Beware the Followers Made of Spam

Have you seen a burst of new followers on your blog in the last couple of weeks?  Well, before you pop the cork on the champagne bottle and toast yourself for being master of the blogiverse, first you’d better go see if your new followers actually have a pulse.

Why is he just laying there??

Why is he just laying there??

I have a lot of shortcomings as a blogger – PR work is right at the top of the list.  I’m no good at reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them, and I’m even worse at following WordPress’ advice when I get a new follower and they suggest, “You might want to go see what they’re up to! Perhaps you will like their blog as much as they liked yours!”  I might WordPress, but most days it’s hard to see anything passed the big pile of facebook memes and status updates that I’m buried beneath.

Since I wasn’t checking out all my new followers and sending them a dozen roses and a new puppy like WordPress suggested, when I saw my follower numbers start to climb at an abnormally fast rate, it took me awhile before I realized something was amiss.  I just thought people were finally beginning to realize how completely awesome I am…. seemed like a logical conclusion at the time.

Somewhere after gaining over 100 followers in two weeks, a light bulb went on in my head – even I’m not that awesome (but if you want to refute that point, I won’t argue).  A rapid increase in my following happened each time I got Freshly Pressed, but that made sense because of the increase in traffic; I was getting thousands of hits a day, so statistically, I was bound to find a few people who wanted to jump on board my blog.  But now, my views were pitifully low – under 50 most days.  So what gives?  I decided to put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and sniff out the answer.

As it turns out, the answer smelled a lot like Spam.

I got out my trusty pen and paper, blew the dust off of them (because really, who the hell uses a pen and paper anymore?), and went to work sifting through all these so-called followers.  I made a “phony spam” and “real deal” column on my paper and kept track each time I visited a follower’s blog site.  Before I knew it, I had more spam than my Grandma after she accidentally visited a porn site…. it’s okay Grandma, we all know it was an “accident”.

Hot damn, that's a lot of spam!!

Hot damn, that’s a lot of spam!!

I found that my followers fell into four categories:

The dead end.  When you click on their web address, you are led to a page telling you that they don’t exist.  Well, where the hell did they go?  They were obviously there a minute ago.  Was clicking the follow button on my blog the last thing this person did before keeling over?  Perhaps finding me was enough to make them feel as though they could die happy now.  Or do my followers just have a shorter lifespan than most fruit flies?

R.I.P. Archangel.  Enjoy your travels to other side – bring me back a t-shirt!!

R.I.P. Archangel. Enjoy your travels to other side – bring me back a t-shirt!!

The used car salesman.  People that aren’t really people – they’re companies trying to sell you stuff.  Well, listen up assholes – because you got me all excited about having a new follower, and then turned out to be just another cog in the corporate greed-machine, I’d rather drive to Wal-Mart on black Friday to shop than buy anything you’re selling.

Bitch, I don’t NEED a name badge – I already know who the hell I am.

Bitch, I don’t NEED a name badge – I already know who the hell I am…. most days.

Ummmm….. what?  These followers are a tricky bunch because I can’t tell if they fit into the spam column or the real one – probably because I can’t understand a fucking thing they’re saying.  They look like legitimate blog sites because they have dated blog entries and followers of their own (most WAY more than me).  But because nothing is in English, I can’t tell if they’re writing about legitimate things or if they’re trying to sell me internal organs from the black market.  If it’s the latter, I could really use a new gallbladder guys – mine got cut out six months ago….

2,800 followers for naked bicycle riding articles??  I might have to rethink a few things….

2,800 followers for naked bicycle riding articles?? I might have to rethink a few things….

It’s ALIVE!!  Real people.  These followers are the reason I sit down to write everyday…. well, almost everyday…. okay, about twice a month.  The ones who read my stuff, and decide that they want to read more of whatever I write about in the future.  When they click my follow button, it’s because they think my problematic chin hair is hysterical, and they can’t wait to see what other gross things happen to my body as I get older.  I LOVE YOU GUYS!!

