Twiends is a ‘freemium’ facility for Twitter users who want to build up their follower count extremely quickly – and it certainly accomplishes that goal. But back in April 2014, I published a post called Why Twiends Doesn’t Work. I concluded that whilst Twiends does indeed rapidly increase your follower count, for free, the followers to whom it gives you access will almost inevitably be so singularly absorbed with promoting themselves, that they won’t pay any attention to you.
A substantial part of my criticism centred around Twiends’ motivational system, in which points, or Seeds, as they were known, were awarded to users in return for following Twitter accounts. One year later, however, Twiends began rolling out major revisions, scrapping the Seeds system, and shifting to a new method of operation called Connections. Is this a new dawn for Twiends?
Twiends has cited a number of reasons for the scrapping of Seeds, but perhaps the most interesting is its suggestion that a token-based system can be interpreted by Twitter and other social sites as a type of virtual currency. This would mean the old Seeds system potentially entering the realm of buying and selling followers, which would contravene the social sites’ ToS. Given its goals, Twiends may have been forced to scrap Seeds, but it’s certainly prompted a serious improvement to the site.
HOW DOES THE NEW CONNECTIONS SYSTEM WORK?
I have to admit that this was a question I was asking myself when I first discovered the update, and I still haven’t established the full detail of the answer. Connections is a direct replacement for the Seeds system, and the actual layout is almost identical. You still see the follow suggestions listed vertically along the left of the screen, you still click the users’ Follow buttons to follow them, and you still see your ‘Twiends collateral’ starting to build over on the right. But what actually is that collateral, now that Seeds no longer exist?
Well, the simple overview is that the new collateral achieves for you, mechanically, what following users on Twiends achieved before: it places your account into a visible position on the site – promotes it to other users. And again, as before, you quickly start to gain followers, who see your account promoted and click your follow button. Whether I’m imagining it or not, the new system appears to work faster and more comfortably than the previous one.
Without Seeds, the extent of your collateral, and how, precisely, it translates into promotional visibility and uptake, is much less clear. That’s probably what Twiends wants. One of the biggest problems with Seeds was the system’s transparency. Highly transparent systems are easy to exploit.
On the old Twiends, users effectively set and manipulated their own visibility. Those choosing to offer the highest number of Seeds per follow, gained the highest promotional visibility, and were most likely to get follow clicks. So those who wanted to cheat the system and run up high numbers of Seeds through questionable methods, could gain masses of followers instantly, in a smash-and-grab style blitz. They’d then drop all their follows, long before the site had chance to react. The system encouraged grand-scale, exceptionally rapid churn.
Even rule-abiding users would face a strong compulsion to follow accounts offering the highest number of Seeds, however awful they were. Let’s be honest – if you were using Twiends under the old system, and you spotted an account offering the maximum 9 Seeds, then unless it was literally doing something illegal, you’d inevitably follow it, mute it, and then unfollow it again as soon as your Seeds were safe. That epitomises why the old system was so flawed. Ordinary users were tempted beyond resistance to follow accounts they clearly had a specific aversion to following.
But under the new system, that’s not as likely to happen. As a legitimate user, you’re now much more focused on the relevance of the accounts you’re following than on the exact collateral gain they’re offering. That should cut down on very short-term follows, and in practice, the immediate unfollows do seem to have been drastically reduced, if not eliminated. As an illegitimate or unsavoury user, you won’t so easily be able to outrank everyone else in terms of visibility, just by setting your Seeds givaway high and then essentially stealing a load of Seeds to fuel your publicity.
My one caveat to the above is the way Twiends throws groups of three suggestions into your face each time you log in. It’s too pushy, is exactly the sort of thing that prompts reluctant follows, and is at odds with the redesign.
Another interesting development on Twiends has been the introduction of a delay between following an account, and that follow actually becoming established as a full Connection. Initially, the follow shows on Twiends as ‘Pending’, although it obviously enacts immediately on Twitter. It appears that the ‘Pending’ period protects against very rapid follow/unfollow tactics, meaning that those who follow and then unfollow immediately afterwards don’t gain from it. But it doesn’t appear to be a rigid delay, in that you do, or at least can, get your collateral before the Pending period is over. I started by following just one account, and I got a return follow from Twiends during, not after my Pending period. But whatever the specifics of the concept, it looks to be working as a deterrent to ‘smash and grab’ merchants.
