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Twitter Racketeering For Fun And Profit

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 27th January 2011 7:04pm
  » filed under The Internets  comments: 58

   

Suddenly, with the pitching of a pet peeve the size of a pebble, the tenuous world of the so called "Twitter Twins" - brothers Chris Rauschnot (@24k) and Bill Cody (@VegasBill) - has descended in blinding avalanche upon their Social Media Empire.

It's not like they didn't have any warning. In fact, we warned them almost two years ago (on July 16, 2009 to be exact) in a feature article entitled This Is Not A Sponsorsed Conversation, that what they were doing - exchanging positive social media postings for freebies or cash - was disrespectful, fraudulent and possibly criminal. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires that "consumers have a right to know when they're being pitched a product" and not reading an unbiased review by a supposedly impartial source. These rules apply to everyone, be it martial arts ass kicker Chuck Norris, mixed martial arts ass kicker Chuck Liddell or Jim Murren ass kisser Chuck Monster. Even if it weren't required, opting in favor of full disclosure is always the right thing to do, at least if you really give a shit about the people who read your work.

So, happily along it went for the next 12 months, with Chris and Bill publicly exchanging Eats for Tweets, filling their bellies daily in exchange for 1 or 2 #ultranom shout outs amidst their 120+ hash infested retweets per day to their 40,000 followers. The casinos - slow and cautious about new technology to a fault - coddled, watered, fed, fondled and fertilized these fruit bats by offering up unparalleled access to parties, luncheons, restaurant openings, nightclubs, shows and red carpet events normally only reserved for legitimate media. The unspoken understanding between the resorts and the brothers is that the two would share positive content to their legions of followers. As long as they toed the party line and didn't take advantage, they'd be taken care of.

And what a great plan it was - for all sides - the joints would get a non-employee, non-official, non-journalist, third party Twitterer gushing great things about whatever, hopefully igniting conversational excitement that could manifest itself into measurable metrics - click through rates, increased follower trends, number of retweets, number of participants in hash tagged conversations. These metrics are then used to justify the very existence of the resorts' burgeoning social media departments as they tried to figure out how the hell this social media thing is going to affect the bottom line. We've seen internal marketing department documents for one Las Vegas Strip resort that contain line items that outline goals for Twitter followers growth, quarter over quarter, reducing social media to the incredibly antisocial metric. And who better to help us get from 2,000 followers to 3,500 followers this quarter than two opinion-free "social media experts" that have amassed 90,000 followers between them! All we have to do is invite them to an event and feed them a coupla times a week? As if Jesus himself had walked down from the mountain, with a slot machine in one hand and a roulette table in the other, the entire casino marketing business cried out in Handelian harmony: "Where do we sign? Where do we sign? Alleluia Alleluia Where do we siiiiign??!?"

24K: @CaesarsPalace Can we check out Serendipity3 on Friday or Saturday 4 lunch?
CaesarsPalace: @24k @VegasBill - we'd love to have the two of you for lunch on us.
24k: @CaesarsPalace Awesome, let's set it 4 sure. :) DM'ing you deets.
CaesarsPalace: @24k awesome - :)

When Serendipity3 time came, both Chris and Bill tweeted their thumbs off, regaling the tales, Twitpics, and 12 Seconds of #nom #ubernom and #ultranom until they went into a #nomabetic coma. Never once did they mention to their followers that the conversation they were reading was a commercial paid for by Caesar himself to the order of @24k and @VegasBill. In fact they only started using the hash tag #comp when they realized that they weren't being invited to dinner as a guest, but as an entree.

When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.

To their credit, Chris and Bill put in a lot of time and effort amassing their followings. They obsessively track, tweet and retweet based on trending topics and popular hash tags, they target keyword tweet bots that love to auto-follow, they network with other high metric Twitter users (mostly Tech and Travel blogs / purveyors) and always press the virtual flesh of anything that retweets, quotes or comes within a 100 yard circumference of any of their posts. Some say that they may have "bought" their gigantic following or discovered an algorithm to find auto-follow Twitter accounts, or abandoned ones. There is currently no evidence to prove any of these theories, and my gut feeling is that they earned every one of their followers one by one by targeting conversations and being hyper responsive (to the degree of it becoming annoying.) It didn't hurt that they were smack dab in the middle of the conversation between twentysomething Las Vegas casino Twitter accounts and the rest of the world.

Yes, the Twitter Twins' tactics are deceptive, specifically when measured up to Federal Trade Commission guidelines, but let's call a spade a spade here, the casinos were complicit in this. So what happened? What caused this seemingly sudden explosion of animosity between casino marketing and the beasts they built and fed?

Perhaps the Brothers Rauschnot became too prideful in their self appointed (and casino anointed) role as 'Las Vegas social media brand spokespersons.' Or maybe the casinos envied the Twitter Twins' follower numbers and, secretly, how these doofuses completely worked the system for glutton busting freebies. Perhaps Chris and Bill's lust for access and accolades (not to mention their resulting fortunes) might catapult them from nondescript real estate agent and a part time Mac enthusiast to being influential and important yapperists like the Robert Scoble or Robin Leach. Even a sloth has goals.

Twitter Twins Station

There is the wrathful anger of @VegasBill too, which - according to numerous sources we've spoken with - erupts in volcanic virtual fury when he feels even remotely spurned. Recently, @VegasBill went into a tirade when he discovered that @StationCasinos had unfollowed him, grandstanding to all within Tweeting distance that Station was foolish to unfollow him as he is Vegas social media kingmaker of brands. @StationCasinos responded the next day stating that their unfollowing of @VegasBill was an accident. Not surprisingly, Bill didn't apologize or publicly admit that he goofed, hardly the behavior one would expect from an expert in the ways of social media.

