TrueTwit marketing is evil genius

Why does every story have to have an evil genius? TrueTwit has done something visionary, but you’ll have to get past my rant first.

I am impressed by something TrueTwit is doing these days, and has been for the past month, in the field of marketing. For those who know what I think of TrueTwit, this might come as a surprise. For those who have never had the pleasure to hear me rant on this topic, now’s your chance.

What makes this marketing visionary?TrueTwit is a service the forces people fill in a captcha field before they can follow you. Here is how TrueTwit works:

  1. You follow somebody.
  2. Truetwit sends you an automated direct message (DM) with a link: “To validate click here“.
  3. You click the link, and land on a TrueTwit page
  4. You successfully complete the captcha on that page, and now you are finally following the person that you had actually followed three steps ago.

Honestly, this is a make-work project that only the government could have come up with. Here is what TrueTwit does in its own words:

Twitter spam is a drag. What if you could know for sure that your followers are truly human, and not some bot? TrueTwit is designed to help you:

Verify people from robots
Avoid Twitter spam
Save time managing your followers

Why do I not normally have a whole bunch of really nice things to say about TrueTwit. For starters, there is the whole principle of it. My job on social media is to manage what I do, not what somebody else does. I manage whom I follow, not who follows me. Who cares if one robot or a million robots follow me, as long as I don’t follow any robots.

It’s the bots that I follow that can plug up my tweet stream. It’s the bots that I follow that can DM me. I don’t want to follow any bots.

The bots that follow me can’t touch me, so why would I care about them? People using TrueTwit are a little confused on this point; good thing there is somebody eager and willing to exploit that confusion.

  • Does TrueTwit verify people from robots, as it claims? Yes, but not the right people, and well, I’ll get to the accuracy in just a moment.
  • Does it avoid Twitter spam, as it claims? No! Spam can come only from the people you follow. And from TrueTwit on their behalf, by the way.
  • Does it save time managing your followers, as it claims? No, because you don’t manage your followers; they manage themselves. You manger your own actions, not those of other people.
  • Does it even work at all?  Uh, well… OK, I’ll get to that in a minute.

If TrueTwit was just benignly useless, why bother ranting?

Unfortunately, TrueTwit creates problems. I hinted at issues of accuracy a moment ago. TrueTwit not only prevents bots from following you, but it prevents real people from following you, too.

  1. First, some people do not look at their DMs. They never even know that they need to go through an extra step of bureaucracy to do what they thought they had already done – follow you.  Thanks to TrueTwit, those people will never be your followers. Or will they?
  2. Second, some people see the DM that TrueTwit sends them, but ignore it without even reading it along with the rest of the automated DM spam that too many people send to new followers. Oh, boy! Do you see the irony there? This service that inaccurately claims to “avoid Twitter spam” is possibly the biggest spammer on Twitter, sending out automated DMs to everybody who follows anybody using the service.
  3. Third, some people see the DM that TrueTwit sends them, but ignore it because, as Brad Knutson puts it, “there are so many email and social media scams out there today, most people have been convinced that any suspicious link that is sent to them will lead them to a site that will steal their credit card information and first born son.”
  4. Fourth.  It turns out that TrueTwit validation doesn’t actually stop anyone from following you.  Not even bots.  It even says so in the FAQ: “If someone doesn’t complete the validation request, they can still follow you.”  And it says it again: “Twitter allows anyone to follow anyone else, and there isn’t much TrueTwit can do about it.” It makes everybody get “validated”, sends people tons of spam, and doesn’t do anything.  Nothing.  It doesn’t even stop one bot.

Not only do you gain nothing by using TrueTwit, but you lose followers and become a DM spammer.

If you really want to know just how bad TrueTwit is, you can read Mary C. Long’s post from a couple years ago. It goes into the kind of detail I will never have the patience to suffer through.

TrueTwit , clever marketing

Yes, that’s quite a rant, but now TrueTwit has caught my eye for a very different reason and I am very, very impressed with their marketing.  It’s not so much “their” marketing in the sense that it is not their services being marketed.  But they have begun selling what might just be the cleverest advertising on the Net. In fact, I would call it visionary.

The first sample of this I saw was from British Airways:

British Airways Brand Marketing

That is the captcha you have to fill in to follow the person whom you thought you had already followed three steps ago.  You no longer have to type in some illegible combination of characters three times in an attempt to get it right.  Instead, you just have to type in “British Airways”.  Unlike advertising that you just read or watch, this is advertising you have to type in.  You have to mentally engage with the brand.  If you follow a lot of people, you’ll have British Airways etched into your mind the next time you want to fly somewhere.

