How To Spot Twitter Robot Accounts

After a thread on Google Plus about how Twitter can go so wrong, I decided you need to know how to spot a Twitter account that is really run by a Twiter spam robot

AJ Kohn started this discussion on Google+ asking “Have you ever wondered how someone who just started a Twitter account and has four tweets under their belt has 10,000 followers?”

In early 2009 I was involved with some programmers that built a really slick Twitter robot that aggresively built massive Twitter followings. So I went on to explain that “iRobot, therefore iTweet!”

  • Either most IM accounts use a robot.
  • Or use auto followback.
  • More likely both…

Here’s how to spot a robotic Twitter account

It’s easy to spot a robot running a Twitter account, the number always looks like this;

44,264 Followers / Following 45,078 (name removed to protect the jackass who calls himself a social media expert)

The following is always just about 750 ahead of the followers. Look at the account any day of the week, you will always see the same ratio, less than 1k but always more than 250 AHEAD of the followers.

Can Twitter have a real following? Yes, Darren Rowse unfollowed everyone on Twitter, 78,450 in fact, and only dropped 2k.

Problogger before:

Problogger after:

So yes, there are very highly targeted bloggers on Twitter that don’t use robots or autofollow back software, Problogger proves that and you can see he never used a robot either. His account does not carry the footprint.

Here’s how Robot accounts work: The robot always adds 250 to 750 a day varying it’s numbers via a random number generator. It is all in the last 2 to 3 numbers. Look for that ratio of always following slightly more than the account is being followed by.

So here’s how we built the best of the Twitter robots 3 years ago.

First you base who the robot adds by keywords, RTs and how many the user to be added by said robot has in followers. Obiously the more the better on all indicators.

Now, the robot loads Twitter profiles and acts like a real user using a browser following people for you in your name, logged into your account.

If the person / user added does not follow the robot / account back, then the robot unfollows user in 3 days time.

So the robot is always ahead of the following, no matter if the account follows 3K or 100K, the last 2 to 3 numbers will always be ahead of the followers by a ration of more than 250 but less than 750 or so.

Also you have to buy ranges of IP address so that each Twitter account using our Robot has it’s own IP address so it looks to Twitter like the robot is really a user, logged in. So this is not cheap to do, but it works real well if that’s all you want out of Twitter.

Robots create a massive footprint when you know what to look for and they are real easy to spot. How do you cover up that you are running a robot on Twitter? Advocate autofollow back in your marketing material. Unless you read this and know what to look for that works well too…..


  1. Posted October 9, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I hardly use twitter, but it good to know these things…

  2. Posted October 9, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I follow a few more than follow me, but the reason is that I follow news and politics sources that I don’t expect to have follow me. Further, just because someone follows me doesn’t mean I will follow them back, some twitters can be pretty raunchy. What you are saying is a sign of bots, perhaps, but its not absolute.

  3. Posted October 9, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Yep, I admit to doing all the ‘find followers’ crap from bygone days. Now I have a few Twitter accounts, most automated to get content from Twitterers I respect.

    But on all I have spent, say, 2o minutes every eveing just unfollowing and unfollowing and unfollowing ( could probably outsource this right?)

    Consequently my Twitter accounts loo far more legit ( as they are! I only actively follow people I respect in the field of any Twitter niche I’m in)

    As you say it looks FAR more professional to be followed by a lot yet follow a few:

    or ones that have been stagnating for a while and I need to re-activate:

  4. Posted October 9, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I think Twitter is vigilant in suspending these accounts now; they are hardly ever seen.

  5. Posted October 9, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    You are competely wrong about that Patrick Kitano, I took the numbers used above from a social called social media guru we all know and I have been watching his account for years now.

    He follows exactally 250 to 750 more than his following for the last 2 years now and I pulled the numbers above today.

    Let’s see if I am right….. Let’s pull the numbers again right now:


    Following 45,076

    The numbers always remain the same, he unfollowed 2 today, that’s his robot at work, in just the last two hours.

  6. Posted October 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    If Twitter really wanted to get rid of account’s playing the system they’d simply use your(Chris)system/ratio and use that as an indicator of a bullshit account.

    Followers 10,000 – Following 10,150 = fake account!

    Twitter won’t do that though because they realize a hard core of their users did all that ‘follow me/follow you’ nonsense and still do.

    But as regards initial perception of a Twitter account, even for those NON marketers among us?

    My personal view is that if you are following more than 300 you are a BS merchant.

  7. Posted October 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just never been able to get into twitter. The first time I logged in, followed 5 real life friends, and saw a wall of crap I don’t care about, I knew it wasn’t for me. I just saw it as a fraction of the interface of other networks out there. Just not for me…

    I don’t see how anyone could follow more than 100 people and not being able to sort the garbage twitter walls.

    That’s why I like the G+ circles. If I’m in the mood for fitness articles, I check the fitness circle. Or I can check my Real life Friends circle, etc.

  8. Posted October 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Been there, done that, as they say. However, about two years ago after reaching 20,000 followers I switched of the said “robots”. Since switching off the robots my accounts have remained fairly static with a gradual natural growth of followers and people whom I personally choose to follow. The Problem with such large accounts is that it becomes virtually impossible to use them as twitter intended for social activity, however, they do still provide me with useful backlinks, and also whenever I post an interesting item It does get viewed, not by thousands, but even so those who do visit the links will quite often comment or linkback somehow so it is still worthwhile.

  9. Posted October 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    I post a few things to Twitter. When I announce a Video there I usually get a few views. However I never went auto tweet. It seems those who were in early or those who had the best personalities did great, but even they pushed the automation. I think I have Hummingbird or one of those, but never went crazy with it. I have about 1300-1400 followers at any one time, but just do not spend a lot of time interacting there.
    Thanks for the update on Twitter, Chris.

  10. Posted October 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I can usually tell bots by what and how they tweet. I keep my ration up there but often go in a tweak things to change things up a little as i redefine how I want to use it.

    The twitter community in my town is fairly active and you can actually go meet them face to face.

  11. Posted October 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    personally I do not mind autofollowing back, when many do it it is no big deal. I think sometimes you are smarter to use tools that make a job easier. It is about working smarter not harder online. As for Robots, when it is fully robot no personality and no human touch I have found it can be found but I have to say G+ has more of my attention now days.

  12. Posted December 25, 2011 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    Great article Chris. On Twitter I’m following under 200 and Followers under 100. I’ve thought about following those people who claim you can get hundreds of more followers. Basically I like to know who I’m following and who’s following me. I appreaciate the heads up. No – Robots – For – Me.