @mention or DM if they meet your search criteria.  The entire hope is that those people will follow back (note that not everyone does this automatically), increasing your follower count and potential reach.

The problem with this method is that Twitter has limits in place.  As people unfollow you as you are increasing your numbers in this way, soon you will be following way more people than are following you back.  Twitter has a limit right now, in which if you’re following around 10% more of the people that are following you on Twitter, you will not be able to follow any more.  So what happens is these people using these “get more follower” services then use legit services like my SocialToo to unfollow all of the people that have stopped following them, bringing their ratio back in check.  It’s a direct rebellion against Twitter’s rules and regulations, and I don’t blame Twitter for being concerned about it.  In fact, I refuse to allow proactive follow on SocialToo just for this reason – we are not a “get more followers fast” site.  We’re a utility that enables you to manage your Twitter stream better and easier.

So Twitter has come up with the best solution they can come up with – “let’s kill the sites that are providing automatic unfollow and the follower churn will go away”.  The idea being if users can’t unfollow those users that have unfollowed them after they proactively went out and followed everyone, it’s a lot harder to game the system and break Twitter’s rules.  Based on my experience with what users are telling me on SocialToo, this breaks Twitter for many big brands using the service in a legit manner though.  Let me share a few use-cases people are telling me about after we removed it on SocialToo:

Legit Use-Cases for Auto-Unfollow

Some Brands Just Have Big Numbers — On SocialToo we service some really big brands.  Let’s face it: these brands have a lot of followers.  Following those followers back gives their followers a sense that the brand is listening to them.  It’s a PR move, as well as a customer service move because their followers can now DM them.  For instance, I followed @PCSki the other day, hoping to be able to get a spot in for my wife’s and my Ski Vacation to Park City Utah.  Because they followed me back, I was able to keep our conversation private.  This reciprocal follow is an important piece for Brands looking to communicate better with their followers and customers.  @PCSki got a sale (and future blog post) out of me because of that relationship.

Now, assuming we’re dealing with millions of followers, or hundreds of thousands of followers, or even thousands of followers it is absolutely impossible to continue following back the people that follow you based on Twitter’s 10% ratio limit.  If I want to follow everyone back, the fact is about 1/3 to 1/2 of those people I follow back will unfollow me at some point, and my ratio breaks.  I’m then stuck waiting until more people follow me before I can follow back more.  This is bad for brands, especially those with bigger numbers.  If you think numbers aren’t important for a brand, you’re flat out wrong.

Auto Unfollow Kills the Churners — The main reason I created automatic unfollow on SocialToo was because it’s another effective technique at combating spammers if you do auto follow (see above for some good reasons to auto follow as a brand ).  For a good auto follow service to occur, it’s the natural thing to do to offer auto unfollow services as well in order to keep out the spammers you might follow unintentionally.  This is also the reason we offer DM filters and other filtering services on SocialToo.  For those gaming the system, the minute they unfollow me to hope their numbers stay up, I immediately unfollow them as well, and their numbers don’t increase at all.

Auto Unfollow Enables Steady Growth, Despite Friends Unfollowing — if auto unfollow were not available, a typical brand or person wanting to enable auto follow on their account would go as follows: Number of friends increase. Number of friends stay stagnant until ratio is met.  Number of friends increase again.  Steady growth is not attainable with Twitter’s current ratio limit and the lack of auto unfollow.

The Solution

So what can Twitter do?  I understand they’re between a rock and a hard place here.  They could remove the ratio limits, but then the churners (or gamers) would take over again.  They could kill automated unfollow services, but other services will still take over – I can already think of  a good way to create a browser extension that does it on a user-by-user basis if we wanted to.  Also, killing automated unfollow removes the ability for users to defend themselves against the churners.  Twitter could just let the churning happen, but then jealousy happens and people complain (not sure that’s a bad thing as I think people can see through the fakes, but I understand their viewpoint).  Twitter could remove the numbers, only enabling them in private for each individual, but that would remove some of the fun and competition of Twitter.

The only decent solution is to kill the services that are enabling proactive follow.  Disable those enabling the ability to search by keyword and follow based on that keyword.  This is a pure API-based service that Twitter can shut off at the source pretty easily.  Once these are gone, churning, and the “Twitter Game” will be over for those abusing the system.

The Fact is Twitter is About Numbers

While I don’t think Twitter wants people gaming the system to create more numbers, I think Twitter knows that the only way to grow the service is to enable people to increase their number of followers and grow an audience.  If you don’t think that, you’re lying to yourself.  Everyone wants more followers, especially if you’re a brand or business.