That is clever marketing.

The next sample I saw was for Best Buy, a store whose branding actually obscures what it does. In case you don’t know, it sells electronics.  When it first came to Canada, I just assumed it was a grocery or pharmacy chain, because hitherto those were the only verticals that used pricing words in their names: PriceChopper, Save-on Foods, Pharmasave, Pharmaprix, PriceSmart Foods, No Frills, Value Drug Mart, Familiprix, Lucky Dollar Foods, Valu-Mart, SaveEasy, Lucky Dollar Foods, Thrifty Foods, Uniprix…and that’s enough, because I am running out of breath!

Best Buy predictably took a different approach from British Airways.  Rather than type in the company name, it wants us to type in “lowest price”.  Just in case we don’t understand what “Best Buy” means, we get to stare at the logo while typing in “lowest price”.  After doing this a few dozen times, do you think we’ll get the message?  Obviously Best Buy is banking that we will, and I suspect they are right.

Best Buy Brand Marketing

Then I saw this Club House ad, and clearly they are trying to introduce Twitter users to their Club House Skillet Sauce.  In fact, we have to type out those four words just to follow the person whom we thought we had already followed three steps ago.

This might be effective, or it might actually make people upset with Club House for making them type so many letters. British Airways make us type just two words.  Best Buy makes us type just two words, wisely sticking to “lowest price” and dropping the longer spelling trap “guarantee” to avoid people cursing their name.

Club House Brand Marketing

Then I saw this American Express ad, and they seam to figure people can handle four words, too.  I am sure the folks at American Express and Club House are a lot smarter than me when it comes to these things, but I know how much people hate filling in captchas, and how quickly they’ll forget that this is better than typing some illegible combination of characters and how soon they’ll start grumbling about it being easier to type “lowest price” than “The Gold rewards Card”.  Just sayin’.

American Express Brand Marketing

Advertising sucks. Either it is disruptive to the target market, forcing people away from what they were trying to pay attention to, or it is useless to the advertiser because it fails to force people away from what they were to paying attention to.

But this is advertising that engages the target market. It’s no more disruptive than typing some illegible combination of characters into the captcha box, and it arguably saves people some headaches. Thank you British Airways. Thank you Best Buy. Er…I’ll get back to you, Club House and Amex.

The best part of this is that TrueTwit can serve up this visionary advertising to a captive audience of suckers they spam every day through other people’s accounts with the message that they have to get “validated”.

Wait, no.  That’s not the best part, come to think of it.  Actually, that really sucks.  But would this idea not be amazing and visionary if applied to a real website that people actually wanted to go to and had a valid reason for making people fill in their captchas?


  1. Truly clever. I usually don’t follow people who use these types of services anymore but I’m sure tons of people will go through the routine.

  2. People who use TrueTwit get less but more engaged followers. Some people want more but low quality others want possible customers.

  3. In what way would someone be more engaged because they go through the fake validation process of TrueTwit? The same bots follow you whether a human validates them or not. TrueTwit doesn’t change who follows you.

  4. I loathe and despise TrueTwit, for the record. I wish there were a way to filter out its users (other than to ignore the DM SPAM they generate.) You can filter out protected accounts, which is a relief, but not these… if you don’t want people to follow you or need them to take extra steps to follow you, I don’t see the point. You could just as easily force bots to unfollow you using a tool like Tweepi and save everyone the headache.

  5. Just when I thought TrueTwit was gone, oh well! lol

    But yes, I agree with you. This is very clever!

  6. Hi David!

    I stopped completing the TrueTwit things a while back. I don’t see it as often now as I used to, but that’s probably because I only follow people with the good sense not to use it.

    And this is definitely not my first time hearing you rant about it! Love it.

    The last time I followed a confirmation link for TrueTwit, I had to fill out an advertisement captcha like the ones you’ve displayed here. And that was a few months ago. It is pretty clever stuff. TrueTwit creates a market / need where there wasn’t one before, and then actually finds a way to monetize it. Nicely done.

    Oh, and sorry — I know it’s been a little while since I stopped by your blog. I was on the road until mid-November, and it feels like I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. Thanks for understanding!

    Anyway, in case I don’t connect with you again beforehand, Merry Christmas!


  7. Good find David!

    I absolutely hate TrueTwit

    It’s one of the things that consistently makes my “top 5 hates” each year LOL

  8. I agree with Mario’s comments.
    I think this is about the trade off of engaged users and thos simply trying to rack up big follower numbers.
    Smart piece of software.