How to spot social media fakers, bots, and dummy accounts

Ever wonder if a LinkedIn profile is legitimate or not? Ever questioned whether a Twitter account retweeting you is a real person? Bots have always plagued social media, but as developers become more sophisticated, it’s easier than ever to create a real-looking social media account. I’ve certainly gotten invites and connection requests from people I didn’t know, but whose titles or employers piqued my interest.

We don’t want to waste our time trying to connect with machines; worse, we don’t want to accept a machine connection because of the inevitable flood of spammy content that will ensue. The hidden cost of connecting with a bot is the enormous time suck it imposes on you, filtering and cleaning out inboxes.

We have a useful detection method to help us: Google Image Search. Why? Spammers and bots tend to use stock photos or stolen images on multiple accounts. They’re lazy, and automated tools make it easy to set up thousands of fake accounts with the same profile picture.

Use a browser with Google Image Search enable, such as Chrome. Right click and search the profile image on Google Image Search:


If you see this in the search results, it’s probably a bot account:



In contrast, let’s look at what a legitimate profile appears as:

spot a social media bot

Most people tend to use the same image on many different social networks, so a quick scan of the search results should reveal whether this LinkedIn profile is the real deal. In this case, it is:


Richard is the real deal. He’s got accounts on multiple networks with the same profile picture.

If you’re concerned about the legitimacy of a connection request or a follower, using Google Image Search is an easy way to tell. It’s not foolproof – after all, spammers and scammers can easily lift a profile picture from anywhere. But generally speaking, it is reliable, especially since scammers and spammers won’t go to the effort of making matching accounts on multiple networks.

This brings up an important point: from time to time, search your own profile image. Find out if someone else has hijacked your identity, and if they have, report them to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the social network’s abuse department. Protect your own image!

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Twitter audience marketing growth hack

Twitter, despite its woes as a company, has plenty to offer marketers, including what may be the most amazing competitive intelligence hack ever. By hack, I mean a usable trick, not a violation of law. Want to know how your audience stacks up against a competitor? This Twitter audience marketing growth hack will help.

We begin with Twitter Audience Insights. If you’re not familiar, Twitter released this last year as a competitive option to Facebook’s Audience Insights, to prove Twitter could help marketers gain more insight into their audiences. To find it, log into and visit the Analytics tab, then choose Audience Insights:

Audience Insights Growth Hack

Once you’re in, you’ll see Twitter’s general audience. You can add your followers for comparison:


Above, we see all Twitter in the dark maroon bars, and mine in the pinkish color in the main section; on the right, we see household income. Twitter says my audience, my followers are more affluent than the average Twitter user.

This is a useful comparison to understand our audience versus the general population. Let’s now get into hacking territory. Instead of the broad audience, click on the audience menu and see what other options we have. The important one is Tailored Audiences:


Twitter Tailored Audiences are audiences we upload to Twitter via the Audience Manager:


We choose to create a new audience from our own list:


And here’s the hack: we can upload any list of Twitter handles we want. Which means we can upload a competitor’s followers list:


Where would you get such a list? Easy: go to the competitor’s Twitter profile page and extract it. It’s public information – which is why this is a marketing hack but neither illegal nor unethical. We can also use tools like FollowerWonk or Sysomos MAP to gather follower lists.

Once the Tailored Audience is uploaded and processed – which can take up to a day – go back to Audience Insights and add the competitor’s list to the tool. We can then compare our followers vs. our competitor’s followers:


From here, we can draw conclusions about the kinds of followers we have versus what our competitors have. Analyze income, professions, and more:


Above, we see that the competitor’s audience is on par by income, slightly more imbalanced gender-wise, and more self-employed. If my business doesn’t serve the self-employed, then I know my Twitter audience strategy is delivering better results than my competitor’s.

Twitter Audience Insights are a powerful tool for understanding not only our audience, but our competitors’ audiences as well. Audience Insights can lend understanding to both B2B and B2C marketers, though B2C will benefit more from the broader lifestyle and consumer behavior sections.

Conveniently, if we find a competitor’s Tailored Audience to be more on target than ours, we simply launch an advertising campaign to the competitor’s Tailored Audience to recruit them.

Try this Twitter audience marketing growth hack to compare your Twitter audience building efforts to your competitors and then take action to build the audience you want!

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Social Media Marketing World Success Guide

Social Media Marketing World is one of the largest, if not the largest, social media marketing conferences in the world. Michael Stelzner and the crew at Social Media Examiner do an amazing job of putting on this mammoth show each year in San Diego. Getting the most out of the show requires a few simple steps in advance. For first-timers, I’ve got a few suggestions to enhance your SMMW experience.

1. Stay hydrated. You’re going to two deserts for the price of one: San Diego, which tends to be a hot, arid climate, and a convention center, which tends to run air conditioning and thus remove even more water from the air. Drink water copiously. As the US Army expression goes, if you don’t have to use the restroom frequently, you haven’t had enough water.

2. Bring COMFORTABLE SHOES. You will be walking a TON. See this lovely map below? That’s the San Diego Convention Center. End to end, it’s a third of a mile long. There’s a baseball field next to it for size comparison.


3. Bring a portable power strip and power banks. Outlets aren’t always nearby and you will burn down your phone battery being social. I’m partial to the Anker 20,000 man power brick. It weighs as much as a small brick but will keep a tablet and phone charged up all day. I also carry a Monster travel 4-port power strip, which I love dearly. It’s a friend-maker – bring it out and make friends.

Also, don’t forget your device cables. Bring 2 of each.

4. Arrive with a BURNING question that you ask everyone you meet. What one question MUST you get answered in order for the conference to be worth it? If you don’t have a burning question, you’ll enjoy the show but you won’t get the most out of it.

5. Plan your sessions in advance. Got that burning question handy? You’ll find session planning on the official agenda much easier. Use the event planner to start and be sure to add key sessions to your calendar using the handy add to calendar feature.


Planning on attending my session on data-driven customer journeys? Click here for calendar reminders for Google Calendar, iCal for Mac, and Outlook.

6. Party responsibly. If we speakers are doing our jobs right, your brains should really hurt by the end of the event. You want to get the most out of the event, so pace yourself. That business-changing insight you’ve got a burning question about may happen on the last day of the event, and you want to be sober enough and awake enough to catch it.

7. Bring earplugs. I always travel with ballistic earplugs. They’re great for reducing that screaming baby on the airplane to a dull roar, and priceless for major events like SMMW. Loud convention centers and concerts and parties are awesome… for a short while. Enough loud noise will fry you. Bring a bottle of earplugs and you will end up much less fatigued.

8. Bring business cards. Duh.

9. Bring space. As in, pack lightly so you have room for all the fun stuff the various exhibitors have to offer.

10. Bring a day pack/bag. There will be times you won’t want to lug around heavy luggage or a full laptop case. A small messenger bag will fit the bill perfectly. I’m personally a fan of the Osprey Nano, but any small bag or pack will do.

See you at Social Media Marketing World! Haven’t bought tickets? Get them here.

Disclosure: All links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. I earn a small but non-zero fee if you buy something. The Social Media Marketing World link is also an affiliate link.

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