Perhaps more disturbing is how @VegasBill reacted to critweeque leveled upon him by other members of the Las Vegas social media graph in response to his bullying of @StationCasinos. One such tweet, a verbal enhancement of my screen grab of @VegasBill's Stations rant, was posted by local food blogger @TastingLasVegas. This was promptly retweeted by Twitter user @donnieg75 and countless other folks who find @TastingLasVegas' wrathful wit appetizing. Happens all the time, sharing does. The good and the bad. @VegasBill, tracking all of his mentions, sees this comment and noticed by the bio that @Donnieg75 works for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Whereas a normal person might just take their lumps for rightly being called the fool, @VegasBill responded by complaining to @Donnieg75's boss at Cosmopolitan. This is the actual email:


This unbecoming piece of misdirected indignation elevates the nastiness way beyond garden variety playground kerfuffle. In some extreme circumstances, this could've cost someone their job. There is always an alternative to bullying: buying your duck tongue tacos at China Poblano with real actual cash. Are hissy fits a requirement to having a real estate license?

Chris and Bill have never been bashful about soliciting invitations, but as their perception of their own influence has grown, they've become brave, tactless and almost devious in their attempts.

The Direct Approach:

VegasBill: We hear [ entertainer ] is coming to town, backstage passes, full access. Not Kidding.

The Obtuse Approach:

24k: @DamHelicopterCo Thanks for asking about @Cosmopolitan_LV restaurants. Unfortunately, we have only had snacks at STK & a slice of pizza.

Experts tell us that tell us that when Twitter Twins are prowling for invitations they do it by responding to their followers with non recommendations and cc'ing the casino in question's Twitter account. The subtext is "Cosmopolitan, if you want us to recommend your restaurants to our 50k followers, you need to invite us to try it first. (For free)" I hear the truffle tater tots at The Henry are great.

The Punitive Approach

Experts also tell us that when the Twitter Twins are mad at your property (usually because of a lack of feeding - belly and/or ego) they refrain from using the casinos Twitter handle and refer to it by different names. For example Palms Las Vegas, instead of @PalmsLasVegas, Planet Hollywood Resort or PH Vegas instead of @phvegas, MGM Grand instead of @mgmgrand or Wynn hotel instead of @wynnlasvegas or Venetian hotel instead of @venetianvegas. And you thought talking to a teenager was difficult.

And finally, there is the 'slightly less direct than before' approach:

24k: It's @VegasBill's birthday next week. Any #Vegas hotels/venues want to help us celebrate?

Upon seeing the above tweet, local journalist Steve Friess, who played a huge part in legitimizing the Twitter Twins via a supremely nauseating puff piece profile penned for the Las Vegas Weekly last year - suddenly joined the chorus of naysayers and started taking @24k and @VegasBill to task for their antics. So moved was Friess, that he unleashed his Kracken all over @24k's ballsy birthday request right onto THEfacebook where embers of discussion steamed, followed by selective deletions by Rauschnot. This proved to be the last straw for previously supportive Friess, who fired a cannonball across the bow of the S.S.#hashtag wrapped in a mea culpa for his endorsement of The Twitter Twins (née Twerps.)

But before we let Mr. Friess swim away from the T(w)itanic unscathed, pointing fingers at outlines slowly sinking on the poop deck, he needs to bear the weight of his baggage. Steve's talents lie in areas beyond technology, he fastidiously panned Twitter as waste of time until he saw how it affected change during the Iranian protests of June 2009, roughly at about the same time VT called bullshit on the Twitter Twins and their Tweets for Eats scam. I felt then and I still do now that his initial Las Vegas Weekly puff piece was the journalistic equivalent of a comped dinner, show tickets or event access. He opted to not do his homework on their profile piece and instead give them shred of legitimate press credibility which the Twitter Twins pedaled as a USDA stamp of approval. This resulted in a Las Vegas Weekly getting decent amount of traffic to the article (a metric a publisher uses to decides if the author is worth keeping on staff) as well Tweet pimping the authors Twitter handle and his blog. Did Steve pull this punch on purpose? Only he knows.

Abandon ship all ye who enter here, the deserted triangle where local media phones it in (scroll down to "Best Tweeters"), recession pummeled casinos reach at marketing straws and two enterprising young rip off artists play all sides of the fence to their advantage.

The facts are that this situation didn't plop from the sky readymade. It was built tweet by tweet, comp by comp, day by day, meeting by meeting, mixer by mixer by the same smoke and mirrors marketing system that Vegas casinos have been using to pull the wool over their customers eyes since the get go. Now, it is faster, smaller, nimbler, younger and infinitely more deceptive. So what happens now that Ouroboros has awoken to find its head, tail, teeth and balls in its mouth? Tweet about it. And hopefully learn the lesson that social media is about people, the real life living breathing things that post photos of their dinner, tweet every play of the game, give fashion tips to celebutards, start all their Tweets with 'Dear (whatever is annoying them)' and end them with #justsayin. They're the people who will tell you how successful your property is with a greater accuracy than a spread sheet, but only if you listen. They're the people who tell two friends who tell two friends who tell two friends and so on and so on. If you show them honest endearing respect, they will reward you forever.

This is NOT a sponsored conversation.





Oh and we didn't forget to mention the cease & desist order, the mis-appropriated White House press passes, cancelled web tv show and the incredibly the hysterical @24kmedia iPhone app (leave a review!)



Tagged: social media   marketing   





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Comments & Discussion:

Eventually, with a long enough twit trail of "Give me what I want or I'll ... (bash you, snub you, threaten you etc) and we could see an interesting lawsuit from someone who gets hurt by these actions. Extortion is extortion, using twitter to execute it is not exempt.

Complaining to someone's boss to protect their twit-empire is sleazy. I hope they burn.

@VegasBill is also a thief. The background of his profile looked a bit familiar to me and a quick search of Airliners.net turned up the photo in question.

http://www.airliners.net/photo/Untitled-%28NetJets-Europe%29/Dassault-Falcon-2000/0502802/&sid=ec8971eaeb438f697794a14f15c352a8

I've contacted the photographer and made him aware of the fact that @VegasBill is using his photograph without permission. The photographer was surprised to learn about this and was planning on contacting @VegasBill (I included not only the Twitter info but also info about @VegasBill's website.).

