My Career as a Twitter Spammer

Up until recently MindTouch has been an upstanding Twitter citizen. We share quality and relevant content predominately on the topics of #techcomm, #custserv, and #scrm. We are engaged and have a dedicated resource managing our discussion, but several people tweet from the MindTouch account. However, in the last couple weeks we’ve inadvertently become spammers.

Ashby, age 2.MindTouch has a new product that we’ll be launching in the coming months. Anyone in product management or customer service is going to be excited about this new offering. It was with this in mind our team decided to run a promotion that was, as usual, targeted and relevant.


For the month of February we are offering the chance to win an Amazon Kindle preloaded with books that are relevant to #techcomm, #custserv, and #scrm. All you have to do is follow MindTouch and retweet the promo. Obviously, we wanted people interested in our space to participate. As such we setup an one-click-tweet that may include #custserv or #scrm.

We did very little to promote this giveaway. Essentially nothing really. Sarah wrote a blog post at the MindTouch blog and a bunch of us at MindTouch retweeted the promo. Throughout the month of February we thought we might see a hundred tweets across the #scrm and #custserv hashtags. This would have been a success since it was targeted and cost us the price of a preloaded Kindle. And sure enough—as we expected—it started off slow with only a handful retweets a day. Then before the end of the first week all hell broke loose and we were seeing thousands of retweets. Immediately we took the hashtag out of our one-click-tweet, but it was too late. We had lost control.

In particular the #custserv hashtag was flooded with thousands of retweets. Evidently there is a massive population of sweapstakers on Twitter that troll the Internet for these kinds of giveaways and they had stumbled upon our little Kindle giveaway. The amazing thing is that it is now weeks later and the retweets are still flowing.

After only a couple days of the #custserv hashtag being flooded with spammer sweapstakers many of the regulars on this hashtag were irritated. And rightly so. Robert Bacal wrote a blog post to help #custserv followers filter out MindTouch. I commented on this blog post with the following:

Sorry about the contest that has been hijacked by spammers. Clearly, this was not out intention. The contest and content is all very relevant for #scrm and #custserv. We're working to correct the problem at MindTouch; however, we don't have much control over the spammers that are flooding the custserv hastag days after we removed it from our prepared tweet. Anyway, my apologies. Obviously we were trying to increase the value of #custserv not destroy it. Moreover, I still don't understand how the spammers got a hold of this. :-( There's a lesson here somewhere, but to be honest I'm not sure what to take from this yet.

Several of us at MindTouch were, and are, tweeting apologies. It should be clear we had the best intentions and were, as always, providing relevant content in an attempt to increase the quality of #custserv. Moreover, we did everything we could to control what turned out to be out of control (and still is). We are sincerely sorry, our apologies.

This is clearly an indication of the double-edged nature of social media. Weeks later I’m still not sure what the lesson is here. Perhaps it is: Don’t include hashtags in your one-click-tweets lest the sweapstakers find you? Although, what better way is there to make folks in relevant fields aware of something targeted and relevant like this? Why bother with a promo like this if it’s only to be retweeted by persons irrelevant to your business? I am curious to see how long the echoes of those original tweets will continue to reverberate.

5 Comments

  1. Sometimes, the best of intentions can backfire. That said, it's a pretty darn awesome promo too!

  2. awesome blog post Aaron! I'd totally vote for you in the Best Confessions category of the #MashableAwards! (Please RT!)

  3. Unfortunately this kind of stuff happens…

  4. I'm sorry to hear this happened to you. I was in a situation where I became a Twitter spammer unwillingly and I know it sucks. More than just that, it was very discouraging. But these situations teach us a lot. We developed new marketing tactics as a result of our experience. I wrote a bit more about it in response to your colleague Sarah, on Focus.com. Here's the link: http://ldig.it/dWFQh1

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