My borg self: A social media creation

One day I made my borg self as a social media character. It all started as an experiment in taking advantage of spammers. Back in the wild-west times of the internet when Twitter was new, spammy users were a problem, and everyone was trying to figure out how to make money online.

Why I made the borg me

There arose a company that offered money for sponsored tweets. The payment rate was based only on the number of followers one had. I thought about that on and off for a few weeks. They just want numbers. I could probably make that happen.

I had about 600 at the time due to the age of my account more than any real effort. The thing was, I did not want corporate content in my real Twitter account. I also did not want to artificially inflate that number.

The answer: I made a spare account.

Lord Matt Borg

Resistance is futile.

Official semi-automatic tweeter of @LordMatt stuff. 1 of 1. A type IV consultant expert guru marketer drone. Love your computer.

I probably spent more time making the picture than the rest of the setup. For the profile, I wrote a silly bio written that poked gentle fun at marketing types (most spammers fit in this category). It used words like “official”, “consultant”, and “expert”. Words which the spammy uses are attracted to like flies on poop.

Then I figured I might need some content.

Getting content out of nothing

Magic content creation hack: Do not try this at home!

To get paid, I needed a certain number of tweets between the paid ones. More tweets meant more pay.

My answer was to set up some automation. Fairly simply this account took the RSS feed of my real account and tweeted it back out prefixed “RT:”. That was how retweets worked back then.

I think I also set up a Google alert RSS feed for borg references and fed that through an RSS to Twitter service (like a primitive If This Then That). I definitely did the same with my blog.

Another service allowed me to auto follow back anyone. And to tweet at them a message like “@[Name] has been assimilated.” That was something else Twitter allowed back then. Twitter was extremely permissive back at the start.

Overall, this was worthless content. Very low quality stuff. Even so, people seemed to enjoy it as a fun diversion.

Getting lots of followers

Where to find lots of (mostly worthless) followers.

How, I wondered, could I get followers fast? I was going to have to cheat a bit.

The last step was to follow every last follow-back spammy twitter account and desperate marketer I could find. Anyone who promised, “I always follow back”. As predicted, they mostly followed back and the other spammers soon started following me for the free follow it gave them. As I said, this was a well know way to inflate your follower account.

I hit 1,000 followers in a few days.

Without any further effort on my part, I charged steadily towards 2,000.

I am pretty certain this would not work today. In fact, back then I remember thinking, this shouldn’t work. It did work, though. I decided to see if I would really get paid for it. I’d signed up the account the same afternoon that I made it. The company wanted followers, so I had gotten followers. All spammers and desperate marketers. They did not specify so I thought I might as well see if it worked.

With so many followers and a steady flow of tweets, I qualified for a lot of (minimally) paid tweets and a reasonable-ish rate of overall pay. I was not sure what they got out of it but I assumed they must be getting something because I was approved for a steady stream of advertisement tweets.

After that, I got on with other things and forgot all about my borg self. In total, I had spent a single afternoon setting things up.

Cashing out

Illustrated: Total reaction to the borg me’s tweets.

I let things go for a while until I noticed that the paying service had refined its approach. It now (quite sensibly) now demanded that the twitter accounts demonstrate value.

I was pretty sure that I offered zero value. The Twitter bot probably had not a soul looking at its tweets.

I was no longer the droids they were looking for.

As I had nothing else to offer, I cashed out and closed my account (the payment one; not the Twitter one). They paid up without objection.

I could have probably worked a bit harder and made a twitter bot that was able to offer value. I did not do that because, well, it was just an amusing diversion for me. A joke account I made because I had spare time. I lacked any motivation to try harder in order to shill for advertisers.

I don’t recall the exact amount that I got. It was in Euros not pounds but it was closer to one hundred than zero. Somewhere between €60 to €80, I think. It amounted to a few euros a day (if that). Possibly as little as €0.75 a day.

What to do with the borg me, now?

The account still attracts followers for some reason.

Twitter begane to change too. They got a lot more mature about what shenanigans we weirdos could get up to. The follow back announcements stopped. The auto-retweets stopped. Some of the other services I had used closed up shop too.