Nobody should ever use the word "deets".

Their bubble has burst - if they want to salvage any of their 'relationships', they'll have to respond somehow. Can't wait to see what that looks like.

Holy shit. I thought you were a genius before, but now I'm sure of it. I gotta go- lots of stuff to sell to finance my journey across the U.S. to LaLaLand, where I hope to study in your dojo. Be my sensei?
Seriously kick-ass stuff, Mr. Monster.

#awesome

This MF-ing this rocks. It also completely explains why these fat shits blocked me. As a techie/vegaslover, I asked them, how does someone go from IT to the Sinatra of Vegas twitter. He must have thought I was onto his hash tag abuse. #FuckThem

Awesome job Chuck. Thankfully the light is being shown brightly on these two neck-bearded cockroaches.

Interestingly enough their freebie coercion (in my opinion, ofcourseofcourse) seemingly doesn't stop within Vegas city limits. Less than 24 hours ago this tweet was sent out:

http://twitter.com/#!/24k/status/30384373085773825

Screenshot of the tweet here, since we're all aware of their penchant for deletion

http://uppix.net/f/5/c/3b3d36d1c3e0e5e1bcbd1bb2e4901.jpg

I am so happy to see TwitterDee and TwitterDum's world come crashing down upon them. I have been at a few events which the "twitter twins" have attended, and I can honestly say I don't see anything they contribute to society. Hopefully the casinos will realize they're being used and will cut theses leeches off!

I'm not worried about someone getting a food comp and tweeting about it. (Disclaimer: We accepted no food comps in 2010 although I'm never saying never). Food comps won't put a roof over your head.

But the Twitter Twins seem to be forgetting that Las Vegas is a very, very small town as far as our industry is concerned. Strong-arming and playing power trips is never welcome and catches up with you sooner or later.

First, clearly they are douchebags. But I would make two points:
1.) Casinos now seem to be catering to douchebags. This whole rehab, affliction shirts, bottle service at the club, pool, port-a-potty, etc. has been actively promoted as a way to increase revenue.
2.) The fact that two douchebags used this never ending desire to be the next cool thing is not surprising. It was just a matter of time before the same type of people who pay for one person and cram 6 in a room at the Wynn figured out how to do the same thing with Twitter.

god, does twitter really suck a dick or what?

^^ a bag of

So - a very pointed and well written article .. and just wanted to add some points from someone in the industry ..

First.. in social media -- common sense will tell you that getting 50k followers is not just hard work it requires some real level of celebrity (or infamy) (or 20 years ;)) - not local Vegas celebrity (Paula Francis of Channel 8 has 2k followers) and not even national celebrity (most anchors at CNN don't enjoy over 10 or even 20k followers), but real honest to god celebrity.

Now if you are A list you can accumulate 100's of thousands of followers - even a million or more, but when even Reuters news comes in at 22k and YahooNews at 60k then you have to ask is it logical that two guys in Vegas had 50k followers - and the answer is probably not.

And even though I hate to jump on any hating band wagons (no matter how honestly deserved), I think people need to understand how this works.. so if you go back through the history of the accounts you can see (and I only an revealing this so anyone who reads this KNOWS TO DO THIS when vetting a so called social media "expert") that they added at two different points approx 20k followers in a month (data could be a little off as it is not in front of me, but this is about the #) or so and around 15k in another small time span with other unnatural jumps in between. Ask yourself? What would cause 20k or even 5k people to suddenly find these two people in Vegas and start following them in that short of a time?

So how did it happen? You can do this with a few different methods, there are bots or networks of paid people, but either way they are not real. So any time you see someone with a large following you should check and see if it makes sense. Find their history (there are many tools to do this) and see is the add curve natural or not and if not is there a reason why? Were they suddenly a big front page news story - ok that makes sense. Were they one of a thousand other people talking about Vegas - hmm probably not.

And a last note.. to wrap it up ... all the tweeting, retweeting, private dming and following/unfollowing was to increase their Klout scores, so that anyone who checked them through this tool would think they had real value. Unfortunately, all this could have been resolved with some due diligence.. How a about a check of their LinkedIn resume and some calls to their real business network or heck even Google them. Because if you Google me you can see all my professional credentials, but casinos did not do that and that is on them and Las Vegas Weekly.

The world of legitimate professional social media people with proven track records is a very small one - we usually know each other. So even though the media is new, the method to find a legitimate one is not - Just go to LinkedIn, find one with good references and start there next time. You will get a lot more bang for your buck.

Final Note - All studies show it does not matter how large the following is - Good ROI comes from the level of engagement and interest - not the follower count.

Thank you for reading.

So, Klout keeps coming up in this discussion - how seriously do you social media professionals take that score/service? Is it helpful?

I've heard of it but haven't ever really used it so I checked myself out, with my own wimpy setup (http://klout.com/hunter).

and then there's 24k:
http://klout.com/24k

and bhilll:
http://klout.com/vegasbill

I'd love to have someone in the biz read those tea-leaves and tell me what you see when you read that stuff.

It is very helpful and I know the CEO - a very good guy.. but like anything based on mathematics - (think video games, casino games, Google rankings etc) it can be gamed.. the hardest part for companies who develop algo based tools is that they constantly have to stay on top of the gamers and spammers... Klout is a young tool and so it is going to take time to learn how to - mathematically - weed out the fake accounts.. my guess is they will have to develop - just like Google did - a red flag system - where an account is take out for hand review.. because if you hand review the account it would have taken 30 mins to see it was not valuable..