Twitter prominently displays follower counts on each user’s page, along with a list of who’s following them, the number of lists they’re on, the number of lists they’ve created, and the list goes on.  Twitter has a Suggested User List  – the entire goal being to give people a larger number of people those people can follow and find interesting things from.  Users get higher prominence in Google if their numbers are higher on Twitter.  Numbers are everything to Twitter, let’s not kid ourselves.

Twitter Needs to Kill the Proactive Follow

The only way Twitter is going to fix the problem they see at hand is to kill services enabling users and brands to go out and proactively find new followers.  Killing the unfollow isn’t going to fix this.  Killing the proactive follow will.  My hope is that, assuming this is the real reason Twitter wants to kill it, Twitter will realize this and give freedom back to their users to continue maintaining their accounts.

As I said on the SocialToo blog – in the meantime, we’re in Twitter’s world and we’re subject to their rules, so until then I’ll do what they tell me.  Let’s hope they’re listening though.  SocialToo provides many more services than just this though, so I’m not worried – I am worried about our users however.

Are there use-cases I’m missing?  How were you using auto-unfollow?

Learn How to Game Twitter at My BlogWorld Panel

BlogWorld09_150px_SpeakerThat’s right – you heard it right.  Next week I’ll be on a panel at BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas where we’ll show you all the ways you can game Twitter, increase your followers, and be the top Twitter user in your area.  Be prepared though because we’re also going to show you why that’s also not the best focus and how it actually could hurt your brand more than help it.

The panel I’m on is with some big names in the industry, especially in Twitterville itself.  My friend Micah Baldwin, inventor of #followfriday will be joining us, along with Lucretia Pruitt, a.k.a. @GeekMommy on Twitter, and one of the Wal-Mart 11 Moms.  I’ll of course be bringing my experience with SocialToo and the Twitter API, and we’ll also be joined by Reem Abeido of GroupM Search and Mr. Citizen Marketer, Aaron Strout himself.

We’re going up against some big names in the industry at the same time, so be sure to mark our session and make sure you’re clear which room and what time ours is at.  We’re in room 228 from 11:30am to 12:30pm on October 16th (that’s Friday).  The session is called “The Twitter Game – How to ‘Play’ Social Networking and Why it’s a Bad Idea”.  Go ahead, mark your calendar – I’ll wait…

Are you done?  Okay, I’ll wait some more…

Okay, now that you’ve marked your calendar and confirmed that you’re coming to our session and not the others (although I’ll forgive you if you don’t, maybe) let me give just one more motivation for coming.  To those in the audience I’ll randomly hand out one signed FBML Essentials book.  This book is valuable for both developers and marketers, as it will help anyone trying to understand the Facebook platform get into the hang of things with just a simple knowledge of HTML and maybe a little Javascript.

Also, if you haven’t registered for BlogWorld Expo yet, I’m told you can use PeopleBrowsr’s special code, “PB20” at this link and you’ll get 20% off registration.  Now, be sure to thank me by coming to our session!

The You, the Me, and the We – How I’m Changing How I Use Twitter

Sad PuppyI accidentally unfollowed all my followers.

I was testing out the unfollow all feature on my site,, and just happened to hit the “delete all friends” button by mistake without realizing it. For that, I apologize.  I learned something valuable from it though – out of the 23,000 people I unfollowed on accident, I was very surprised at the number of people that have auto-unfollow on by default.  About 6,000 to be exact.  So out of the 23,000 people following me 1/4th of those probably still have no clue I unfollowed them – 6,000 people following me had a meaningless relationship with me!

There’s more though – I post a lot of links to my profile.  A lot of those promote other people.  Some promote blog posts I write.  In general, for the blog posts I write, I generally only get about 20-50 of you on Twitter that actually click on the links!  That’s a depressing number coming from a follower base of 23,000 people.

This got me thinking about how I can build stronger relationships with the people I follow.  How do I get people to add me to their whitelist?  How can I get to know you better, and how can I get you to know me better at the same time? Twitter is very difficult to nurture this type of relationship – it was built as a broadcasting platform that happened to evolve to become a communications and is trying to be a relationships platform.  It also degraded to the point that most of the people that follow you now aren’t even real people! I would venture to say that a good portion (1/4th?) of Twitter’s populace are there with the sole intent to gain a larger follower base.

