Peter Cutler, @studio525, is obsessed with the wrong metrics

November 29th, 1999 by Laura Leave a reply »

Peter Cutler has 17,000 followers on Twitter. He gets them largely through gaming the system, looking for people who will follow anyone or who autofollow. He’s pretty indiscriminate in his follows and he doesn’t weight things like follower to followee ratio, picks up people using keyword search like SEO and marketing.  He’s not particularly interested in personalizing his tweets to people he follows who may be curious as to why he follows them. He’s busy pushing some links, bragging about his Twitter Grade, etc.

In other words, he is a social media spammer.  If you have 17,000 followers, there is no reason to be following new people.  You can’t possibly follow all 17,000 people.  You can follow some of them if you add them to lists.  (And in my case, he didn’t add me to any.)  Total followers is a meaningless metric that Peter Cutler is obsessed with, as he’s actively trying to grow his count.    The people clicking through links for a few thousand followers, where the followers were gained through autofollow attempts, is pretty low.  (I can break it down for you using Fan History if you care for data.)  The ROI is pretty awful in that regards.  Number of followers might be a nice ego boost.  (Kind of like people who write Bella/Edward Twilight stories to get a lot of readers.  Quality is often irrelevant there.)  He can’t articulate why follows individuals.  He offers little value for those following him in return.   He’s hard to reach, not responsive to people who follow him while he deliberately seeks out those individuals.  He’s gaming the system and a twitter follow spammer.

He might be a fine Creative Director, but he’s not some one I would ever point you at for social media he’s obsessed with the wrong metrics and his methodologies could cause backlash as he doesn’t think through the consequences of, well, you know, actions like gaming the system. 

  • Hi Laura,
    Thank you for mentioning me and Studio 525. I wish it could have been in more flattering terms :) In public relations, there's a saying you may have heard, "Any press is good press."

    I'm sorry I didn't respond to your message. As you know I have over 16,000 Followers. I can't respond to every one of them. I often wish I could, but that's just the way it is. I'm also sorry I didn't include you in one of my lists. But my lists are for very specific things, the same things I Tweet about: SEO, copywriting, design, online marketing, social media marketing, etc. Your interests and what you Tweet about do not fit into those lists. You are in a different niche.

    I'm a marketer, so having a large number of Followers is important to my business. This is how I make my living. And I do make a considerable amount of money from Twitter. There are many ways that I increase my Follower number. Early on I ran a Twitter contest that brought me a lot of new Followers. My Tweets get reTweeted frequently, often more than 20 reTweets for a single Tweet. That brings a lot of new Followers. And yes, I do Follow people according to specific keywords: copywriting, design, Twitter marketing, SEO, social media marketing, etc. Most of my Followers and those I Follow are interested in those things, just as I am. That's why my reTweet rate is so high and my influence rate is now above 90%. But occasionally some people slip through the technological cracks. Just as you did. This is easily remedied. We don't need to Follow each other. We have different interests. That's the world as it is ... and as it should be.

    I do take a little offense at the word "spammer" being attributed to me. In fact, I'm very careful not to spam. I don't repeat Tweets. That I consider spamming. Many people reTweet my Tweets, but that is not my doing. I just write interesting Tweets. Following people who I think have the same interests as I do I don't consider spamming. I would call that Following targeted prospects in marketing terms. Spamming is very ineffective marketing because you will end up with a much smaller list not a larger one and your sales will be only a tiny fraction of what they could be.

    I also Tweet links to my Sales Pages very infrequently. Less than once a week. But because of all the reTweets and high conversion rates that seems to be enough.

    I know many people don't use Twitter for marketing and that's not the way it started out. But times change. Now many companies rely on Twitter for marketing. I'm one of them.

    Because I stick to the Social Media rules and Tweet content that my Followers like and enjoy and derive value from, many of them consistently go to my Sales Pages and buy what they find there when I recommend it. And my opt-in email list has increased by almost 1,000 in the short time I've been on Twitter. So, from a marketing perspective, it has paid of incredibly well. I don't see that changing.

