Social Media Warning: Don’t Try Services like FlockToMe that Claim to Increase Followers!

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flock-to-me-homepage

This post is a Social Media word of warning. If you see any Twitter or Social Media service that claims it will get you hundreds or thousands of new followers or friends in hours…STAY AWAY! I have written about this before in tweets and articles that the only way you should grow your following is by your content alone. People should want to follow you because of what you have to say, what you talk about, your humor (or lack there of), your interests, your ideas, your thoughts, etc.

It should NOT be some sort of automated, pyramid-scheme system where you sign in and click a button and away you go with hundreds of “following” notifications popping into your email box. It’s pretty easy to identify the Twitterers who have done this automated method. They have 10,000 followers but they are also following 10,000 people and they have 10 tweets and have been on twitter for 2 days. There is no humanly way possible to generate that many followers, unless you are someone like @Oprah who had 35,000 followers just minutes after her first tweet. As of this writing, she has 1,324,028 followers, is following 14 (obviously she doesn’t auto follow) and has only 46 updates.

Personally, I screen every follower I get to see if I want to follow them back. It’s a bit of a time consuming process, but helps control the content feed that I get coming in through Twitter.

Today, I saw a tweet from a friend (who works in the media) that simply stated “Join our follower club #FlockToMe and get thousands of new followers for free! http://bit.ly/z1TfK”. I sent him a DM (Direct Message) stating “Hmmm, not sure about the FlockToMe concept. I think following should be organic, no? Otherwise a bit spammy?” Well, he was a pretty trusted source of mine so I figured I would check it out.

The FlockToMe homepage looks like this:

flock_to_me_homepage

It’s all very Web 2.0 and with nice blue colors like Twitter. You can now see my Twitter profile image on their homepage. Why? Because I wanted to see what it was all about.

About FlockToMe

What you see on the FlockToMe home page is all that you see on the site with the exception of the pages below. There is no area for FAQs, blog, contact section or documentation to understand how the process works. This should have been a bit warning bell for me. But when you click on the Get Started button, it’s almost too late. The next screen you get is the Twitter Authorization Screen (on Twitter’s site). On this screen, you are asked to authorize FlockToMe to access (access & update) to your Twitter account.

flock_to_me_twitter_auth

Basically, this means that FlockToMe can do anything with your account (within reason…sort of). After that, you are presented with another screen which allows you to choose 3 tags that describe you (I chose #cloudcomputing, #tech and #dad for mine). You put in your age, gender and zip code (not sure what those are for, especially since there isn’t any documentation about it on the site).

flock_to_me_twitter_choose_tags

Once you click “Join the flock!” everything gets kicked into action. BUT WAIT, conveniently placed below that button in lighter grey text is the “SPAM” message that is sent out from your Twitter account: “Join our follower club #FlockToMe and get thousands of new followers for free! http://bit.ly/11XES3”. Note that the Bit.ly link that is provided is different than the one my friend tweeted out. It’s probably a way to track how many people clicked on it. 50 clicked on his link and 30 on mine (I deleted the tweet with that link though.)

Once you fill out the form and click the Join button, you get a crazy page that shows you all of the people who have automagically started following you (of course, you are now automagically following THEM in return). Unfortunately, I did not get a screenshot of that (a movie would have been better) as the list started scrolling. I think I hit about 96 new followers before I started to try to turn off the flood.

As I looked through those people who were starting to follow me, I noticed that none of their keywords or tags matched mine. Hmmm. I thought the service said that I would “get followers with similar interests.” So it seemed like it was just a random following and/or some lazy programming.

Turning it off

Well, I had no clue how to quickly turn off the deluge of followers coming in, so the first thing that I did was to go to Twitter and de-authorize FlockToMe. The “follow” emails and the website streaming update continued to keep going for many minutes after I had done that (in fact, almost 1 hour later, I’m still getting straggling “new follower” emails, but that is probably because the service I use – Topify – sends those with lower priority. Topify is GREAT by the way!)

Then I went back to the FlockToMe “dashboard” and saw the link “want out? – aak! i am overwhelmed, please remove my ## followers”. Basically, from my understanding, this is a way to reverse what you just went through.

flock_to_me_followers

From the screenshot above, it looks like mine was successfully reversed.

How to do it right

So how is the correct way to get followers. Quick answer? Have something good and intelligent to say; have a product that people talk about; be unique or different; help people out.

Last night, I hosted a meetup in San Francisco called StartUp SF. I was lucky enough to get Loic Le Meur of Seemic as a guest speaker. He gave a great speech about “Building A Product With Your Community”. The slides and audio of Loic’s speech are here. One of the things that Loic said that I’m paraphrasing here is that you can’t make a following happen magically. You have to do something qualitative about it. (He talked about a band who wanted him to get him followers, he simply said NO.)

