Why I "block" on Twitter

I was having a deep philosophical discussion on the Zen of Twitter when I mentioned that I frequently “block” porno-teeth-whitening-10,000-followers-make-money-NOW spamaholics.My friend was amazed. “Why take the time?” she asked. I was amazed back. Doesn’t EVERYBODY block? Guess not, but they probably should.

Here’s why I “block and report” the unseemly ones from my tribe.

1) My Twitter Tribe matters. If I follow you, I choose to do so. No auto-follows, ever. Before I follow, I have read your bio, some of your tweets and probably clicked your link. I have a quality audience and it’s staying that way. I could have had 10,000 followers by now. I don’t care about that. I know the folks in my posse are primo.

2) I want an audience to be proud of. This probably sounds old-fashioned but I don’t want to do anything in my life that I wouldn’t be proud to disclose to my children. And if they examined my Twitter audience, I would not want them to see a bunch of nymphs peddling their videos. Anybody can see who you’re following. What does your audience say about you?

3) I want to protect you. If I block the spamaholics I keep them from my tweets and I keep them, in a small way, from you. I see so many of these folks who copy “Follow Friday” lists trying to lure followers. No. Stay away from my friends dammit.

4) Because I just do not want to play that game. I’m not going to be passive and imply that what they’re doing is OK.

Blocking sends a message. If we ALL blocked them, they would have to go away, right? No, they just would find another way to swarm over us. But I can dream, right?

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  • diane

    Agreed. I block for all the reasons above. It is about showing others who you are, and porn-spammers isn['t who I am. I too am surprised at the companies who don't take the time to do this. I think they just rejoice at the number of followers they can tout and forget that in social media… quantity does not equal quality.

  • Gregg Morris

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Quick story about how I came to do so. Some time ago, when I was starting to tweet with regularity, I got an email from a guy asking me if I was aware that a certain porn queen was following me. He thought that having her among my followers detracted from my "brand" as they like to say these days. I hadn't really given that any thought at the time. I was more taken aback by the fact that people were scanning my follower list and seemed interested in that. Once I got through that, I went and found her, and several others it turned out, and blocked them.

    Further to they story, the guy who emailed me didn't even have a twitter account! I found that out in some emails we exchanged that day. Ever since, I have been as diligent as I can about blocking porn, spam, MLM and the like. It takes a little time but as I found out, you never know who's roaming your following list and, what impressions the form as a result.

    Couldn't agree with you more on this one Mark. All four of your points are right on target!

  • andi

    Everyone has different goals and different habits. I block many who spout bumpersticker talking points that have no thought behind them. But I cannot possibly follow my timeline and so I only respond to tweets directed to me. So I don't block spam unless it includes my @andilinks (I hate that).

    I really do appreciate folks who explain their goals and habits as you've just done. Thank you. But the beauty of Twitter is that I can do things differently and still have it work out well. Actually I have two accounts which have different goals and different protocols.

  • Derek Peplau

    Great post. I've struggled with this myself, and ultimately decided that it is worth spending the extra time each week to block these people. In some cases, especially when I get behind on my followers, in many cases these spam accounts are already suspended due to others blocking and reporting them as spam. So, it IS worth taking the time to do, IMO.

    We're still in the paleolithic era when it comes to Twitter countermeasures though. In time we'll probably see better ways to identify and shut down these accounts, and then the same dance will occur as does in the email realm where the spammers innovate to circumvent the safeguards. I wrote a post about this recently which you may find interesting: http://derekpeplau.com/2009/06/05/spamifest-destiny/

    Hope it's not bad form to link to it in your comments. If it is, just delete it. Again, keep fighting the good fight, I think it's worth it.

  • Melanie Oyler

    Amen Mark, Amen!


    Thanks for the diverse views and input. Of course Derek you are welcome to direct people to your own well-developed thoughts on the subject. That just adds to the conversation and helps everyone.

    For the record, I have only deleted one comment ever and that was because somebody was blatantly selling services. I respect that we all need to find a way to make money. Just not here. I have been happy to help people in other ways, including guest blogging opportunities or mentions, free personal counseling, RT, whatever. I am privileged to have you spend your precious time with me and I am happy to return the favor to the best of my ability.

  • JayZo

    You inspired me. I'm going to clean house. Just fooling myself to think that these people are following me anyway. Time to put the ego aside and get real. I needed to hear this.