This isn’t why I use Twitter. I came here to share something.  I came here to learn something from others. The connections we gain from learning from each other are what matter to me. Some times we entertain each other.  Some times we teach each other.  I’m here to strengthen others’ knowledge and learn from others at the same time, not inflate a number for anyone, especially myself. IMO the whole “numbers thing” should happen naturally.  That’s how we engage.  That’s how we build real relationships – that’s what true marketing is, or should be about.

So starting today I’m starting something new with my Twitter account.  I want to strengthen my relationships with each and every one of you.  I want to build a community, and I’m starting with Twitter.

Starting today I’m now using 3 Twitter accounts.  The first one, which you are already familiar with, @Jesse, is about me.  The second one, which I’m starting today, @JessesLinks, is about YOU.  The third one, @JesseStay, is where the community happens – it’s about WE.  Here’s a little more explanation:


This account is about me.  It’s not your typical Twitter “me” account any more.  Starting today, I’m only posting content here.  Pure content – no links, no replies.  Just 140 character morsels of knowledge as I feel like sharing.  Its intent is to be informative, entertaining, and educational.  I may also share a link to a blog post or two of my own where I feel I need to elaborate.  I won’t be replying to anyone publicly on this account any more.  I won’t be auto following at the moment. The purpose of this account is pure content, for those that want to consume it.  This is a public account for all to see and follow.


This account is about YOU. This is where I share your stuff.  If you have something cool you want to share with me, let me know there.  I may retweet a few good Tweets here.  I’ll even auto follow on this account.  While I won’t be @replying to anyone publicly on this account, this is where I get to share your content. Maybe I’ll do a couple #followfridays to promote specific people as well.  You can DM me here.  This is a public account about you – those that follow this account will learn more about other people and the content they share.


This is actually my old account – I thought I’d put it to good use.  This account is all about US. Those that request access to this account will be followed rigorously by me.  Depending on how big it gets I may even follow your updates via SMS to ensure I get them.  This will become my “favorites list”.  I’ll actively interact with you through this account.  I’ll respond to your tweets.  I’ll import all the best posts from @Jesse and @JessesLinks here.  I’m going to manually (yes, manually) follow every person that is real and requests access to this account.  This is where I want to build true relationships.

I want to try a little experiment with this account though.  I’m going to make it private. This is so our conversation remains intimate.  This is also so you have to do a little something to join the community.  It makes each person in the community a little more real.  As I said earlier, I plan to follow every real person that requests access to this community.  There’s one caveat though – I’m going to ask each individual that joins this community to introduce themselves.  I want you and me to get to know each other better. I want all of us to get to know each other better through this community.

If you have to pick one account to follow I would recommend joining the @JesseStay community. This is where I want to empower relationships between us.  This is where I want our conversation to become one-on-one, and real.  Will you join me here?

This is all just an experiment for now.  I’m curious if I might be able to strengthen the relationships of those that follow me through this method.  I want to build real-life relationships with each of you – let’s work to do this together.  Maybe I’ll post a follow up later on how it all goes.

Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Twitter Declares Checkmate on Twitter Gamers

TwitterJust recently Twitter began the much-needed stance to suspend users practicing the controversial “Twitter Game” (as I call it).  On the Twitter developers mailing list, Twitter developer Doug Williams told me yesterday that users who “use software to constantly churn followers in a repeated pattern of following and unfollowing will … risk suspension.”  This new rule was confirmed to me by several other Twitter users that Twitter customer support is also confirming that this is happening.

The “Twitter Game” was the topic of a podcast I participated in a few months back with Lucretia Pruitt and Jim Turner hosting. The practice centers around following as many people as you can (up to the 1,000 users per day limit that Twitter has imposed), continuing such practice until the ratio of following 10-20% more than those following you is reached.  Then users would unfollow the users that don’t follow them back.  This practice increases the number of followers of any particular user, theoretically providing a much larger reach for the user or brand doing such.  Other similar techniques involve using tools such as Twollo and Hummingbird to find new people to follow that might follow back, and share links under multiple accounts with those individuals.

With Twitter taking a stance against this practice, this means no longer will users be able to quickly inflate their numbers and get around the ratios Twitter has put in place to keep this “gaming” from happening.  From users I have talked to, some over major brands, some are not happy.  The threat of suspension will come welcome to those getting tired of meaningless followers however.  While not a welcome sight to some, it is simply a change in “Game”.  Users will need to adapt and use more effective methods of gaining new followers, such as maybe, providing good content?  Regardless, I expect people to continue to find new ways to game the system.  We’ll see if Twitter can win this “Rat Race”.