So it is not that Klout is not valuable, but just not perfect - like any mathematically based tool.. where humans can learn its patterns.

before i get the wrath of hell for being a pr guy, i left vegas' media world because my ethics got in the way...i used to work in the vegas media environment,(i now work in miami, fl) and vegas is far different and the strangest media environment i've encountered...although these two idiots blatantly abused twitter, they are by far not the only ones in vegas who write for comps, many times in vegas i couldn't get coverage for my client unless i included free meals, nightclub passes, and suites all for a one column story..the difference is those people didn't publicly come out and threaten negative press or abuse their privileges..

Secondly, i couldn't agree more with this article about the casinos being the hand that feeds the beast..having the luxury of fine dining and some of the greatest hotels in the world, pr in vegas isn't public relations, its publicity..instead of building solid relationships with media, and working together whether the review is good or bad..pr professionals in vegas go for the quick hit, big publicity moves like celebrity photo in front of our sign, nightclub promotion, picture eating at our restaurant or comp fools like @24k because they have 40k followers..why do you think most of vegas' pr staff are hot sexy women or gay?? (i mean no hate whatsoever, and have no ill-will towards the gay community) my boss met a prospective journalist in a see-through dress showing off a great job by her plastic surgeon..needless to say the male journalist melted like butta' and we basically could get anything we wanted

i apologize for the extensive rant but i thought that prospective from the 'other side' was needed..and i wanted to compliment the webmasters, the editors, and the authors of this site...at times stories can be down right mean, but at least your relaying honesty to your readers, great job and keep it up

Just a friendly note to ethicalprguy .. if the casinos had done due diligence they would have known the followers were as faked as the plastic surgery ;)

This entire event is a microcosm of the 'juice' that Nevada relies on in all respects, from social marketing to major political battles. It's a lot of a wink and a nod, you scratch my back and I scratch yours stuff. I think we really should consider changing our title to "The Comped State."

The only thing that has shocked me so far is that Chris and Bill haven't been paid off yet to glow warmly about the LV Monorail. The casinos certainly played a hand in this, and the seedyness that The Powers That Be are taking their free gifts borders on the lunches lobbyists have with Congressmen. The ones where they legally can't sit down and eat but can skirt the law by remaining standing.

And yet local media spends so much time writing wondering why this region isn't considered legitimate around the rest of the country.

Chuck: This is a terrifically well-written piece and I'm glad you wrote it. I will just say that you know me personally, you know the bulk of my work and you know my penchant for speaking up in outrage and offense over things that don't add up to me.

I would never sell my column space, much less for anything these guys have to offer. That is absurd and doesn't fit real well with the rest of my record. In this case, I was intrigued by the duo and what they appeared to achieve, I liked the back story and the notion that a couple of nobodies had earned some sort of prominence in a new medium.

Yes, the original column was a lazy job. But I also really felt that a lot of those who beat up on them were jealous; looking back on it, I should have respected their concerns because some critics were people I admired and respected. But I don't generally revisit topics in my column, so I think I doubled down on a bad bet for a while. The business of the Station unfollow incident -- which *I* was first to RT, a fact you failed to acknowledge -- brought the matter back into my crosshairs. And then, the birthday thing and the bizarre lie Chris used to try to explain it just made me erupt.

I must say that I still find Twitter hard to manage or keep up with. There's a lot of information and conversation flowing there, and I don't have time most of the time to really be as alert and engaged as I ought to be. So I am sure there might have been egregious utterances in the interceding months, but I didn't spot them. When I ran headlong into two of them within a couple of weeks, it was time to go back and correct my record. This week's column displaced another that was already written; that's how urgent I felt the situation had become.

I realize Vegas media is a snake den. But you know me better than this. I cop to all the criticism about the initial column. I just reject the suggestion I was motivated by an expectation of getting something from them. I wasn't looking at it right, I wasn't listening to people who I should have listened to, I worked too fast that particular week, I was a little obstinate about acknowledging my mistake and I'm sorry. But, by all means, show me the way to another Vegas journalist who takes on more injustice and calls out more power players on a regular basis -- and at great cost to himself in terms of isolation from even his own journalistic peers.

I deserve more benefit of the doubt than this.

P.S. I wasn't made into a Twitter convert by the Iranian revolution which, it turned out, was not nearly as influenced by Twitter as, uh, Twitter and Twitter denizens wanted you to think. Rather, I was late to getting my first smart phone until 2009 because there weren't any decent hearing-aid-compatiable BlueTooth headsets until then, so when I got my first iPhone I finally found ways to make sense of it, to make it more informative and entertaining to me, and to keep up with the cacophony a little better. But I still think FourSquare is a creepy waste of time.

Seriously, these two fellas look like they haven't missed too many free meals. I say let the gravy train continue so they can plump up to Fat Bastard size. The town needs more side show attractions.

Outstanding work on a fascinating topic, Chuck. I agree with Jeff Simpson's assertion on the last Vegas Gang podcast that you and Hunter et al are indeed journalists. Truth is, someone can have years of formal training and still be an ethical mess. It's when you walk the walk like you guys do that you gain the respect and credibility of your audience.

Also, it helps if you make a lot of dick jokes, too.

My thoughts, first off, I think it's an extremely well written, well researched piece, excellent work Chuck.

I think you pointed out some interesting things, I wanted to comment on.

1. The number of followers, I'm in the camp that believes that effective use of hashtags, trending topics, follow fridays, and as you pointed out "smack in the middle of Las Vegas and a twitter focused clientele" is exactly how they accrued so many followers. I'm almost tempted to see how many bots, simple follows, and such I could accrue on an account, as I'm guessing with some time it wouldn't be long to get to 50k.

2. In relation to Steve Friess column, I think you definitely pointed out some flaws in his actions, which I can see Steve admitted to here and on his blog. I read Steve's work regularly and it's my opinion there are times, when he can offer an opinion on something that might not be in his area of expertise that probably needed more research on, I wouldn't question his integrity in reporting and writing what he believes. Again, just my opinion on reading his work for a couple years. I believe in this case and as I did at the time of the article on the two, that he was merely mistaken and really didn't understand the impact, his feud with the restaurant critic alone confirmed to me that he really didn't understand what these two were doing.