    BTW, GROW = my favorite blog.

  • Derek Peplau

    Thanks, Mark. What's needed is a way to streamline the process of vetting one's new followers. There's much Twitter could do to help, and I think it starts w/ the info contained in the emails it sends informing you that someone's following you. One data point I never have the time to check when triaging is, "is this person STILL following me at this moment?". Some will follow then dump in the hopes of getting the auto-follow.

    But we've got a ways to go before this process is anything other than tedious.

  • Steve Dodd

    I'm so very glad to see people picking up on this. It's a huge issue and will become more crucial as time goes by. It's also important to know that the definition of spam is based on the individual's choices. But, anyone who's broadcasting messages to promote questionable products in my mind is a spammer and should be blocked. Eventually, many of those spam messages will have some very nasty payloads burried.

    I'd also like to suggest, that if you see your Twitter ID mentioned in a post from someone you don't recognize (usually with a list of others), check out the senders profile. It may be a spammer too and should be blocked even if they are not following you directly.

    Thanks for putting this out there Mark. The more people who fight against this, the better for everyone!

  • Sheldon (Marketing Consultant, Tauranga NZ)

    You are a kindred spirit Mark. I have the same philosophy regarding my Twitter account (@SheldonNesdale). I also block anyone with more than 5000 followers (they won't listen to what I have to say), and anyone from America (I only want NZ followers). If it occurs to me "they are only following me to get followed back, they don't care what I have to say" BLOCKED.

    And it makes you wonder how many legitimate followers celebrities have. Perhaps there is actually a good chance of them replying to a direct message because it would be refreshing to get a message from a human rather than a spam bot.

  • Elge Premeau

    I also block anyone who predominantly tweets quotes from famous people. Come on! We all know about Tweetlater. You're not building a brand by being a follower – and I mean that in the broadest sense of the word.


    @ Jay – Wow! awesome!
    @ Derek. Agree. Why has nobody come up with this?
    @ Steve good point. I see this all the time.
    @ Sheldon. You mean you won't … follow … me??
    @Elge I ignore the quotes but don't block. I figure they might be truly interested in what I'm saying. Who knows?

  • Dan McCarthy

    Yep, I block – but only spam accounts. Most of the others not worth following I just ignore and they usually drop me shortly after.

    After about six months on Twitter, I only have 300+ followers – roughly a fifth of what I estimate I might have if I auto-followed. But my timeline has very little noise in it, and I've come to view Twitter as a sort of Pandora radio of expertise and insight that inspires and motivates me, and generally helps me do my job better.

  • Lance Bledsoe

    I've been telling myself for a while that I need to start blocking all the spammers who follow me, but I just haven't gotten around to it. This post has finally convinced me to do it. Your four points are all right on target.

  • Lisa Creech Bledsoe

    Aaargh. My stream is full of spammers and yes, I block them when I see them, but the problem is that I started auto-following way back when because I was overwhelmed with the follow emails. I would be followed by a friend or someone who deserved a followback, and I'd miss it. Now my stream is a mess and I thank God for TweetDeck or I'd never be able to manage.

    My coworker (with 15k follows/followers) has decided to start from zero for this very reason. That feels drastic to me. Is there a middle path, O Teacher?

  • Jamie Lee Wallace

    I agree wholeheartedly and am in the midst of doing an overhaul on my follower list as I transition my desktop app from Tweetdeck to Seesmic.

    It's definitely about the quality and not the quantity. Though I initially thought I would just segregate these undesirables into a "group" I would never have to look at in Seesmic, I realized that such a strategy was silly. If I really didn't want to associate with these people, why would I bother trying to spare their feelings by following but ignoring? Better – for me and my real followers – to cut to the chase and block them.

    Here's to an early spring cleaning!!

  • Melissa Paulik

    I'm like you in that I have my guidelines for who I follow. I wrote a post about my own personal guidelines recently on my own blog http://bit.ly/cCyRi. The number doesn't matter nearly as much to me as the quality of the Tweets.

    Like your friend, I hadn't considered it important enough to block all the obvious spammers that choose to follow me. Obviously, I don't follow them back and I figured that was enough.

    However your comment about others seeing who is following you is a great point and helped me to change my mind. I don't want them anywhere near me or my network.

    Thanks for some superb advice!