You guys should follow her – her name is Bel, and she’s very funny… and Canadian.   What more could you ask for?

You guys should follow her – Problems by the dozen
Her name is Bel, and she’s very funny… and Canadian.
What more could you ask for?

Lovely, faithful (REAL) readers aside, these fake followers have managed to suck one of the true joys out of blogging – the excitement of watching your follower numbers climb.  Every time I gained a new follower, it was an affirmation that I’m a good writer.  But now, that number is meaningless.  I know I earned the first 643 of those followers, but every one after that is a mystery.

WordPress, you do such a fantastic job of blocking spam comments from making their way onto our blogs, can’t you do the same for spam followers?  Please find a way to protect my innocent eyes (yeah, right… who am I trying to kid?) from having to see any more pictures of naked people riding bicycles.  PLEASE!!  And restore the kid-on-Christmas-morning joy that used to come from seeing our blog audiences grow.

A new blog follower just for ME?   Thanks, WordPress!  It's just what I always wanted!!

A new blog follower just for ME?
Thanks WordPress, it’s just what I always wanted!!

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77 thoughts on “Beware the Followers Made of Spam

  1. I still have a small enough following to have cottoned on to this fairly quickly. I’m sure wordpress could sort it if it mushrooms. I was afraid to even click on other sites which had dodgy names but turned out to be genuine, because I didn’t want to give those dodgy ones any gravitas!

    • IF it mushrooms? There are mushrooms all over the place! 🙂

      I know what you mean about being afraid to click on the sites with weird names though. Or in many of the cases with my “followers”, names that I couldn’t even pronounce without the help of google translate.

      I miss the good ol’ days (okay, I’ve only been around for one year…. so technically there have only been 365 of those good ol’ days), back when followers breathed in and out, and warned you before they flashed naked pictures of people on bicycles. Sigh….

  2. Yes I Have Gotten New CommentS And Knew Right Away They Were Fishing For Free Advertising. I Only Wish I Could Know The thrill Of being Freshly Press. Some Day I Will Get Tapped!

    • I guess I’m just gullible – I really believed that followers had to be actual people. Maybe because they always were, up until a few weeks ago anyway. But now I’ve gotten a bit more streetwise and jaded – I hope those phishing bastards are happy. They turned a perfectly happy blogger into a bitter, cynical old woman. Since there’s no proof that I was already bitter and cynical before they showed up, I can blame it on them and get away with it. Unless they talk to my husband of 17 years….

      • hahaha! It happens to the best of us! Keep up the good work. I ws gullible enough to think if I blog consistantly and write good post I woudl get freshly pressed, but that is a no! :o)

        • Don’t lose hope on the Freshly Pressed dream. I think there is a tremendous amount of luck involved with getting picked – the perfect blend of right time, right topic. In the meantime, write because you love it, and screw what anyone else thinks.

    • Well, I already know you’re real…. I’ve seen you around this joint a time or two. So that’s one less that I have to investigate 🙂 I don’t know where all these phony boloneys cropped up from – think there’s a spam factory cranking them out somewhere? I bet it’s the same factory that makes telemarketers.

    • Well, start combing through them now so you don’t have to do too many at once – I nearly ended up in a padded cell by the time I was done with mine. I’ve seen enough thinly-veiled porn to last me a lifetime…..

  3. I am very disappointed in you. Champagne to celebrate? I really thought you were a tequila shots, dancing on the bar in red high heels kind of girl. Of course, that was us before children. Now it is tequila in our dreams, red high heels have been absconded by the kids for their dress up trunk, and the only dancing we do is in the dark after we stub our toe trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night because our bladders have been used as trampolines by our babies.
    In spite of your wussy taste in alchohol, you are my blogging hero and the person I most want to be like when I grow up. I owe you so much for inspiring me in every blog and setting a level of excellence that very few in the blogosphere reach. I am going to tell the world a secret about you. You aren’t just an amazing writer. You are also a really nice person (cue awwwwww). It’s true people. She is as nice and genuine as she seems. Sorry Linda. Secret is out. You are so screwed.