    The world of marketing has embraced Social Media big time. It's the fastest growing section of marketing and advertising. I know many people don't like this. Believe it or not, I'd rather there was less marketing in the world myself. But that's not the nature of the world or human society. We can choose to rail against reality or learn to accept it, work with it, and even come to love it as I do. Or simply ignore it. Whatever works.

    I wish you great success in your Fan History website and Twitter account.

  • Jon


  • I can't respond to every one of them. I often wish I could, but that's just the way it is.

    The decision to follow 16,000 people is YOURS. You made it. I didn't follow you first. I DMed you and @ replied to you with in five minutes of you following me. I can't see a single thing that caused you to follow me. It is YOUR decision to follow so many people that you can't reply in a timely manner.

    And that's what it comes down to: You don't care about your followers. You're in it for the metrics. You don't care about who you follow and why you follow them. You can't articulate why you follow them. You aren't providing people you follow with value. You aren't interested in the value that they provide you or you wouldn't have unfollowed me when I clearly wasn't following you back. You would have gone with your original thought: This person is providing me with tweets about SEO and marketing that I want to read.

    If you don't have time for the people you follow, FOLLOW LESS PEOPLE.

  • With all due respect, Laura, I don't think you grasp the concept of marketing in social media marketing (SMM). Anything less than 8,000 Followers will not give you the number of clicks you need to be profitable or to run a successful business.

    I'm not in it for the metrics. I'm in it for the money. That's what marketers, copywriters, web designers and business people of all types do. In order to make that money we hold our customers, Followers, Fans and visitors in very high regard. That's why I provide value for them. They wouldn't continue as my Followers if I didn't. They wouldn't reTweet most of my Tweets in such large numbers if I didn't.

    You don't happen to be in my target niche. So what I Tweet holds no interest or value for you, just as what you Tweet holds no interest or value for me. We're not clones. We're not in the same niche. We don't have the same interests or values. Yet each of us have many Followers that do share our unique interests and values.

    I've been a copywriter, designer and marketer for over 30 years. I've won over 100 international awards. I've created multi-million dollar advertising campaigns that have generated billions of dollars in product sales for some of the largest companies in the world. I have a great deal of experience in this area. In fact there are not many people with this experience using Twitter. I've also been very successful using social media as a marketing vehicle. This is the way marketing is heading and has already headed. I've introduced many of my clients to Twitter.

    This is the type of thing that my Followers are interested in. They have businesses. They'd like to make more money, especially in difficult economic environments like this one. They're copywriters, designers and marketers who want more clients or more effective ways to market their services and their clients' products. This is what my Followers are interested in. This is what I provide for them. And they reward me by hiring my services and buying my products.

    Not everyone is interested in these things. I don't expect them to be.

    My question to you is why are YOU so interested in me and what I do? Is it a problem that I have so many Followers or am on so many people's LISTS? Or is it a problem that I didn't respond to your Direct Message or @ reply? I can tell you that most people with over 10,000 Followers do not respond to all Tweets directed at them. My Followers seem to understand that. Most people do. It only makes sense.

    But I DO respond to quite a few, as many as I can. But they have to have something of interest to me. Or some way that I can help. I've received very lucrative joint ventures, partnerships, outsourcing resources, clients and really useful information from Direct Messages and @ responses. I don't seek them out, but they come naturally when a Follower list passes 8,000.

    Would you prefer that all people with successful businesses using Twitter for marketing reduce their income and profits in order to respond to every person's Tweet?

    There are many people who are only interested in having a small number of Followers and people they Follow. They're not interested in business or marketing. And that's fine. I have no complaints about that. In fact the people on my humor list and zen list are like that.

    But if Twitter is going to survive financially and even continue to exist for more than another year or two, that's not where their money is going to come from. It's going to come from businesses and marketers. Right now Twitter is not monetizing Twitter. And when you've scaled a platform to handle millions of people a day, eventually you have to make an income. You're too big to continue doing it for free.

    Fortunately for Twitter (and even for you if you think about it), there are marketers here now. And these marketers are making a lot of money using this platform, just as I am. Eventually Twitter will find a way to make income from this. If they don't, they will no longer exist. Very few things that are free last for long without some type of subsidy. Libraries are paid for with taxes. Monasteries rely on charitable gifts. Right now Twitter gets nothing. Zero. Nadda. That can't continue for long. Even if they sell out, the buyer will need to see some income.