3. In respect to the two that are subject to the article. I definitely think the miss is in the adaption of new technology, in this case Twitter. Whether that's by users, numerous who I've seen who FF'd VB way back when or hash tagged for his reinstatement from the spam list (I'm pretty sure I even did so at one point, picking up from others I followed) and now understand that they probably aren't 'good' for the system or from companies that are/were a bit clueless into what some of these numbers mean.

4. What it means in the long run, I think you make a great point at the end of the article that companies are missing the boat on what social media is and how to effectively capture the data from it. I'm not sure they are going to 'get it' or be able to utilize it in any meaningful way. Something like Twitter means that these companies are at the user's whim. I follow and unfollow at my discretion and am able to completely dictate the stream I see. That goes for companies and users, so in essence then Twitter becomes something similar to finding journalists that I respect and provide something, I choose who I want to read, what typically happens in that case is a sort of cell develops and that cell is fairly impervious to outside influence, or at least much more focused review from the group dynamics. That's a hard nut for a marketing department to crack, as their focus is on mass marketing, rather then micro marketing. Which I believe means that experiences of the cell are going to dictate whether or not I choose a place, and hence is going to require service and other things to make themselves stand out. If I was one of these companies, I'd take a look at whether we want to invest in 'social media marketers' or rather take that budget and update things we already have. As their social media marketers, as you pointed out are already on the clock, every visit, and every day. Let me give an example, If I saw a post that said new carpet at the Monte Carlo by one of those I follow vs some random retweet by @Monte Carlo telling me how great X's vacation weekend was, I think it's easier to see which one I'm more interested in.

Although many of the hotels and casinos and other venues were complicit in this, they were also warned. Many members of the Vegas community have known about their antics for a long time and tried to warn people about them.

However those in charge of marketing continued to be awed by the number of followers they have. It has been relayed to me by many acquaintances that they did in fact create an algorithm (read bot), in order to gain that many followers.

Also Twitter is not the only social media tool they tried to work over, they also tried this with Foursquare, Gowalla and most recently Foodspotting.

It really became a bone of contention where people appalled by their behavior stopped following them, recognizing them and supporting them. However many a legion of wanna be began pumping them up even harder and drowned out the voices of dissent.

I can only say it is a great relief to many of us to finally see this story be told.

Dood if you tweeted that it would have been 93 tweets!!

@thestrippodcast steve, i'm not calling your career into question, you know i'm a member of your large legion of fans. however, i'm not alone when i say that we were hoping when you did the initial profile that you would expose these guys for the rip off artists they are. we've listened to you go head to head with a different celebrity every week including the casino heads of state and you let these piss ant screwballs not only get away with it, but wear YOUR hard earned credibility as a badge of their own.

Folks THEY BOTTED THEIR FOLLOWS - they did not earn them - tired of seeing people say they did because the historical graph data shows they did it that way .. you don't earn 20k in a month without doing, so -- so believe anything else you want, but really.. they were botted .. they earned some naturally for sure, but the bulk were botted and here is how you can do the same..

BuyTwitterFriends.com = 10,000 Followers for $49.99 (0.0049 each)
TweetSourcer.com = 10,000 Followers for $60.00 (0.006 each)
UnlimitedTwitterFollowers.com = 10,000 Followers for $74.95 (0.0074 each)
Twitter1k.com = 5,000 Followers for $104.97 (0.0209 each)
SocialKik.com = 10,000 Followers for $150.00 (0.015 each)
USocial.net = 10,000 Followers for $447.30 (0.044 each)
Tweetcha.com = 10,000 Followers for $474.99 (0.047 each)
PurchaseTwitterFollowers.com = 5,000 Followers for $249.99 (0.049 each)

oh and their Klout score was scammed too...
stop giving credit were credit is not due..
Sorry been very diplomatic but just tired of biting my tongue..

@anonymoussorry i think you make a very convincing argument about their numbers being corrupt. thank you for taking the time to explain this to those of us who might not be as familiar with the seedy underground of twitter number manipulation.

Wow. I guess I shouldn't be at all surprised that there are sites blatantly offering these services but still... wow.

Maybe I'll get Mike_E a few thousand followers for his birthday.

I don't fault Friess as much as others might. His original piece was more about covering these new "celebrity" tweeters. What are they doing, what are they up to, look at how they have taken a new social media tool and turned it into their vocation.

Las Vegas Weekly leans toward subjects of what is hot and trendy. Even though Steve's column in it is usually on the more serious side, it fit the magazine and people were curious about these two guys who had come out of nowhere.

I'm more interested in how the market will react. Klout suggests that 24k has 15,000 followers that actually give a damn about what he's doing. I'd guess that number, while a bit high, isn't way off the mark. Will a property give up free food, room or other perks to reach 10,000+ people? They very well might. I know that about the time I hit 15k subscribers was about the time I started to get the time of day. It is a metric that makes it worth the time of those in marketing or PR.

BTW, I've known about the ability to purchase followers long before we even launched our Twitter account. (Found out about in doing my due diligence to see whether we should even bother with tweeting). We opted not to go that route because I really have no desire to reach people unless they are interested in Vegas and my stuff. Advertisers don't care how many numbers of people follow me. They care about how many of them want to a show. You can't fake ticket sales.

Did the Twitter Twins buy part of their following? Certainly looks like a case for it. But it also appears that they busted ass to build a following as well.

I'm not so much loosing sleep over their business model (although I must note it is a far cry from ours -- you can NOT buy a mention in Newkirk's Notes -- the column portion of my newsletter -- period).

I'll leave that concern to others (and possibly the government). I don't care if they become bigger than Norm or end up as complete nobodies by next year. That is out of my hands. But perhaps they should stop being dicks. Don't act like you are at the top of the food chain unless you really are.

Thanks ChuckMonster - I have known this for a very very long time and said nothing except when asked by someone directly and even then I tried to be diplomatic, so if I seem adamant it is just because I have been quiet for a very long time.

