Follow-spam: when someone follows you on a social network, without regard for the value of your content, in hopes that you will view their content (bringing them value), or in hopes that you follow back robotically, increasing their page rank and/or popularity.

I receive follow-spam in two places, here on Tumblr and on Twitter, and I have a mechanism for dealing with it: the tried & true methods of social proof & transparency.

If you follow me on:

  • Twitter: I will check your following / follower ratio. If the ratio is less than, or close enough to one, then I’ll likely follow you back. (I reserve the right to un-follow if you are overly talkative!)
  • Tumblr: I will check your site, if you don’t declare who you are following, I won’t follow you. If you declare who you are following, and it is off the charts in terms of what I feel you could possibly read & enjoy, I won’t follow you. (Again, I reserve the right to un-follow if your content isn’t something I’ll continue to enjoy)

There’s a lot of interesting nuance buried in follow-spam, the appropriate ways for systems to discourage it, and for users to deal with it. The social web is advancing the common man’s knowledge of social interactions, because ultimately the solutions to these sorts of problems revolve around incentivizing, and disincentivizing human behavior, and understanding the motivations of others.

Everyone one on the web will soon be receiving a free crash course in Social Psychology 101. Cool!