    • Hey Bel –

      I assure you, that champagne was purely figurative… but the tequila shots I will be slamming back tomorrow night will be very, very literal. You can keep those red high heels though – nothing but converse sneakers and Ugg boots for this girl. Not only are they more comfortable, but it’s way easier to walk home in after the aforementioned tequila shots. See? That’s me, always thinking ahead.

      And don’t be telling people around here that I’m NICE – I’m from New York! Nice is the kiss of death! You might as well paint a big, red target on my head and tell people to hit me up for money because NICE people are suckers for charities… and little kids… and abused animals…. and people who run marathons even though they have no limbs. That’s SO not me – I’m made of steel, or stone, or some other REALLY tough shit. I definitely DON’T cry over St. Jude’s Children’s hospital commercials or the Christmas Shoes song…. nope, not me…..

    • Ben –

      I can’t say for sure. But my guess is that only a real person could be that bitter.

      P.S. – loved your blog! After I stop being bitter about my superficially inflated follower numbers, I’ll be sure to comment over on your site. Have a great day….. if that’s at all possible.

  4. I only have 80 followers and even I know the crushing disappointment of fake followers. (And YES…SOME of mine are real, thank you! My mom totally subscribes to my blog). I did once decide to check out a few new followers only to find that they were apparently “follower sluts” (dare I say?) who seemed to have clicked on every random blog they could come across and follow it in hopes of people following theirs because they have hundreds of comments saying “Thanks for the follow!” I was crushed that it wasn’t my recipe genius, or parenting failure stories, or obvious photographic talents that drew them to the site. Alas, while I’m sorry for your disappointment, I’m kind of encouraged that someone with more than their mom following them for real still gets so excited for new followers. I seriously report a new follower as a highlight of my day to my husband when he gets home from work! 🙂 I may need to get out more.

    • I still get positively giddy every time I get a new follower; the same goes for comments and likes – I’ve been on here a little over a year and it never gets old.

      As for the evil fake followers, you brought up a category that I missed – follower sluts! I did come across some of those as well. Again, with me being total crap at PR work, it would never dawn on me to go to someone’s site and thank them for following my blog, so I never even realized there were follower sluts out there. It’s really a wonder I’ve got any followers at all because I’m such an ungrateful asshole 🙂

  5. This happened when I joined Twitter. There were lots of followers that I looked at that had pictures of naked ladies as their profiles and emails that I can’t retype here. I “reported” them but I’m sure that doesn’t really do anything. I remember the feeling of disappointment that there weren’t really that many people out there who wanted to here about my daughter’s pooping habits and my comments on the massive amount of television I was watching.

    • I haven’t ventured into Twitter yet… the thought of trying to contain my ideas in a box that only allows 140 characters makes me twitch. It takes some painful edits just to keep my ramblings down to 1,000 words here on my blog. So I applaud you and hope that your fellow tweeters continue to flock to you…. just try to ignore all the bird crap along the way 🙂

      P.S. – I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you for all the comments you’ve left for me over the last year (or whenever you started following me). You are number 4 on my top commenters list! I wish I had a plaque, blue ribbon, or fluffy hat for you…. the world doesn’t have enough fluffy hats.

        • As far as a I know, there’s no way to delete these “fake” followers – but if you find out differently, could you let me know? I also don’t know if they carry viruses. If they do, my computer should be infected with the electronic version of swine flu because I visited quite a few of them in my quest to find out the truth behind the numbers. My guess is that they’re about as dangerous as gnats… and just as annoying.

  6. Well I feel mightily left out. I haven’t received a barrage of new followers recently, real OR spam. I’d love a spam follower. Or a follower that was actually spam. Being followed by some reconstituted meat and chemicals might be kind of cool.
    Oh and by the way, I’ve just followed you and I’m real. Kind of. Most days. Not when I’m hungover or tired. Then I’m just hot air and profound regret.
    🙂

    • And the award for best comment on my spam entry goes to…..

