I Do Not Think that Tweet Means What You Think It Means…

If you’ve been on Facebook for any decent amount of time lately, you’ve probably seen this post:

Costco $75 coupon post from Facebook

It seems like every so often, this coupon, or other fake ones from Southwest, Disney, etc., make the rounds online. The scam encourages people to click on a link and follow a few simple steps to claim their $75. Those few simple steps usually include giving out some personal information, such as name, email, phone number, etc. which can then be sold for data mining.

If you’re like me, you dutifully respond to your great-Aunt or long lost friend from 3rd grade to let them know the ad is fake. And yet, it keeps on circulating.

Say No to the Hoax

When we teach digital citizenship, or any digital literacy course, scams like this are often included. In fact, even to get my university email account activated, I had to take a cybersecurity course that include a section on how to detect hoaxes like that Costco coupon.

So why then, on Twitter, do I see so many educators fall prey to similar scams? Not sure what I’m talking about? Have you seen any tweets like these lately?

Last I looked it had 209 responses. Over 200 people freely giving their personal information via Twitter. 120 people retweeted it to encourage others to share their personal info.

To what end? Let’s examine this tweet more closely…

We have a person asking others to help show how far a tweet will go. And yet, it doesn’t disclose the original location. Hmm… how will the 200+ people know how far it’s gone? Guess only the originator gets to know.

But wait, the tweet says it’s for a geography class. Who teaches this class? Again, we don’t know. And if the teacher isn’t included, how is the class following the progress of this tweet? Are they manually reading every response and retweet to create a map?

What if a teacher is looking to connect with another geography class for a Mystery Skype or other collaborative event… can they connect? Nope. Because this tweet has no identifying information.

Just a generic tweet.

The Quest for Tweet Impressions

But don’t be fooled – there is a reason for it. Every time someone responds, or retweets, the author gets elevated in the twitter algorithm. Why is that important? Because the author gets more exposure, and more exposure means more followers… and more followers has potential for more gigs and more income.

Here’s an example of a tweet I made in September, and the analytics from Twitter.

You can see that Twitter is calculating total impressions. Impressions measures the total number of views of a conversation. So even though I only have 6k followers, this one tweet has been seen over 81k times. How? Because every like exposed my tweet to other people in that person’s timeline, and even more exposure for retweets and for replies. From that one tweet, 100 people clicked on my profile – that’s 100 potential new followers for me. Yay me!

Next time you see a tweet, or a post, that asks you to share it with the world, or provide personal data, before you click that “post” button, ask yourself:
Is it truly about contributing to or supporting someone, or is it a promotional scam from the sender?
When’s the last time you saw the tweet author engaging in conversations with followers?
How many tweets are built on personal exposure pushes? Share my tweet. Read my book. Attend my session.
What professional growth or meaning do you get from participating in the request?

And then go look at some cute puppy photos instead.

Postscript (12/10/19)

The author of the tweet I shared here reached out privately to explain that the request was from his wife, and said that I had made a fun project turn nasty. This post wasn’t about him, and wasn’t about being “nasty” (which is an interesting term to use these days for someone questioning a practice, but 🤷🏼‍♀️), but these types of algorithm-playing data requests in general. Although I do find it interesting that the post request has been repeated multiple times (but now with explanation of wife included) … So again, I just ask people to think before replying or sharing or divulging info on all social media platforms.

2 Comments on “I Do Not Think that Tweet Means What You Think It Means…

  1. Thanks Laura,

    I’ve been somewhat mystified by colleagues who have incurred huge leaps in followers and didn’t really think through the algorithms they were exploiting. You’ve shed a clearer light on this My own following peaked a few years ago when twitter began uses these algorithms. I felt my own following was built around less gaming of the system and more authentic persona.

    I understand this is just about knowing how the game works. I just don’t want to play.


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