  • By being too quick to block you remove the power of blocking. Twitter can’t keep up to get to the most serious offenses. I can understand blocking porn but unless the marketers are sending you @’s then just unfollow them. One man’s spam is another man’s treasure

  • Inteersting article and I agree wholeheartedly with it! I adopt a similar approach to blocking folks that I just don’t want on my list.

    As I’m a newbie, I decided to start as I intended to go on – there are so many people attempting to follow us who’re doing so to spam, data-mine or generally game the Twitter system.

    Let’s knock ’em back.

    I tend to have a ‘Block Sunday’ every week or so when I purge my Followers.

  • Mark

    @ Joe — I like the idea that you have actually set aside time for this. I tend to do a little each day or it just gets too hard to keep up. Thanks for commenting!

  • Great post! Love it! I totally agree and blocking the spam/porn peddlers, etc…They are annoying and disgusting. I definitely spam them and suggest others do they same.

    On the same note, I do admit I auto follow back, not because I want high ridiculous numbers, but because I want who ever follows me to be able to immediately send me a DM. If I don’t autofollow back, it could be a few days before I have time to vet. I do dump the spammers when ever I see their tweets in my stream, DM, mentions etc…

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Lori

    I so agree and do all these things myself! I will share what you wrote with my twitter audience.

  • You just verbalized exactly why I also block people. I often report such accounts as well to further send the message that Twitter should be a spam-free community (I can dream too, right?). I think having an audience that you’re proud of is a great way to describe it! Bravo!

  • Kate Voth

    When I stumble upon a Twitter profile that shows a person is followed by massive amounts of people, I’m curious as to who this person is and what value she offers her followers.

    First, I look at the number and type of lists the person has been included on. The more lists and the more impressive the list titles (i.e., “marketing pros”), the more I understand why he has drawn such a large audience.

    If this person has thousands of followers but has been included on very fews lists (or none at all), I begin to suspect that something is not quite right and look into this person’s followers.

    If I see any “porno-teeth-whitening-10,000-followers-make-money-NOW spamaholics” I immediately assume that this person’s popularity has been inflated by illegitimate followers…This person is not popular because she has something great to offer, it’s because she’s TOO LAZY to purge followers, or–even worse–she may purposely have chosen not to block the “bad guys” because she cares more about quantity than quality. NOT COOL. All credibility is out the window.

    My followers are not many, but I can say that not ONE is someone I would be ashamed to introduce to my mother. Thanks for the great post, Mark.

  • I agree but only in theory. I do block obvious compleley obvious spammers, but I don’t spend the time combing through lists to accept or reject. In practice, you might as well try to block people from linking to subscribing to your blog. Such behavior by “undesirables” is accessible to the public as well. I’d rather devote time to figuring out whom I want to follow.

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  • Tom Retterbush

    This should be required reading for everybody that uses Twitter

  • Julia Nikolei

    I agree on all points. If they’re just dull but harmless, I let them follow me but not follow back. Sooner or later they bugger off. But anybody of the porno-turnyourtweetsintomoney-spam fraternity gets blocked!

  • Mark

    @ Kate — Thanks for the validation : )
    @ Dennis — Agree, it does take additional time. Everybody has to weigh the time versus risks and benefits.
    @ Tom and @ Julia — Appreciate that you took the time to comment!

  • I’m with you Mark, it may waste a bit of my time, but I also block those people. I’ve even noticed some of these jokers auto posting “legit” sounding tweets between their spam. Kind of funny, well, sad at least. Still SO easy to detect and block ’em. But if we all do our part we can Police Twitter and keep the neighborhood cleaner.

  • Fantastic article and now I don’t feel like the only one fond of the block button. I do have a question if Mark or anyone cares to provide some insight: How do you determine what qualifies reporting for spam (which also blocks) vs. just blocking? Thanks, the comments and discussion were insightful, too!

  • Ami

    I blocked them too, and then I had to give up coz I don’t have the energy to go through every follower. Is there a way to autoblock certain keywords?

  • Agreed 100%. I read “Block” as “Report this person for abuse” and anyone who behaves in a way that suggests they should be labeled that way gets a Block from me, in the hopes that if enough people tag them, they’ll go away.

    There are some who seem to be opportunistic followers, but “may be ok.” I only block the blatant spammers, based on their stream and their profile URL.

  • Mark

    @Donna — This is an excellent question. I usually just “block.” However, if the person is peddling porn or sending me unwanted DM’s then I also report as spam.