That is to say, these magic services that will get you thousands of new followers do so at a price…TO YOU! You want a selective community of INTERESTED people following you, not a random bunch of people who have absolutely nothing in common. By doing that, you dilute your message and your own brand. Luckily, FlockToMe allowed for a way to undo my “personal brand damage” and reverse the effects. Other services might not be so nice.

HTD Says: When it comes to building your following on Social Media, do it the ol’ fashioned way…with blood, sweat and tears. Don’t shortcut it and use a service. Keep you reputation intact by writing intelligently and building YOUR community by hand, YOURSELF!

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10 Responses

  1. Hi Michael,

    This is a great article to encourage people to join FlockToMe. You even kindly provide instructions on how to join and the nice images to show how the process works.

    If however I have miss read you an you really do want to discourage this practice can I suggest you could consider a couple of life's realities.

    I have noticed over time that I, even amongst the clutter of many tweets from following many people, eventually link up with people that provide good quality information in my areas of interest and on “tweetdeck” I just add them to my favorites list and they are the core of my quality group. If I did not endure the overall ’spam’ (perhaps an oxymoron when linked with twitter) I 'would' (perhaps maybe) not have connected with the cream. Its a bit like milking a cow I guess, you have to get all the milk and separate the cream later. What you say above for me is a bit like trying to find a cow that only delivers cream, surely an even more time consuming and futile pursuit if you are looking to say find blog readers as an objective rather than just capturing the wisdom of others as a one way exercise.

    That leads me to outbound tweets, if you are looking for readers then (for me as I guess you) as a blogger the more you can touch the better chance you have… basic marketing actually.

    Finally, with twitter (and mass following) whether you’re selling ideas (in a hope to influence) or real world products I think it is a case of “ignore it at your peril” and don't rubbish those that are a little inept or give it a try and end up with only a few tweets, some will come back eventually (I had five personal tweets for about three months now I do 1 to 5 a day). Additionally to give a real world example, you wouldn’t stand at the front door of your real world supermarket and vet who was coming in and turn away the ones you didn’t like the look of, well I wouldn’t anyway.

    Ric http://orglearn.org/career_success_blog/

  2. Thanks Ric for your comment.

    Actually, the idea behind my article on FlockToMe (and other services
    that promise “instant followers”) was to encourage people NOT to sign
    up for those services. I guess that I would say that I'm a bit of a
    “purist” and have tried to get all of my followers organically and
    naturally. That is to say, they are following me ONLY because of the
    quality or content of my tweets.

    I tried this service because I wanted to understand how it works and
    why people choose to use it. Personally, I am against services like
    this. But they may be good for others.

    There will be a Twitter reputation standard created, so that people
    understand and can grade the type of person behind the twitter
    account. If they have a 1:1 ratio (followers/following) and high
    numbers, I believe the reputation will be worse, but only in
    combination with the amount of time that they have been on twitter,
    plus the retweeting, the conversations and other factors. This will
    clearly show quality from quantity.

    I personally don't recommend these services like FlockToMe. They are
    short cuts and can end up hurting your own personal brand in the
    process. I only showed the pictures of the sign-up process so that
    people could clearly understand what they might be getting into. In
    the case of FlockToMe, it's the LACK of information about the service
    that is scary.

    Best,
    HTD

  3. Thank you Michael,
    for this excellent article and it is all true. Only after I had clicked the FlockToMe link and, since I then got to bed, I had over 600 new followers the next morning. Feeling too that this is just way too much and not all fitting my interests, I then Googled the site and found your article. After follwoing your comments, I fully agree and will flee the site soon now. Also a compliment to this blog, I put a link to it on my own blog so to enable my readers to learn from you.
    Martin Bigler

  4. Thanks Martin for your comments and the link on your site. Yes, it's
    very enticing to try these auto-follower services, but being a purist
    of sorts, I would rather that people follow me organically because of
    the information or comments I provide.

  5. Hey High Tech Dad! My name is Giacomo Knox, and I am the Creator/Co-Executive Producer of a reality show called A Week With My Father. The show brings together broken father and sons pairings for a one-week reunion. The goal of each program is to foster a sense of understanding between the two men, and hopefully start a new relationship. The show has produced a pilot featuring me and my own father James. We hadn't seen each other since 1977!

    I wonder if you'd be interested in doing a blog on our project? You can see the pilot in webisode format (5 minutes at a time) at http://www.aweekwithmyfather.com

    We've also been written about on tubefilter, and in the Glendale News-Press!

    http://news.tubefilter.tv/2009/04/21/a-week-wit

    http://glendalenewspress.com/articles/2009/04/2

  6. Yeah, I've been trying to avoid the auto adders, but they're like roaches. Twitter is even more of a popularlity contest than myspace or facebook, unfortunately. But it's a good way to spread word about small business. The converse, loads of spam from “Hey, you too can earn $350 per day on twitter!” Ugh…

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About HighTechDad

Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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