    I apologize if your feelings were hurt that I didn't respond to you or add you to one of my lists. Most people understand that people with a large number of Followers don't respond to every Tweet. I'm not going to Follow less people or have less Followers. That would be counterproductive for my business. I Follow people who have expressed an interest in the same things I'm interested in, either in their profile or in recent tweets. As I said before, sometimes people outside those interests squeak through the technological cracks. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Generally, they just don't Follow me back and that's it.

    In your case, you seem to have a big problem with it. I'm sorry for that. I'm not sorry for Following 16,000 people or having 16,000 Followers. That's just good business.

    If I were doing this as a hobby and not as a source of income, it would be different. Since I'm running a successful business, I don't really have much time for hobbies. Maybe someday.

    Best of luck to you. And thank you for taking the time to be so interested in what I'm up to.

  • Lewis


    You see, you've not really disagreed with Laura at all, other than that by sheer force of declaration, you've said "I'm not a spammer". And then, you then went on to detail all the ways in which you are, in fact, a spammer by any reasonable measure, and why spamming is justified, and how spamming is going to save Twitter, etc etc. The difference is that Laura considers following people who you have no intention of reading to be spam. I do too, and so does everyone else that isn't a "social media marketer", aka "total fuck".

  • I do too, and so does everyone else that isn't a "social media marketer", aka "total fuck".

    That's wrong. GOOD social media marketers know that follow count is a total bogus measurement. GOOD social media marketers know that the key to social media is the developing of relationships and interacting with people.

    (Like that story about Jesus in the Bible: Who was Jesus happier with? Was he happiest with the person who brought in 10,000 followers through his preaching or the person who brought in 12 through living life by example? Hint: Not the 10,000.)

    Good social media people know that there are valuable metrics for measuring your ROI on investment and follow count is not meaningful. Why? Follower count doesn't equal readers. Follow count doesn't equal people who will click on links. Follower count doesn't equal people who buy your product. It MAY but generally not using the blackhat follower practices that Peter Cutler @studio525 is using.

    GOOD social media people know better. Peter Cutler is one of the bad guys.

  • Lewis

    We have different metrics for what is "good". Mine is something along the lines of "don't spam, ever", which is but an application of "don't fuck up the Internet". His, and I think yours, is "ROI". By that measure, if he's not lying, he has been a huge success. Lucrative joint ventures? Partnerships? Clients? That's a pretty awesome ROI, where "I" is spending a few minutes setting up a bot to follow people, plus a few minutes a day tweeting. By exactly the same measure, email spammers are hugely successful.

  • I'm of the camp of think twice before doing something that could be considered spam like. I did what he did on Twitter for about a month as an experiment, you know back a year ago when people thought that having followers counted for something. I realized what an icky thing that was and how spammy following people like that is. I stopped.

    I just think this particular spammer won't understand anything but ROI. He won't understand that the consequences of his actions are that he will inevitably piss people off for following them for no reason, that he'll get reported for spam because of what he is doing, that outside of the YAY! SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING BY USING BLACK HAT EXCEPT WE CONSIDER THEM WHITE HAT! crowd, what he does is alienating. That his ROI is he'll eventually piss some one off who will write about how he is suckitude and not some one to hire because he is a spammer.

    Black hat e-mail spammers I think have a click and purchase rate of something like 1 in 10,000 and that campaign is considered successful. The numbers used to be higher but have dropped a fair amount as people got smarter and more educated. Toss in the pushback from that sort of behavior and it got some of the people on the margins out of it.

    Sometimes, in order to get through to people, you need to speak to them in terms they understand.

  • Lewis

    This conversation's going to be taking part IRL to the right of my screen if it gets any more indented...

    To do that is to concede the premise that being a dickhole is just fine if the "ROI" is good. And for him, it is, so your argument fails. Take a stance like "don't be a dickhole", which is mine, and it doesn't.