    @Ami — There is no way to auto-block keywords. I’m not sure I wolud trust Twitter to select my tribe any way: )

    @Joel — This is a solid framework. Thanks for the contribution!

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  • Well said! I don’t get the autofollow thing – unless all you want to do is shout at people. If you’ve got something interesting to say I’ll listen.

    If you haven’t I won’t.

    But I hadn’t thought of blocking spammers. Shall try that one …

  • Anne V

    Excellent, and probably exactly what I do. I’ve been a sporadic participant, but I individually either follow or block anyone who follows me. Either the user is an educator and part of the conversation or a spammer/marketer and I’m not here to buy 😉

  • Mark

    Good for you Anne. Thanks for taking the time to offer your comment!

  • Hi All,
    On the topic of stream cleaning, here’s my method: I do block similar to above. And anyone who it seams paid for their followers/following. I won’t go into details on the mental checklist I use. For the rest of the stream I cleanse periodically using Hootsuite’s People tab. It gives me a quick summary of details including the average # of tweets/day so bots and close talkers are easy to spot. One recently blocked a woman who averaged 74 tweets a day.
    Have a great week,

  • I routinely block snake oil although in less numbers than about a year ago when they seemed rife. At one point I calculated it I was blocking at 40%. If I view an account myself with lots of snake oil followers I disregard it so I personally don´t want it sticking to me. Maybe I´m harsh but I´m not looking for numbers but for quality interactions.

    how many do you block Mark from memory? – as this tool calculates it to be only 4, which seems implausible :

  • Thanks for the great post. When I was a few months into Twitter, I briefly tried autofollowing and was shocked by what showed up in my Twitter stream. Since then, I too have been a blocker of porno-teeth-whiteners, etc. and an exclusive manual follower. It takes some time, but it’s definitely worth it.

  • Mark

    @Carla — Wow. 74 a day. Impressive.

    @Paul — If I interpret this link correctly it would indicate four people have blocked me , not that I have blocked four. I probably block 10-15 a day I would guess?

    @Monica Thankfully Twitter has GREATLY improved the porn and spam thing. Used to be so much worse.

  • correct I got the wrong end of the stick. my bad.

    you block rate, sheesh, thats at least 1 a waking hour.

  • EJ Ellis

    I block too. Always have. I clean up my following & my followers lists regularly and I exercise that ability to keep undesirable junk out of my stream for the same reasons you mention.

    I don’t arbitrarily adopt general Twitter practices that many do. I use it in ways that serve my business needs. That’s the beauty of the tool, after all, isn’t it?!

  • Gregg Morris, absolutely right. It happens a lot with design companies, especially those that tweet a few times and then leave their accounts dormant. This sends two messages a) yes, we pay lip service to social media but actually haven’t a clue, and anyway it takes time we could be charging out at ££££ b) we obviously can’t be a*sed keeping up to date with new developments in our own industry, so don’t expect us to try and understand yours.

  • Mark

    Thanks for weighing in today Judy! Appreciate the comment.

  • Michael Taggart

    I think you’re half right. Sort of.

    My view is that you gain credit for having followers of high integrity and/or big authority. Clearly, if these impressive people are following you then you are probably worth following. But there isn’t a flipside. If people see weirdos, pervs and loons following you, they’ll shrug and say “he’s cool with that”.

    Similarly, if you were to give a big speech in a public park, it wouldn’t reflect badly on you that the local vagrant had stopped by and that you’d failed to turf him out.

    That said, I don’t believe a significant number of people trawl through other people’s followers.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    @Michael — Agree. It’s a subtle point. But having said that, you would be amazed at the comments i get about my Twitter account. People comment on when I hit a milestone in number of tweets, certain followers, etc … stuff I don’t even keep track of myself. An example would be somebody writing “I see that you have 7,421 tweets and 12,470 followers. It’s backwards. I think that’s neat” What??? This is all public information and honestly i don’t know what people do with it or why they analyze my stats. It’s really weird. Thanks for weighing-in today Michael.

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  • One more group I block are the people that reference you via @ and try to send you a link to the same teeth whitening spammy crap. I always block them. 

  • Initially I was adamant about blocking and reporting…many times when I do block when I hit their site it has been removed so someone has beaten me to it. After reading this piece I will be much more selective and I will not hesitate to report spam as I see it. Thanks for the info Mark.

  • Glad it was helpful Lorette.

  • Good addition Robert!

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