It is not just the botted follows it is all the constant tweet and rt of each other which is to enhance their Klout scores - the private dming so as not to give you any value - the faking knowing this or that person by going and getting a picture and then posting it as though they were familiar with the person, but were not (trust me I was there when the pics were taken on several occasions), it is the stealing other people's content (watching them tape someone else doing an interview and posting it before the interviewer himself was able to post the interview)

There are many things that went into these accounts that go beyond botted numbers and getting free food. So I do hope Vegas takes note and stops making people who have no history in the business celebrities for things they have no business being celebrities for.. There are real professionals who work very hard at being very good at this form of media - praise them not people like this.. because every time you give people like this legitimacy you make it harder for the people who are legitimate to work in Vegas..

PS VegasAccess you are reading the Klout Scores incorrectly - that is about reach not actually followers..

"[... T]he Twitter Twins seem to be forgetting that Las Vegas is a very, very small town as far as our industry is concerned. Strong-arming and playing power trips is never welcome and catches up with you sooner or later."

AccessVegas is 100% correct in this regard. I've lived here less than two years, yet I've already seen quite a few local "personalities/celebrities" rise and fall in popularity over their egos allowing them to get in the way of better judgment. (And no, I can't name names at this time... But it isn't hard to figure this out for oneself.) Many a wannabe celebrity has tried to bully and strong-arm one's way to media empire in this town, but in the end it never really works. I guess "The Twitter Twins" had to find out the hard way.

Chuck, As I tweeted to you and my tens of followers (none paid for, yet), I thought this was a great piece and well worth the wait since you mentioned your plan to write about it on the last Vegas Gang podcast.
My only quibble is with one of the things Steve F. wrote about in an earlier comment. I'm fairly certain his original intention in writing his first (unquestioning) column about the Twitter Twits was to be the first or one of the first folks to write about them. The idea that two guys come out of nowhere to have a big impact on the PR clique and to have almost 100k followers was newsworthy. I doubt he considered the column's impact on his Twitter followers.
I also think his blog post defending his motives while insulting you was over the top. I think you should apologize to Friess for your unfounded guess as to his original intentions and he should apologize to you for his juvenile and unprofessional name-calling.
And, Chuck, I would advise you not to share your enterprise story ideas on the podcast. Wait until it is published to tout it. That said, it still was the best piece written so far. Great work.

AnonymousSorry, would you be willing to talk to me (on or off the record) about a Twitter study I'm doing? (dgs@unlv.nevada.edu) Previously I've done some crude measures of the size of casino tweeting, and I'm trying to do something more nuanced this time. I'd appreciate your expert input.

Firstly, are we going to get an official UFFC designation for this Friess/Chuck dustup? For the record (like anyone cares), I think Jeff Simpson's take on this is right on.

Secondly, it seems that even Scott Whitney's Vegas Video Network is done with Chris and Bill.

Finally, did anyone besides me notice that the Twitter Twins were in the audience briefly at Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza 2010?

Maybe I'll get Mike_E a few thousand followers for his birthday.

What about Mike_Es_Taint? ;)

Here's the way I view people that have to "buy" followers or friends. Numbers don't mean squat when the content being produced is swill. There's a website I've been a member of for nearly a decade and there are members who in a year posted 5,000 to 10,000 posts on the site, the majority of them in a Word Game Thread. Some people mistakenly think that a high post count actually means something. 10,000 posts that were well thought out and actually contribute to a discussion mean a helluva lot more than 10,000 posts that consist of a single word.

@AnonymousSorry Thanks for the info. I'll get myself better educated on how Klout works.

Also, I didn't know that the Twitter Twins were "stealing" interviews and otherwise presenting themselves as connected to things/people they were not. If they are pulling crap like that, I'm done trying to be somewhat open-minded about them.

@slickmv I'm emailing this thread URL to Scott Whitney. Maybe he'll have some insight.

Just to add fuel to the twitter twerp fire...

Encore was a few weeks away from opening. These guys had just gotten into the scene and most people (including myself) were unaware of what was going on and what their intentions were. I called and booked Sinatra for a party of 9 on opening night literally minutes after Encore had opened up their restaurant reservations. We knew it'd be the who's who of Vegas royalty that evening.

Needless to say, reservations sold out very quickly. About a day after making them, I got an e-mail asking if the twerps could hitch on to our coveted booking. Huh? I thought these guys were "in the know" and powerful in the city. No worries though. I took care of it.

The evening was upon us, and indeed, it was the who's who of Vegas royalty. But it didn't go smoothly. All nine of us showed up except the twerps. Where were they? Stuck in the freezing December cold line outside. Again, didn't these guys have an "in" or something. It was totally embarrassing having to ask the young hostess in no more than a top and skirt to go outside and fetch these guys. Anyway, they finally show up and we're seated some half an hour after our initial 8:30 slot. (I'll refrain from tearing into them for not, at the very least, *looking* like they were going to the top restaurant in the city's top hotel on grand opening night. Instead, they chose to wear large, plastic crosses around their necks because apparently, they were a gift from Criss Angel. Way to class up the joint).

Tim Poster walked in and greeted our table, asking how everybody was. He became especially warm when he recognized Steve Friess sitting next to me. Minutes later, a tweet came from the twerp stables with something along the lines of, "Tim Poster just stopped by our table at #Sinatra and chatted with us."

Um, not really. The only person he really "chatted" with was Friess and that for only a few seconds.

Then, as expected, the boss shows up along with Elaine, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, and Ron Popeil (he's a celebrity in my eyes, dammit!) and the rest of the Wynn family. They sat at the next table over. And then another tweet along these lines.

"Steve Wynn and family along with Agassi at our table at Sinatra."

What. The. Fuck?

I immediately moved them into the "People I Feel Like To Much of a Dick to Unfollow" column on my TweetDeck. As you can imagine, I never paid attention to that column. Needless to say, the official unfollow came a few months later.