    I don't know if anyone really is getting out of the email spamming game, and if they are, it's not had any effect on the amount of spam being sent. You point out that they have a 1 in 10,000 click-and-purchase rate. That just goes to show that you can be almost universally (99.99%) detested and *still be hugely successful* by the "ROI" standard. One person doesn't hire him because he's a follow-spammer? Again, if he's not lying, he's done pretty well out of follow-spamming, so why would he care if he loses one client?

    "[Y]ou catch more flies with honey, but I prefer to just use a flamethrower." -- Jason Scott.

  • Fine, I'll accept his problem is he's an idiot. He's spamming people. He doesn't particularly give a fuck and he's trying all sorts of complicated rationalizations to get around the fact that he's a Twitter spammer.

    Most of his message was tl;dr. What was he getting out of spam following?

    As for spam dropping, I'm just repeating what I've heard: E-mail spam levels have dropped.

  • Lewis

    > What was he getting out of spam following?
    Money. I think he was pretty clear about that.

    > E-mail spam levels have dropped.
    I looked it up, and yes, consider me corrected; it has declined in the last few months and now only (!) accounts for 87% of all email. I doubt that much of the decline has anything to do with spammers deciding that spam doesn't work.

  • I have to say, this is a tricky one. Chris Brogan, who has many times the number of followers does not always respond to everything, by he does address as many as he can. Peter's twitter stream is not necessarily spammy but his Twitter ratio from followers, following, and tweets is really far off and would be something Twitter would look into as a spammer if reported.

    We all learn sometime.

    The problem is that number is not necessary. It is quality and your ability to reach people within as well as outside your niche. You could have 8K in followers and connect very well. I see it a lot....and you know, people are content with that amount. I write for (along with Al Ferreti and Skeeter Hanson, and more)...and give a lot of advice.

    And Peter: Not everyone does understand. Twitter users disgusted Nine Inch Nails (popular band) Trent Reznor that he deleted his account and wiped his hands of the social network because people were disrespectful and not understanding that he could not answer everyone....amongst other reasons too.

    Social media is market - a technique that has been around for a long time, but adapted to various mediums, like television, newspapers, and internet. Twitter is a social network... not a social media place. The problem is that there is something I have seen between Twitter and traffic. You can get some traffic from Twitter users, BUT you are more likely to get more people to blindly re-tweet you than actually visit your site. I have seen this on many sites and their web stats, including web design clients.

    I think rather than point an individual out, that we address the subject and how to avoid anyone that you might think that are social network spammers.

  • Hi Nile,
    I appreciate your thoughtful comments.
    I'm a big fan of
    And I appreciate the techniques for getting Followers as well as other Twitter techniques I've learned there.
    I guess I've been surprisingly lucky for not connecting with "disrespectful" folks so far.
    And this has served as a bit of a wake-up call. My target Follower niche are business people, marketers and people in the creative design fields. That's the world I live in. They're a pretty respectful bunch. And they appreciate my experience and what I have to offer. My targeting methods must be slipping a little. I'll be more careful in the future.

    Keep up the good work at


  • I have to say, this is a tricky one.

    I have to say: This is NOT a tricky one at all. As far as I know, and I could be wrong, Chris Brogan did not chose to follow everyone. Instead, he got followed and followed those people back. That is an entirely different case than some one who gets 16,000 followers by looking for people who are autofollowing.

    When you follow people (spam following gaming for autofollowers) like @studio525 Peter Cutler did, than you have more of an obligation to interact with your followers and be able to articulate why you chose to follow certain people. Failure to do so, and then unfriendly defollowing because you didn't get a follow back, makes you a Twitter spammer. He can't articulate the value I add to his stream. (Follow count in return isn't what I consider high value to add to his stream.) He offers me nothing in return. (He's admitted he followed me because of keywords. He's admitted he can't keep track of discussion I aim at him.) He unfollows people who don't follow back. He's a spammer. (And if he was really interested in my content, he could have added me to a list for SEO and marketing right away to make sure he could read my tweets.)

    This sort of spam following is a big problem and is likely to drive people away from Twitter in the long term. Especially for people who have small follow lists of 10 to 300 people. Who wants notifications that strange person who will never read them with 20,000 followers who I've never heard of who doesn't tweet very relevant to my interests is following me? It gets to the point of making Twitter feel really impersonal and like a spam haven.

