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January 04, 2009


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Nathan  Hangen

Absolutely correct. Twitter doesn't seem to interact much with users and I think that is a big mistakes. If it weren't for this post, I'd almost think that Twitter was actually owned by it's userbase.

Michelle Lamar

I am physically ill that 500 mil isn't enough. Karma is a funny thing, maybe someone should tell that guy.

The Franchise King

Thank you David.
Really good points you made.
Twitter is cool tool, but they NEVER communicate with their users...
Joel Libava


As much as I love you David (and trust me, I do love you -- I have followed all of your advice like the most faithful of faithful marketing disciples, but) I have to get all wha? about this post.


Nothing personal, but. You twitter so semi-(in)frequently (which is fine - it's your prerogative)that I don't see how you can possibly begin to take a stance on how well the powers that be at Twitter are, or are not, serving their customers.

The "crisis" as you have dubbed it, is actually being handled quite well within the Twitter community. Everyone has been quick to alert everyone else - and it's been kind of cool, actually. We are all connecting with one another, alerting one another of the issue, and making sure it's all good - "have you changed your password if it has been compromised? good," etc.)

And, I don't think this is necessarily something that has slipped by Twitter's executive team -- I think they may, perhaps, be allowing Twitterville's inhabitants to handle it on our own on purpose! And, it's a good thing.

Regardless, I do think your criticism is at worst unwarranted, or at best, premature.

And, please please please tweet with more frequency, David Meerman Scott. You bring so much wisdom to the table, and we'd love to get to know you better!

All the best,


Matthew Gilbert

I just received my first such DM. Clearly Twitter needs to be doing much more to collect information from affected users while the details are still fresh in our minds. The more time elapses between the initial offense and the resolution the more likely important details will be lost. Can you imagine if the Police waited a few days, even a few hours, to inspect a crime scene?

There are many questions I have that, if investigated, could provide breadcrumbs leading back to the source of this problem. But, if nothing is done to capture the information, how can anything be resolved?

The DM I received was from someone whom I was following, but he has not posted since 12/25/08. I wonder if the dormancy of the account has something to with it being hacked now (perhaps whoever or whatever is doing it is actively capitalizing on the absence of the regular user or perhaps there is some kind of passive script that was programmed to activate when the regular user was not active).

I am also curious if any of the third party apps from which this person has posted tweets might be part of the story? I read just a few days ago that one Twitter app, Twply, is in the process of being sold -- so what will become of the account information that users provided to use the service?

Long story short: Twitter should provide a mechanism with which affected users can enter details as I have above. Without this information, how can this initial situation be resolved and how can it be prevented in the future?

Additionally, there needs to be immediate attention paid to the way by which the third party apps use account information provided by users.

Transparency breeds trust, but accessibility is the key to transparency. Let's hope Twitter acts quickly to ensure both.

Matthew Gilbert

Nicky Jameson

They left the user-base to do the warning and tell everyone else. Even with that, people were compromised, wondering what on earth to do. Basically leaving the user-base to deal with it. I was expecting them to Tweet status and there was nothing, even now - and DM's are still being received. It was pathetic.

Robert Stockham

I have to say, that of all the social networking sites, I like how twitter doesn't bug me. No ads, no pushing me to add stuff. There is so little information in my twitter profile, that I don't care if someone takes it. There isn't much to be stolen with my twitter ID-I want it out there. If something happens, then I will change my password, and I would hope that none of my followers would be willing to give me any personal info that would be of use to phishers. On the other hand, I wouldn't be so arrogant, because in a couple of short years twitter will be a thing of the past and something will take its place. One key factor holding that back is lack of advertising-something FB would be sure to add.

Richard Reeve

I have to agree David. Many of us have been posting lately on the problem of auto-generated posts into DM's when new followers join your stream. It's an unfortunate reality because the DM stream could be an effective communication channel for real business if it didn't get so cluttered with junk. Now the phishing attack takes the problem to a new level.

I asked Chris Brogan if he was inundated with the phishing DM's and his answer was "you have no idea." Chris has roughly four times more followers then me. The result of this weekends unfortunate activity in my stream is that it buried an important business conversation seven pages deep. Scaling that up, in Chris' stream, that message would be buried under thirty pages of clutter.

DM's are unsearchable and cannot currently be favorited(changes which would help in future releases of Twitter), so the only work around I've been able to do is have all DM's forwarded to a gmail, and then star the messages of value.

It's a shame that so many people are getting the vibe that Twitter is failing at one of the crucial principles of social media: listening. It's an opening the next platform waiting in the wings will likely capitalize on.

Geno Prussakov

Important point raised. We are definitely noticing a variation of a communication channel breakdown; and not one caused by the unavailability of the communication channel, but, as you have rightfully pointed out, due to the lack of its proper use. Twitter should learn from this.



to Richard Reeve - this is an interesting point you make. Especially given the (most recent)Twitter monetization rumor that Twitter's revenue model will revolve around charging businesses for use.
If that's the case, I'm sure that they are listening - and you'll soon be paying for the Twitter features you'd like to have!

Ari Herzog

For what it's worth, David, I agree with Kat here. I received one of those DMs, but had already known about the issues due to seeing several iterations of retweets and watching the Twitter trends.

