My last installment detailed how some MySpace users use “friend adders” to boost their numbers. I looked down on the practice as pure and simple cheating. Since then I’ve talked to a couple friends who use friend adder software in a targeted way to reach potential fans. In their cases, a high friend count is an indirect byproduct of their promotional efforts, rather than an end in itself.
Being the seasoned investigative journalist that I am, I had to see it with my own eyes. Last night I downloaded the demo version of FriendBlasterPro, which I’m not going to endorse with a link. Color me impressed.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my music, my sixth CD is a full-length tribute to Depeche Mode. In less than a minute, the software gathered 1000 MySpace profiles through Google using “Depeche Mode” as a search term. Without the need of a manual, I set the software to send out friend invites with a short note suggesting that they might enjoy listening to the two DM covers posted on my profile. Then I set it to automatically follow up with a cautiously apologetic message telling them about the album in greater detail. I pressed the start button and watched it fly.
My first thought was that I’d been an idiot for ever doing this sort of thing “by hand” in the past. Within five minutes, it sent friend invites and follow-up messages to 50 users, the limit for the demo version. I went to bed worried that my account might be frozen or deleted when I awoke, or that I’d get a bunch of angry responses from annoyed Depeche Mode fans, or worse yet, users who weren’t Depeche Mode fans.
Quite the contrary, I had about 20 new friends and a handful of positive profile comments and private messages, like this one:
My first experiment in automated marketing was a success! From all appearances, I reached people that were genuinely happy to hear from me and count me as a “friend.”
Rumor is that MySpace only allows you to add 500 friends per day, and even that number might not be safe. Tales abound of users who have had their accounts frozen, never to send out friend requests or even comment on profiles again. But the single most important development suggesting the golden era of friend adders has ended is the CAPTCHA. No longer can an automated system send out thousands of friend requests per day unattended, because a human is required to decipher the twisted letters.
If you’re not worried about the moral implications, I’ve got an even better way to do it. Create a new account using a made-up female name and a very attractive, but not too sexy, profile pic (think Tina Fey). Send out personal-sounding notes from that profile about “this great band my friend told me about” to male users only, asking them to “write back and let me know what you think.” I’m not willing to go that far myself, but my gut tells me it would be quite effective.
How do I know? Because I received an e-mail like that a couple years ago, and still have it saved in my inbox. I knew it wasn’t legit, but that doesn’t make it any less ingenious.