Being a dick feels good sometimes.

@mike_e Way off topic, but did you get around to reading "What the Dog Saw" by Malcolm Gladwell? I know I mentioned it to you a while back... there is a chapter dedicated to Ron Popeil in it.

Thanks for the excellent, more thorough disembowelment of this phenomenon than Friess' piece (no doubt because the constraints of the printed page are absent). This twerp T(w)itanic (great pun that) deserves more illumination than Friess and the Weekly could give it, and I am grateful for the information -- especially from @anonymoussorry.

As a practicing Luddite (albeit one with media followings at all levels), I'm just happy Friess, Chuckmonster and their readers are doing such fine work in giving me an elementary education in this arena...and all of you may have talked me out of using hash tags before I even figured out what they were.(?!)

John Curtas
www.eatinglv.com
@eatinglasvegas
KNPR-Nevada Public Radio
Las Vegas Weekly
KLAS TV (CBS) Channel 8
VEGAS Magazine

Incredible read. Ever since joining the twitter world (@vegasfunfacts), I have been confused about these two guys and how they amassed such a following. I have gained my meager follower numbers only on the backs of RTs from casinos, so I can't exactly say anything about their tactics in that regard. But buying followers? Tracking trends? Follow-back bots? Klout and twitter tools? Jesus, that takes some work! I guess it's even somewhat impressive and commendable they have the time and motivation to do those things. Even if it is a bit sad.

I enjoy the work of both Friess and Chuck, and I think it has to be a tough business to cover Vegas. I would assume you're always weighing the consequences of losing that "juice" you have built up with execs and casinos when employing your journalistic intuition to call people out when they need called out. I admire you both and anyone else that covers Vegas and the industry.

I think I'll stick to my day job and fun facts. Regardless, great work on this piece.

If you're honest and fair, you build up an audience that trusts you. At that point, it's hard(er) for them to ignore you and as long as you're on the level, you're usually treated okay, even by PR people that may not love your stories all the time.

That's the way to do it, not though tricks, backroom deals or any other garbage.

24k and VegasBill responded to these two posts, so I will leave the link for people here. I will not comment at the blog itself, but I can tell you that so much of the data is just plain old Vegas Bull.
http://24k.posterous.com/addressing-the-situation-engagement-and-movin

So some edification...
First - Definitions >
Impressions: Just means it showed up somewhere on the net where someone could see it. This can be done in a million ways and means zip especially since the accounts have many bots.

Lists: can be bought just like followers. Go to the lists and see you can see lots of auto added (people i follow like me or added by auto list - the presence of these does not always indicate faked accounts some people legitimately use these, but being on 1k+ lists does not mean that you did not fake XXX of them)

More on “We Don’t Use AutoBots”
Bot indicators... how can you tell if they are bots. Well if you want to see if an account has bots one way is to go look at all the # with long lists of @ mentions.. SO in this case the many #FF and #gratitudes on the accounts right now (esp days after #FF) while they are not tweeting much - needles in a haystack of the usual multitude of tweet / retweets but right now you all I can say if it walks like a duck and all that...

So how to see it...
Go to search.twitter.com and put in @24k or @VegasBill you will see that many of the accounts that are talking to them end in a series of numbers (usually the first indicator of a bot account - click thru to see they have 0 followers and many auto rts. These are full bots accounts. There are others where people are paid to just tweet/retweet. These are harder to detect at first, but they usually just say things like Hey. Cool. Thanks for the follow. #FF. Can't wait to read your tweets or #gratitude whatever it is and do it to many accounts. (I know because we tested it to see how it works.)

Since they are not tweeting much right now these are pretty numerous in the accounts. Again walks like a duck? Also notice the lack of legitimate conversation the accounts are generating in comparison. If these accounts really had the power stated, you would expect to see very few of these lists of names tweets and many more conversational (real conversations, not hey, hello, cool, like your tweet). And to add to that especially given the controversy this week, yes? Yet the accounts are almost silent of conversation and their follower counts get bigger? Hmm why? I will let you answer that.

NOTE If you do this tomorrow, after this posts, check from today back. They might fluff them up again.

Now, most of these are just engaging with them (ie helps their Klout scores) But similar ideas apply, if you go through the followers.

As for the really botted followers they tell you to go look for (the 20k in a month)- they happened back more than year or so ago when VegasBill and 24k got banned for having "spam" accounts (Search Google for #FreeVegasBill). At the time I wondered how it was that they kept getting thrown in Twitter "spam" jail. Then a bit later I saw the adds and knew how. They were "jailed" for being spam because ??.

Check TwitterCounter Challenge...
These guys know TwitterCounter does not go back as far as what would be the botted adds, so they feel safe telling you to check it. I will see if I can find the site that has data from back then, so you can see for yourselves. I do have access to the execs at Twitter, but would have to ask for such a trivial thing from them, but will if I have to just to show that it did indeed occur.

And Finally from Klout.... some words..
24k's True Reach on Klout is 15k -
NOTE it was only 5k on the 18th of this month - it jumped 10k in ONE DAY.
I have emailed the CEO of Klout to find out how that is possible.
(maybe Klout had an error)
This means that Klout only saw 5,000 of the 50,000
or now 15,000 of the 50,000 as valid or valuable followers.
The rest are either inactive, bots or disinterested.

From Klout =>
About True Reach
True Reach is the size of your engaged audience. We eliminate inactive and spam accounts, and only include accounts that you influence. To do this we calculate influence for each individual relationship taking into account factors such as whether an individual has shared or acted upon your content and the likelihood that they saw it.

Hope this helps.. Thanks!

Final Word...
I probably do not have to say much more because we all have lived in Vegas long enough to know Vegas malarkey when we hear it... but feel free to ask me questions and I will see what I can do.

NOTE there are very few accurate Twitter analytics out there..so please read little into all the counts in the blog post...