      That was awesome. I found your hot air and profound regret amusing. And then I felt a little guilty for laughing about it. But then I got over it and giggled some more.

      • Oh hurrah, I love a best comment award!
        And thank you for laughing at my hot air and profound regret. I was marginally offended, but then I had a word with myself and decided to let it go.

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  8. Found your blog in a search on “spam followers”. So I guess the pests served at least one higher purpose. But what baffles me is, what’s in it for them? A lot of these folks don’t even have “awesome posts” for me to check out, so it isn’t like they are getting increased traffic to a site. And nobody reading my blog has any idea who these morons are; just that I have big numbers (which are going to become meaningless if this nonsense keeps up). So nobody is going to be directed to their site, even if they have one. I don’t get it.

    • Well, I if they led you to me, I guess I should thank them – but it will be said in the same tone that I “thank” someone when they cut me off in traffic. “Yeah, thanks a lot a$$h****!” Maybe that’s too harsh….

      I don’t really understand what they’re getting out of it either. My only guess is that some people (who are clearly better at PR work than me) will go to their blogs to thank them for following their blog – thus it increases their traffic, and by extension, the likelihood that someone will buy whatever they’re selling. I guess this is one instance where my self-centeredness works in my favor 🙂

      I miss when my follower numbers used to mean something…. (sniffle)…..

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  10. Thank you for posting this! I’ve gained a huge number of spam followers recently, and I just linked to your post on my blog.

  11. I followed a link from Paper, Paint & Pixie Dust which led to your blog. I am now following you, but rest assured, I am not a spam bot. So you can add one more tick to your “It’s ALIVE!!” list. 🙂

    Now excuse me while I explore the rest of your site. 🙂

  12. “Every time I gained a new follower, it was an affirmation that I’m a good writer. But now, that number is meaningless.” You said it! And I couldn’t have put it better myself (and I’m just doing a post about something very similar. I hope I can finish the damn thing soon, too!)

    I hate the Follow spam, but apart from constantly reporting them, can’t see any way to tackle it… other than not bothering any more to note how many Followers I have. And when all’s said and done the Follower count is only people who have WordPress.com blogs who’ve clicked the ‘Follow’ link, not readers from anywhere else. And there will be other people reading – via external Feed Readers, via their own and other people’s blogrolls, via links in Facebook and Twitter, via their own bookmarks. So you’ll still have far more readers who are not spammers who are enjoying your blog.

    • So, I see my dark (BBW) side didn’t scare you off. As you can tell by this post, I’m not always so depressing 🙂

      I agree, there’s not much to be done about the annoying spammers out there. I’m just so sad that they managed to take away any and all meaning behind the followers number. I don’t even pay attention to it anymore. But the real people, the ones I connect and swap comments with, are the ones who really matter. The rest is just stats… and I’ve always sucked at math anyway.

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  14. Hi, I came here via Val. I’ve always suspected most of my followers were either robots or cats. Probably both. It’s funny, because about a year ago, I had around 300 followers (and was perfectly thrilled I had each one). Now I have several times that, yet I still have the same loyal crowd of regular commenters/bloggers visiting. It’s made me realize that seeing that number go up is a huge anti-climax when you realize a good fraction are spam. And numbers really don’t mean jack when it comes to having a ‘successful’ blog, it’s the real connections you make with other readers (who are actually human).

    • I’m so grateful to Le Clown for allowing me to write on Black Box Warnings because it introduced me to all you great people. And now we’ve both stepped outside the box to meet on more lighthearted ground – this blog is my goofier side. And much to Le Clown’s dismay, my goofier side likes pink 🙂

      I agree with you about there being no real correlation between the follower number and a blog’s success – especially now when the followers aren’t real people. I’m gaining around 15-20 new “followers” a day, but it means squat because my writing isn’t impacting those people at all…. maybe because they’re not REAL PEOPLE.