Even so, I had 4,000 followers. That soon became 5,000.

I mostly just used the LordMattBorg Twitter account to push out content that I was not trying very hard with. Or, as I did most of the time, just forgot about it.

Then I had an idea to start a Facebook page. Anything I posted to the page, posted to the Twitter account. It failed to take off in the same way and languishes in obscurity; which, if I am honest, is probably where it belongs.

I would (much later) go on to make my borg self a Tumblr account too. Sometimes, I pair the @LordMattBorg with Tumblr side projects that a little more than a hobby or just for fun. On the whole, I post a lot of jokes and puns these days.

My borg self in numbers

Lord Matt Borg

As Twitter grew up, the growth on the borg Twitter account levelled off. It hangs in at around 6,000 followers. Not bad for a joke account.

According to Twitter, my borg self’s 6,000+ followers resulted in LordMattBorg’s Tweets earning 1,843 impressions over the last week. The stats also show fairly minimal engagement. Compare that to the 1,205 followers on my real account which has a better impression and interaction rate. My borg self is a bit useless.

The borg’s top tweets all have Tumblr links. I’m not sure what that says about Twitter (or Tumblr).

Overall, @LordMattBorg has the least reach of any Twitter account I have set up. Which proves one thing, a high follower count is pretty meaningless.

The ebook that never was

An artist’s impression of someone not writing an ebook (because their battery is flat).

Just after the cash-out, I almost wrote an ebook about the @LordMattBorg. I was pretty sure that with the number of followers I had, I could sell enough £2.99 ebooks detailing what I did to make the effort well worth my while. An afternoon of writing, an another of spell checking, and then a day of advertising would probably do the trick.

I got as far as getting all the screenshots I needed and writing a chapter plan. Then I started to think about what I was doing.

I did not write that ebook in the end. The reason being was that while it was all true – I did do all that and get paid for it – those techniques were dead in the water already. I simply could not bring myself to sell a book full of questionable practices that no longer worked.

I would feel like I was conning people. It would be a scam because no one should be able to replicate my results. I just happened to get lucky by having the know how to spot an opportunity and enjoy the results before the game changed.

Paid tweets are still a thing but they tend to be profitable only for social media stars with millions of followers.

My borg self now

It still has an unnoticed Facebook page.

I can also see why Twitter was dead right to start depreciating junk and spammy accounts that offer no value to followers. The borg account had a long road back to being a good player.

Today, the @LordMattBorg tweets a random assortment of geeky stuff. It’s pretty eclectic and just sort of gets on with it. I estimate that it loses about the same amount of followers as it gains most weeks.

Sometimes I login and say sarcastic “in character” things to random strangers. Mostly to people who follow @LordMattBorg in the hopes of amusing them.

If and when I get around to writing a class that connects to the new Twitter API, you can bet my borg self will be the test account.

Overall, I’d say my borg self is a lot more interesting to follow now than when I first made it. It sits among the more colourful and weird social media creations I have established. The account is good only for impressing people that are impressed by high follower counts.

Critical analysis

What did we learn, boys and girls?

The @LordMattBorg account stands as a legacy to the creative ways it used to be possible to abuse Twitter. And the fact that followers need to be engaged to have any true value.

The low interactions and impression rate show that this approach to account building is not all that good. Most of those approaches were, quite frankly, spammy as heck. There was little value then or now either (except that there was a way to get paid). I do not recommend then for brand building.

I think the paid tweet companies are right to insist on a quality of audience metric. To be honest, I was surprised that they did not insist on quality right away. I actually expected them to take one look at the account and say, “no thanks”. An actual Twitter spammer (those with tens of thousands of meaningless followers per spammy account) could easily have been expensive for them.

I think, if anything, the experiment proves that interesting and engaging output (quality content) are the key to an effective Twitter account. This is not measured in gross follower count but in terms of people that actually care enough to look for what you write.

Also, I am pretty sure, most (or maybe all) of the tricks I used would not be effective. In short, don’t try this at home.

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