In fact, the first time I heard about it was via a link to Twitter's official blog post. Just sayin'.


I"m personally not disturbed by the way Twitter's handling things.
We're all grown ups and ultimately responsible....if proper virus & computer protections are in place warnings are sent. I got them...I know others that did too...they confessed they were too curious & clicked thru anyway.

I like the indepence...the freedom from advertising and the free spirit that makes Twitter ..... well "Twitter"

Quickly enough things right themselves....the Twitter Community actively shares in creating what's acceptable or what's not. I LOVE how everyone has been looking out for each other, offering an opinon on how to deal with this situation, alerting followers to the lastest scams and info..... forging new relationships thru these acts of kindness.

I can understand how challengeing it can be for someone like ChrisBrogan ....he's built an enormous following...and this just proves it!
His huge following has the potential to provide both huge returns and huge headaches....but it's his choice! ......that's the blessing.

Thanks for the conversation David and all who left a comment....and I thank Twitter for not selling out to FB.....and their laid back....hands off....lets see approach....I prefer it any day to being dictated, advertised, told what to do and micro managed.

Blessings.....In Peace,



Robert French

It gets worse, actually. They say that they've been blocking the posts from access-logins, but I got several after that posting. Still worse, now I'm getting "I just won an iPhone" DMs from hacked accounts.

This is a customer service issues, regardless of whether the service is free or for a fee. Twitter fails in customer service on an almost daily basis. They have not updated their status blog's post all day (Jan. 4th), despite further hacks on the system. Twitter gets an F on this one, hands down. It isn't even close.

Twitter is also too easy to mimic/copy and someone likely will within the year. Further, they'll add in the audio/photo/video features that so many seem to desire. The mimic might also use a platform (not Ruby on Rails, and enough servers) to actually scale and not require a Fail-whale image.

Facebook may well be working on their own version right now. Now that would be a Facebook app I'd likely install.

David Meerman Scott

Thank you all for your comments. This is a very interesting discussion.

@KatMeyer and others: I absolutely agree that in this case the Twitter user base was amazingly helpful in educating users about what is going on and what to do about it. That's how I quickly figured out what was going on. And I also agree that Twitter is doing a good job of (so far) keeping commercialism out of the service.

My main concern and criticism here is about the official communications from the company. Regular readers know that I write a lot about communications and try to point to things going right and wrong at companies.

When a community passes the word about an issue like what happened this weekend or any other fast breaking crisis, the best way is for an official communications stream to be developed by the main party involved. That's crisis communications. Then all the community information can point to the official word. I just don't think that happened in this case.

And I think that if Twitter wants to be a big and valuable company with a valid business model to support a valuation north of a half a billion dollars, then they need to effectively communicate.

Best, David


Hi David,

I agree with you that Twitter could have done more to update their users. I received at least ten to fifteen of these spam messages and deleted all of them so they did not get my password. Still even though the twitter community did a great job in warning everyone else at some point in time twitter should have done more. Updates every hour at the least.

Laurie Dunlop

This will make an interesting case study on viral marketing considering the impact Twitter itself has had on other viral campaigns in the past! They should know better than anyone else!

I read your list of "what viral marketing is" a couple days ago. You might add to that list that "viral" is not always a good thing!

Learn from your mistakes Twitter .... the blogs are now talking!


I was just thinking about this today...

Being lucky I didn't get hit with the spam/phishing DM, but it was difficult to ignore how many people out there were affected.

All those voices - and to your point where was Twitter's voice.

Distant - not to be heard.

Perhaps the rely on their members to speak on their behalf?? That seems hardly unlikely. To their credit - Twitter has been working hard on spamming issues and it "appeared" that they were doing their best to knock out the DM thieves.

Too bad they did it behind a curtain...

Geno Prussakov

It has been reported by Wired.com today that the Twitter accounts were hacked by a 18 yr old who hacked as far as the "administrative access to Twitter". Details at http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2009/01/professed-twitt.html

Major crisis.

Stacy Lukas

I received a handful of these infected DMs, and while they were obivously hacked accounts that were phishing to me, I immediately stopped following those people just to be safe.

I think that Twitter was smart to rely on its own service to spread the details of what was going on, but at the same time I also do agree that they could have been doing more to make it more apparent of a hack than a tiny little stream of text under the entry box on the Twitter page. Not everybody uses the web to enter their tweets, and since there are so many new people to Twitter every day, chances are a good portion AREN'T savvy enough to spot phishing when they see it and would fall for it.

I'm wondering if there's a way Twitter can have "certified" DMs, much like Yahoo has them so you know they're really from Yahoo. Or other certain senders, like NY Times.

Jeremy Hilton

I another area that Twitter, as an organization, needs vast improvement in is their support department.

I recently posted on my abysmal Twitter support experience. We reported a terms of service violation (registration our trademarked name by 3rd party), but after 2 months, still haven't had a resolution. In fact, we haven't even gotten a response from their support department. It's frustrating and very irritating.

I think that Twitter has alot of maturing to do as an organization. Maybe a sale will put the right leadership in place to take them to the next level.

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