  • Laura, actually, at one point he (Brogan) did do the following. Afterwards, it was natural and he provided the material.

    Truthfully, I am not sure why we are outing just one person on Twitter rather than doing this in a general manner. Spam happens on all the social networks and has happened for a long time. When I was in Yahoo! Clubs, my clubs in the top 10 largest were getting an insane amount of spam and some were from real people, rather than bots.

    I really do not follow first anymore, but I do try to follow back those with legitimate accounts and I have 11.2K followers. And when I have followed people, it is usually people I have carefully looked at their profiles and the tweet streams to consider that they might be a valuable person to follow (that I might learn something, without expecting a follow back.) I did take a look at Peter's and maybe there was a follow game going on, but really I am not trying to make him to be a squeaky clean guy, nor to tell you that you are wrong.

    Most social networks I will say have been impersonal, even fanfiction communities, forums, and email lists. You cannot see who you talk to and sometimes writing is lost in translation because it has no voice behind it for you to try to decipher the total context. There are people larger than Peter that should be fried... Scoble to be a huge example.

    And you miss the Twitter is not black or white as you have painted it. I wrote about it. No one is obligated to follow you, even if you attempt conversation many times. It is not always that you are being ignored, but sometimes people get busy. Life happens. Even I get so busy, or for the example this past week and a half... and still recovering - I have been so sick, I cannot get to the computer because I had no energy.

  • Laura,
    Just to be clear here, I didn't stop following you because you didn't follow me back. I stopped following you because you sent me the same message 8 times from three different Twitter accounts within a few minutes. Contrary to what you think, I do read my @ messages. It's how I tell if a Tweet is of interest to my Followers by how many times it gets RT. To me, getting 8 versions of the same message within a few minutes is Spam. It doesn't matter whether the message is selling something or is a flame. It fills up my Twitter stream with things I don't need and it's very annoying.

    When that happens I unFollow and block, as I did in your case. I do the same with people who repeat the same message with a link to a product. To me, that is Spam.

    I'm not calling you a spammer as you've done with me. That would show bad manners. I wasn't raised that way. But I don't need the same message repeatedly sent to me. It's a form of harassment.

    Just to be clear about my email list, each person on it opted-in. They can opt-out at any time if they don't like the emails I send. As of yet, I haven't lost one subscriber. My list isn't that big, a few thousand. I imagine as it grows, some people will opt-out. If my subscribers considered it Spam, you'd think they would opt-out, wouldn't you?

    I think social networks are about finding people who share our common interests and have something of value to exchange. As in any situation in the offline world, we come across people who don't share our specific interests and values. Generally, we just move on and find people who do.

    If you actually looked at my Twitter profile, you'd see that I do respond to many people. I don't generally reply to DMs because of the spam attacks that have plagued Twitter DMs recently. But I do respond to most of my @ messages, as you can clearly see on my profile. Yes, I don't respond to all of them. Some of them are not relevant. And some of them are Spam. (But those are valuable too because they tell me who to unFollow or block.) But I always respond to questions or comments that tweak my interest.

    I also try to hold the number of times I Tweet down to less than 10 per day. I figure most of my Followers are also busy people and I try to only send something I think will be of real value to them and help them in their careers. That's why I never send the same Tweet more than once.

    Just trying to present things in a little more factual way.


  • You can type up whatever you want. There is no justification for following people first when you have 16,000 followers and you can't give the people you follow attention that a follow implies. If it was the reverse, where you were followed first, arguments like that might make sense... but we both know that you're following people with the intention of getting autofollows in return in order to boost your own numbers. We both know that you unfollow people who don't follow you back in order that you can maintain a rather equal follow ratio so as not to set off the obvious "I'm a Twitter spammer!" alarm bells.

    You're following first. You're playing games. You're not giving your followers value. You can't clearly articulate why you're following people. The people who you are following are never going to appear on your radar unless they @ reply to you. And by your own admission, you don't have the time to deal with them.

    You're a Twitter spammer. You're a case study for bad social media marketing. There is no way around that.

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