Oh, no! I’ve been doing Twitter wrong!

I have just learned about something called tweetdecking. You and your buddies form a secret group in which you agree to re-tweet each others’ words, gaming Twitter into thinking you’ve all got vast social reach and influence, and then — this is the key step — you offer to re-tweet other peoples’ words for a payment of a few dollars each. It sounds stupid, and it is, and like this can’t possibly work, but it does.

Customers, which can include both individuals and brands, pay deck owners to retweet one or more of their tweets a specified number of times across deck member accounts. Some decks even allow customers temporary access to the deck, almost like a short-term subscription to unlimited deck retweets. Single retweets tend to cost around $5 or $10. Week- or monthlong subscriptions can cost several hundreds of dollars, depending on the deck’s popularity.

People who run their own decks frequently make several thousands of dollars each month, multiple deck owners said.

“It’s the simplest thing ever, all you do is have your friends join and you have fun and tweet and make money,” Kendrik, aka @Simpnmild, an 18-year-old from Chicago who runs two of his own decks, said. “It’s the easiest thing ever. No hard work at all.”

As the owner of two decks with about 15 people in each, Kendrik works with all sorts of people and brands who want their tweets seen by the deck’s massive collection of followers. These customers pay a few hundred dollars to gain temporary access to the Tweetdeck so they can retweet themselves across several of the powerful deck accounts, pretty much ensuring it goes viral.

Kendrik said he makes between $3,000 and $5,000 a month doing this, and he pays members of his deck “based on who has the most page activity for the month” via PayPal.

And a 19-year-old named Lewie, aka @lxwie, who said he both runs a deck and is a member of another deck, said he makes between $2,000 and $3,000 each month.

I’m sorry, teens might be nice people, but they don’t usually have much experience, and don’t generally have great insights to share. There are exceptions, of course, but these don’t sound like kids who do yet. They’ve got a social media racket and that’s about it.

Worse, many don’t have anything creative to say — they “steal” tweets.

I’m so naive I didn’t even know you could do that. I guess it involves finding clever tweets, and then copy-pasting them as if you wrote them, without acknowledging the true author. I would have called it plagiarizing, but OK.

Anyway, Twitter hasn’t yet figured out how to shed the Nazis on their service, but at least they’ve now begun to purge the site of unoriginal, boring, shallow teenagers, who are all very sad about losing thousands of dollars every month.


You know, it says something about Twitter that they were so trivially gamed, and it says something about these kids who think that gaming social media is how you get “famous”.


  1. anbheal says

    I dunno, I’d cut the kids some slack. They saw a market, they entered, and some made a bit of scratch. Sounds as though they were clever enough to figure out a good gig.

    I’m reminded of that teen, a decade or so back, who was a regular in “penny stock” chat rooms. He’d buy some, chat it up in the chat rooms, other people would buy it, his stock price would rise, and he’d sell, thereby creating a documented paper trail of his picks in February having risen by March, him making a 12 percent profit in a month, he must be a GENIUS. So people started following him, buying his picks, thereby sorta guaranteeing that his track record stayed spectacular.

    The Feds threw the poor kid in the slammer, for doing the exact same thing that Morgan Stanley and Solomon Brothers ad Goldman Sachs were doing. Because….em….he wasn’t a campaign contributor? I bet if Google or Instagram or Amazon or AOL-TimeWarner were pimping these tweetstacks, there’d be no crackdown, just glowing accolades in the WSJ and Business Week.

  2. gijoel says

    The day Nazis take twitter’s money away is the day they’ll crack down on them.

  3. chrislawson says

    anbheal — I don’t think PZ was attacking these, um, entrepreneurs for seeing an easy money-making opportunity, I think his criticism is pointed at vapidity (“it’s so unfair because I wanted to be famous”), plagiarism, and deception…and even more so, at Twitter’s inability to live up to its basic responsibilities as a social network. It doesn’t mean that everyone who jumped on this gravy train was a vapid plagiarist, but at root this venture is based on fooling your customers into thinking you’re more influential than you really are. (To any deck runners who have gone to the effort of collecting sales/marketing data that honestly demonstrates their value for money, I apologise in advance.)

  4. chrislawson says

    oh, and on your second point, that some poor kid got thrown in the slammer for doing something that big finance corporations do all the time with impunity — I agree that it’s unfair, but I see it as a case for prosecuting financiers, not letting people get away with fraud just because it’s on a smaller scale.

  5. says

    Oh dear. Maybe I should not have done a posting about the 10,000 twitter follower army of minions I bought for $45? I did not pay for retweets or comments (that is also an option). You can but facebook “likes” and comments, too.

    Seriously, someone has to be an idiot to not realize that social media is just AIs listening to bots, and a few Russian trolls and “influencer marketers” and “astroturfers” thrown in for levity.

  6. Crudely Wrott says

    “It’s the easiest thing ever. No hard work at all.”

    Well, of course. Nobody works anymore in our hyper-electronic world. Work? That’s for the old folks and the dummies. These days, the smart kids (and to a lesser extent the smart old farts that dangle tempting bait) know how to make money by lying on their backs and fondling a slab.
    Isn’t this just the world predicted by sci-fi writers sixty years ago?
    Misuse of communication technology to spread brain dead ideas and making money doing so is the number one reason to bring back the pillory and public shaming. A few rotten tomatoes in the kisser have the potential to turn true assholes into reasonable, though still deserving lots of side-eye, citizens. (That’s right, keep a keen eye on them even after they squeal and repent.)
    I suggest starting at the top. Let’s see . . . who is a top politician with an irascible twitter habit?
    Also, I have the technical drawings for perfectly humane yet perfectly humiliating pillories already prepared, if anyone is interested.
    If you got the tomatoes I can rustle up the kids to throw them.

  7. johnson catman says

    Crudely Wrott @7:
    Can we use green tomatoes? Those wouldn’t splat so easily.

  8. Crudely Wrott says

    Capital idea, Johnson!
    The kids could gather them up and throw them again!
    And so could we old farts. Good, old fashioned fun, eh?

  9. billyjoe says

    PZMyers: “I’m sorry, teens might be nice people, but they don’t usually have much experience, and don’t generally have great insights to share”

    Yeah, “clean up your room” (and then maybe think about cleaning up the world).
    Now, where have I heard that before?


    (And here is how channel 4 should have conducted that interview:
    The interviewer is Leigh Sales presenter of the ABC’s “The 7:30 report”)

    Sorry, I hope this was not too far off-topic.