  15. “Number Johnny Five, Alive!”

    I think. This could all be a dream though. Are *you* real???

    Nice to find you via the universal spackle. Perhaps that stuff is real after all?

    ~ Christy

    • Last time I checked I was real, even though my kids treat me like a chauffeur/cook/maid robot most days – kind of like Rosie from the Jetsons. (Are you too young to remember the Jetsons? Probably not if you’re quoting Short Circuit.)

      Along with helping others (as we stated on Black Box Warnings), I think quiet children are also part of the universal spackle 🙂

      • Yep, Judy Jetson had the coolest pony-tail, though Rosie’s snark stole the show. (And yay, you passed my covert 80’s test!)

        Quiet children… Ahhhhh…. The universe just sighed.

  16. A lot of my followers (spamsters) all seemed to be from Canada, and have recently retired in their 20s working a couple of hours a day for the Empower Network, or Automated Paydays, its looks like one giant pyramid scheme trying to get people to join so they get some form of commission and then want you to do the same, I did some research and it looks so dodgy. The blogs all look identical apart from the different name, they even post the exact same inspirational articles… they could atleast co ordinate a little better before unleashing such a scam. WordPress users seem to be good targets.

    • My dear IQ Unlimited…while I agree with your assessment, there is one part of your logic that is quite faulty. That it is Canadians doing it. Everyone knows that Canadians are not capable of any wrong doing. As I mentioned to the owner of this blog, we are just too nice to do anything even remotely on the wrong side of the law. If you really want to find the culprits, I would look for Care Bears. Those little bastards are mean and smart. They look all sweet and kind but on the inside…they are criminal masterminds. If you can’t find a Care Bear, look for a Smurf. They are small, agile and one is a brilliant scientist. Need I say more.

  17. Wow, you write the truth. I followed you from via Le Clown as well.

    There is no way to block spam followers? I’m fairly new to WordPress so still learning the ropes. But I think there should be a way to block followers at the blog owners discretion. I know Twitter does that.

    • As far as I know, there’s no way to block them. I wish there was because they really do suck all the joy out of watching your follower numbers grow – I just crossed the 1,000 mark last week and it really didn’t mean much. Spam-filled bastards.

  18. Hey, I had to disable Likes to stop this same rubbish from being visible on my site… I wish the links from “Like” gravatars were as tame as your nude bicyclists.. some of the “fake” people Liking my posts have been borderline obscene and i am the furthest from a prude you could probably get…. Really wish WP could implement a follower and linking moderation system so that we could exclude objectionable items ourselves. Just being able to “hide” individuals would be better than the control we have right now.

    • Lanceolot –

      I agree, there is little to do at this point but watch our overly inflated follower numbers climb. Honestly, I don’t even look at the number anymore. It’s totally pointless. I also don’t bother clicking on the gravatars of those that just “like” my post – knowing that most will probably lead to a dead end. The only interaction I have on my blog is with those that take the time to comment. At least then, I know they’re real.

      Nice to meet another living, breathing blogger! 🙂

      Take care,
      Linda

  19. I was so happy in July. The amount of new fake followers had dropped considerably in July. I actually was happy that somewhere out there was someone who decided I wasn’t worth being followed.
    In August this changed though: the rate picked up again: 😦

    • I haven’t figured out the reasons behind the ebb and flow of spam followers, but I’ve made the executive decision to ignore them like I do the dust bunnies underneath my furniture – they’re still there, but I only notice them when I look really close 🙂

  20. The Archangeltravel account is a weird one. I just followed up with him today after going through likes/follows. Strange that the blog link is still dead but there’s currently someone actively liking/following from the account.

    • I didn’t get a spike in new followers until I cross posted to BlogHer with daily posts in November. Now I am picking up 2-3 a day, and it is getting boring. I would like to be able to zap them as I do spam comments. It also means I am dubious about my reading stats but as they haven’t shot up much they may be genuine …

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