Skip to main content

Will Spam Kill Twitter

Twitter Posts on Paint Projects, Ear Infections Annoy Users

By Joseph Galante

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Rachel Gard, who started using Twitter two months ago to keep in touch with friends, says she may stop using the site if companies keep contacting her.

Already Home Depot Inc. has wished her luck painting her room, a medical company recommended its device for her ear infection, and a DJ told her to check out his single.

“I don’t want random people contacting me,” said Gard, 21, who lives in Clearwater, Florida. “Don’t try to sell yourself through my Twitter.”

Twitter users post 140-character updates about their lives, making the site a potential goldmine for marketers wanting to know what customers are thinking about. While Twitter Inc. could make money by charging companies to send “tweets” to potential customers, the corporate babble may alienate users, threatening to stem the 18-fold growth in visitors in the past year.

“It is starting to get out of control,” said Christopher Peri, founder of TwittFilter, a Web site that lets users restrict who can follow updates they post to Twitter. “The original value of Twitter is friends talking to friends. When someone says, ‘I’m going to pimp this product,’ it’s no longer a social media.”

Visitors to Twitter in the U.S. increased to 9.31 million in March, up from 524,000 in the same month last year, according to ComScore Inc. Celebrities and politicians, including President Barack Obama, have embraced the service.

Business Model

For now, the San Francisco-based company lets consumers and businesses use the service for free. The site is only starting to generate revenue. Twitter has raised more than $50 million from investors, including Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, Benchmark Capital and Institutional Venture Partners.

As Twitter grows, companies are increasingly interested in reaching its users -- a group seen as less likely to respond to traditional advertising. Dunkin Donuts Inc. answers customer questions on Twitter, Best Buy Co. encourages its employees to use the site, and Hewlett-Packard Co. has about 50 people tracking Twitter every day.

While these approaches may not be intrusive, some companies are using the service to send spam and unsolicited marketing -- a problem Twitter is taking steps to fix. The company disabled a feature this month that allowed users to automatically “follow” people who follow them. Spammers used this feature to quickly set up mass networks.

Fighting Spam

Twitter also has a spam team developing ways to detect and delete spam, co-founder Biz Stone said. Users can already block people from sending them messages.

“Spam will always be an issue that requires attention,” Stone said in an e-mail. “Our goal is to stay ahead of spam and keep the user experience great for folks on Twitter.”

Twitter gets some revenue from Microsoft Corp., which sponsors a site that carries Tweets from executives. While Twitter hasn’t said how it will make money apart from that, the company has indicated that it may charge businesses for access to its users. There are numerous outside programs, such as TwitterTroll and Tweefind, that companies use to comb the site for references to their products.

For now, spam isn’t a crippling problem, said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc. Businesses’ efforts to tap Twitter are a sign of the service’s success, he said.

“I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing,” Owyang said. “They can’t stop it. It’s a sign that they’re becoming more mainstream.”

Red Pinstripes

Gard, who was planning to paint her bedroom gray with red pinstripes, posted an update April 1 telling her friends that she needed to shop for paint at Home Depot, Lowe’s or Ace Hardware. Within 15 minutes, Home Depot sent Gard a message on Twitter wishing her luck and telling her to let them know if she needed help.

Days later, when she complained about an ear infection, she got a message from Eardoc, which sells a device for treating ear ailments. The company sent Gard a message saying, “Fast and safe relief for ear infection is Eardoc.”

“I was like, ‘What?’” Gard said. “I was really confused. I didn’t even know businesses did that.”

Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement retailer, mainly uses Twitter to help customers, rather than pushing products, said Sarah Molinari, a spokeswoman who maintains the company’s Twitter account.

“If they want to engage with us, great,” Molinari said. “That’s their decision, but at least we were accessible at a time when they may have needed us to be.”

Eardoc didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Fair Game?

Reaching consumers in this way is probably fair game for companies because users’ Tweets are available for anyone to see, said Greg Galant, CEO at Sawhorse Media LLC, a media research company based in New York.

Even so, companies that troll the site risk becoming overbearing, he said.

“You can imagine mentioning the word ‘paint’ and 10 paint companies contact you about ordering paint from their Web site,” Galant said. “Eventually Twitter may have to put in more filters.”

Twitter users can also be part of the problem. Services such as Magpie and AdCause pay Twitter users for the right to post ads in their streams of messages. The posts are formatted just like regular Tweets, with a label to show they are ads.

‘In Your Face’

Ann Finnie, a spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard, monitors mentions of her company on Twitter. She says she tries to be helpful to people when reaching out to users, without being irritating.

“I’ve never had anybody say, ‘Leave me alone,’” Finnie said. “In my experience, they’re happily surprised that we’re paying attention.”

Companies are trying to figure out the best balance, said Beverly Macy, who teaches social media classes at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Are we going to be seen as in your face or are we going to be seen as helpful?” Macy said. “What are the rules of engagement? Companies are grappling with this right now, and they’re sorting it out in different ways.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Galante in San Francisco at


Popular posts from this blog

A Golden Age for Cheapskates

In a Lousy Economy, People Dig a Bit Deeper to Turn Up Deals
By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Last fall, the Woodbine, Md., mother of three figured out a great way to get some: online giveaways. She has entered about 40 so far. She has won T-shirts, cleaning products, a small portable vacuum, olive oil, beef jerky and -- best of all -- a Nintendo DS on Web sites such as, and

"The lure of free stuff is quite appealing," she said. "I never considered myself a winner. I don't think I ever won bingo. My name was never drawn from a hat. However, I've been extraordinarily successful at the giveaways."

The recession has emboldened a certain kind of consumer: The mooch. With dwindling retirement savings, a higher cost of living and wobbly job market, they don't just want discounts on items they used to pay full price for without a second thought. They want freebi…


A RECENT NOR EASTER HIT THE NEW ENGLAND COAST AND AS THOUGHT THIS WRECK SURFACED AGAIN FROM ITS BURIED DEMISE--The skeleton only appears periodically - the last time was in 2013 - always after a significant coastal storm, and always attracting attention. Archaeological work conducted in 1980 indicated the wreck is a sloop of about Revolutionary War age. It is likely a “pinky,” a type of vessel with a high, narrow stern and square rigging easily maneuverable along the coast of Maine. Pinkies were popular as fishing and cargo vessels. The first sighting of the skeleton was in 1958, and then it has surfaced periodically right up to the present day - and usually after a good spring nor’easter. Word spread quickly about this sighting via social media, and people came over the weekend and on Monday as well. First, they had to navigate the seaweed- and rock-strewn streets of York Beach. They were also precluded from parking cars in most of the Ellis Park lot, which was buried under a layer …


I've always felt a special fascination for mosaics. From Roman tile compositions to current digital collages, I think they're an awesome artistic expression.
That's why I was so happy when I found Andreamosaic.
This tool enables you to create amazing mosaics from your digital pictures in a very easy way.
It requires having a large collection of photos to use as tiles, that's true. Fortunately the installation file already includes a pack of 500 sample photos that produce excellent results.
The program's interface is quite dull; in fact it's simply a gray window with too much text on it. But the mechanics are easy to understand so you'll be creating your own mosaics in no time!
Plus, the program includes a 20-page manual that explains everything thoroughly. Just remember that the more tiles you use, the longer it will take to generate the mosaic and the larger the final file will be.


How To Create A Photo Mosaic In Photos…