NOTE as soon as he posted his tweet about his blog post he started flooding his account w tweets, so if you want to see what i was talking about you will probably have to look back from Jan 30 at 11:59pm. The pattern is obvious though, so will stand out as soon as you see it.

PSS I just checked "TweetReach" one of my tweets today had a reach of 106k people! wow and I have far, far fewer followers.. so there you go... my NON-Celebrity, NON-Event related, NON-Vegas Tweets about nothing special but my industry and some world events and me - One of them had 1/9th the reach of the oh so powerful 24k and VegasBill - sorry sounding snarky there, but feeling a little bit now lol

Proving that Twitter analytics are a fickle beast at best and that impressions mean what I said - nada!

Little further check on Tweetreach.. all it does is count the followers of the people who retweeted a tweet and multiply it by how many tweets if talking about impressions. So if @24k tweets it and VegasBill rewteets it and then they rt each other (yeah they have never done that) - it all counts in the impressions! More walking like a duck!! See the explanation below from TweetReach..

Remember - He was careful to use impressions and exposure is his post..
while reach is UNIQUE tweeters EXPOSURE is ALL TWEETS.. not unique tweeters
"generated exposure of 594,851 impressions."
http://help.tweetreach.com/entries/139336
Well with 100k users between them it only takes a couple retweets to reach 500k yes?
Ducks.. ducks and more ducks.. quack..

Understanding reach vs. exposure
Reach is the total number of unique Twitter users that received tweets about the search term. Exposure is the total number of times tweets about the search term were received by users. We call each receipt of a tweet an impression

Sorry if I seem a little driven, but now I am just starting to get a little irked lol
Quack Quack!

I'm curious how they plan on using metrics to explain away the bullying.

Speaking of Klout the last time I saw the Twitter Twins they were interviewing the CEO.


I don't understand what all this ranting about their twitter abuse. What are the rules of engagement for twitter? What governing board of twitter did these guys corrupt?

FYI: @VegasBilll got a TweetReach of over 1 million "impressions" for a single tweet, mostly because of a single RT.

http://tweetreach.com/reach?q=vegasbilll

After reading Anonymoussorry's further examination of some of the numbers, I've changed my position on just earning it through real times, has tags, ff, etc. Nice write up AS. I still want to give a shot at seeing how many I can gain on a bogus account though, just through some of those actions and reciprocal follows.

You are welcome Jinx73.. you should also note that their Klout stats show my account to be stronger in many metrics (though overall score is a few points lower) even though they have tens of thousands more users ("users") than I do which either means I have the most incredibly engaged network on Twitter OR Klout is right, their true reach is between 1/10th to 1/4 the size they have showing on their accounts and most are not heavily engaged.

NOTE Klout does have an error in their True Reach scoring, so they are fixing it. I will post what the fix shows when they have it finalized. Thanks!

The buying of followers theory doesn't make sense - it they're buying (or have bought) followers then why are they following so many accounts?

They do several things - buy followers and participate in follower networks.. thus all the hash tag #follow this and follow that -- #TT #FF and whatever else they make up to cover them.. NO ONE has that many lists of people that tweet and rt people but people that participate in those lists.. as for following back - if you do not follow back it decreases your Klout score and when you are first building your twitter account you have to have a certain ratio or Twitter stops your account (which i what they probably learned when they got put in twitter spam "jail")

They also follow back a far fewer proportion of people than follow them and to finalize.. they only have about 1/4 to 1/10 the real reach their account says it has according to Klout which means most of the accounts that follow them are not interacting with them because they are disinterested, dead accounts or bots.

But yes they have jacked up their followers.. if you had any doubt you just have to go to last week when all this came out and they were barely tweeting.. The bots were still going and they were still getting more followers - so the bots were the only ones talking to them for the most part and yet their followers increased.. does that make any sense?

Their accounts are faked ... I have no doubt about it.

Wait so you're saying these guys made up the #FF hash tag? C'mon, that's been around longer than these guys. I mean - obviously these guys have pissed some people off - that's clear - but what you're saying about them buying followers doesn't make sense. I've been following the vegas twitter scene and these guys have been all over it since '08. Sure - they do some completely assclowny / majorly douchey stuff (like the stationscasino "why aren't you following me back now" tweet and they've completely pissed off some PR people who have deep roots in Vegas) but they've been in the middle of this Twitter eruption for what? 3 years now? I've seen them mentioned by some heavy hitter users as well as just about every casino in the city.
All things considered - it's their tactics and the way they've treated people that's the legitimate and potentially fixable issue here the rest of it just seems like a giant conspiracy theory.

They did not make up the follow tag though they did make up some - they use it to cover their follower networks.. like the #gratitude one shows up on a test account we run for a fake follow network... when they get it, so do we and guess what - we started checking some of the accounts that #gratitude post @24k and @VegasBill - faked accounts.. funnier yet Bill has convos with them.. lol (This all pumps up their Klout scores)

it is not conspiracy theory - they are account numbers are faked - they are bullies threatening casinos - they have stolen content by filming someone elses interview and posting it first - everything that has been posted here has been witnessed by people posting..

no conspiracy theory - part of what you think you have seen is part of what they have been doing.. faking a lot of it.. is there some legit in there sure..Vegas is a small town... but the real active members in teir accounts out of their 50k is 15k and more likely 5k when Klout fixes their TrueReach numbers...

All of what has been said is verifiable..
So believe it or not, but just because you do not believe it does not make it true..

Oh and they have not been in the middle of the 'twitter eruption' unless you mean they posted and reposted themselves a million times.. and got some casinos to mention them

They do not know a lot of the people they posted pice of themselves with - they go to a public event.. take a bunch of pics.. then post it like they know them..

in the words of Biz Stone from twiiter at PubCon two years ago..

"Geez has that guy taken enough pictures of me enough yet.. this is getting very annoying"

Ten minutes later VegasBill posted the picture like he knew Biz..

How do I know.. I was there talking to Biz when it happened..
Why because I do know these people or run in the circles that do..
Posers..

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