It’s difficult quantifying how many follows you get per follow without the measure of Seeds, but for me, over the short period of my test, it worked out at around 1 to 1. That is, for every one person I followed, I got a follow in return. The short-term reliability of those follows has been infinitely better too. The number of blaggers who’ve followed and then unfollowed straight away was reduced, in my case, from about 10%, to zero. This is not to say that all the new followers will still be following me by next week (indeed I’d bet money that some won’t be), but that’s just part of using Twitter, and a step forward is a step forward.
I also much preferred being left to follow based on the actual appeal of the accounts, rather than according to the number of Seeds they were offering, as was the overwhelming temptation before. I’m categorically convinced that the new system is better.
Users should, however, watch out for accounts that carry no ‘collateral’. There’s a blue indicator bar showing the new connections on each account’s individual panel. It’s like a sort of battery charge display. There isn’t much point in clicking the ones that have run down to zero. Probably no point in clicking the accounts that are marked as inactive either – but the clear denotation of inactive status is another improvement to Twiends.
The broad rules on Twiends have remained pretty much the same. The site seeks to reject fake accounts, spam accounts (including automated RSS feeds of blog links), ad-heavy accounts, paid to click promo’s, cash-quick schemes, topless selfies (including male), MLMs, “Buy Followers!” promo’s, porn, hatred, other accounts considered to be too low in quality, and anything not in compliance with Twitter’s ToS.
There are also warnings regarding dating accounts, gambling promo’s, affiliate accounts and diet/fitness accounts, which may be suspended from Twiends, depending on their exact nature.
By the letter of the law, any automated Twitter is liable for suspension from Twiends, because Twitter doesn’t permit automation so the account would be infringing Twitter’s ToS. However, if Twiends takes as laid back an approach to suspending automated accounts as Twitter, the rule might as well not be there. I don’t know exactly how Twiends defines fake accounts, by the way, although I’m assuming it primarily means deliberate impersonators.
Enforcement of these rules on Twiends varies. During a day of testing the new system I found Twiends heavily afflicted with clearly automated link-feed accounts, all of which seemed to persist unchecked. I was also followed, via Twiends, by number of cloaked porn retweet accounts with deceptive bio’s and profile pics. I blocked the accounts, and all were removed from Twiends the following day. It’s hard to tell without the quantifiable measure of Seeds, but it appeared that the promotion I would have lost through being followed by those porn accounts, was returned to me after I blocked them.
I’ve had issues with cloaked accounts before on Twiends. Not just adult accounts – hate too. It’s not endemic, but it is something you need to watch out for. It happens, I imagine, because Twiends does seek to enforce its rules, and because it’s so well known that Twiends users don’t look at what they’re following.
And this hints back at the core problem with Twiends, which sadly, hasn’t gone away. The new system still doesn’t prompt users to pay any attention to what they’re following. They’re still just clicking buttons, and they’re still as disengaged as I outlined in Why Twiends Doesn’t Work. It would be fair to say the site is still overrun with extremely low quality accounts, and that many of the follows you get are blatant ‘junk follows’, which anyone will be able to see are junk. If you don’t follow them back, they unfollow you and your follow stats drop back down. But if you do follow them back, you’re seen to be following abject junk and you’ll probably get hammered with DM spam. There’s a sinking feeling when a string of those accounts take your Twiends collateral, because whatever you do, you can’t win.
So Twiends has improved. It’s found a better way to distribute the promotional collateral and motivate users to follow. Therefore, you can build your badge of honour with less stress, and with what I believe is greater effectiveness. But a badge of honour is all it is. If you want followers who actually pay attention, you still, at present, need to look elsewhere.
TWIENDS LONG TERM?
If anything is going to render Twiends viable in the long term, it’s more likely to be diversification across a wider range of social sites (it’s already compatible with Instagram), and a bid to bring READERS on board as opposed to just more and more fame-hungry shouters. The latter would probably involve integrating a powerful search algorithm into the site and then perhaps marketing the service as some sort of “social search engine with benefits”.
But that level of revision, especially given Google’s newly-invigorated relationship with Twitter itself, would be a tall order I suspect. Suffice it to say, for now, that Twiends has been significantly improved, and if it can continue to work against the interests of spammers, whilst providing facilities for those interested in READING, it could deliver quite a package.