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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Unwritten Rules of Twitter That Can Get You Suspended

Ever since I started using Twitter a few months ago, I've been trying to understand the rules. However, as I study the rules more and more, I find that they aren't terribly clear. I thought it might be useful to share what Twitter *doesn't* spell out for you. As usual this is a vast subject, so I'm limiting myself to 4 main points.


In case you're wondering, here are The Twitter Rules.

Spam: There are 17 points described under Spam. But none of them are specific or use specific numbers. So what is Spam specifically?

Unwritten Rule #1: It's not clear what Spam is and the definition is a fickle mistress.

You can probably get away with doing some spammy things for a while, but even if Twitter doesn't shut you down right away, lots of individuals will block you. If enough people block you, that alone will shut you down. Some people have itchier Block Button Fingers than others and block people with ease. These are things that *I* consider serious spam: sending lots of people you don't know @ messages advertising your product; blatant porn; and the vast majority of "make money fast" messages tweeted ad nauseum. I also view links with cli.gs as a yellow
flag--it's usually crap.

What a lot of peeps fail to grasp is that even if you aren't selling anything, even if all you want to do is direct people to your blog to share Grandma's recipe for Banana Cream Pie, if you tweet it over and over and send the link to people who haven't asked for it, it's still spam.


Here are the Twitter Following Rules. But here is another discussion of Twitter's (Total) Follow Limits, and here is yet another. Here is a note about Daily Limits. You'll notice the rules don't all say exactly the same thing. So what is the real rule?

Unwritten Rule #2: It's not clear what the follow limits are and who they apply to.

The follow limits probably vary between accounts. So to be safe follow less than 10% more than are following you. If you follow more than 10% then the Twitter Gods are watching you. In a previous article, I said that I believed--and still do--that you are more attractive to potential followers if the number of people you follow exceeds the number who follows you. I still believe that. Just be careful, and keep that difference under 10% of those following you.

I have to add here that I think the concept that it's somehow better to have lots of people following you than you are following is absurd, and I don't know why that belief abounds. I also have no idea why Twitter itself enourages this concept and imposes follow limits at all. Twitter was originally used in its infancy for internal Odeo communication. The original idea was for employees to be able to talk to each other--for everyone to share information. Twitter was not designed for one person to talk and everyone else to listen. So why on earth should it be preferable and coveted to follow few people and have lots of followers? No idea.


Here are the Twitter Automation Rules . This page tells you how and when it's okay to use them. What this page doesn't tell you is the following:

Unwritten Rule #3: The quickest way to attract the wrath of Twitter Gods is to use Automation Tools.

There are lots of ways to automate your account. I'm not going to tell you how to do it because I think it's bad for several reasons. Twitter is supposed to be a social network. It's not supposed to be just free advertising (except for Twitter itself--stay tuned) and most of the people who automate their accounts are doing it to make it easier and faster to tweet crap. So let me tell you that Twitter doesn't like automation tools and as soon as you start using them, you're on their radar. While Twitter explains politely that you can use them (carefully), if you use them too much, they will shut you down. Also, if other twitterers smell automation, they will block you. So use them at your own risk. And in case you didn't know, people HATE AUTO DIRECT MESSAGES. So quit using them. People will block you, and don't come crying to me. Get people to notice you by being interesting and friendly. Nobody goes to your website or buys your product when you shove it down his or her throat. There are also automation tools for following and unfollowing. And those are including under the Unwritten Rule.


Twitter Jail. Twitter Jail is defined by twitterers as what happens when Twitter shuts you down. It might be because you've tweeted too much and your account is just locked for an hour or two. That happens to spammers and also to lots of people who are just talking to their friends, not spamming. Or it could be more serious, and you could be suspended and taken out of their search engines--which don't work all that great anyway, by the way, but that's an article for another day. I've never been in Twitter Jail, but as my buddy @asark21 put it so eloquently, I can hear them chains rattling.

Unwritten Rule #4: Suspended accounts are not easy to get reactivated. So learn what to do if it happens to you.

The obvious solution is try to avoid it. Don't get suspended. But sometimes people get suspended that aren't spamming; they are naive and had the best intentions. So what do you do?

A. As a precaution get the email addresses of a few of your Twitter friends--I call them Fritters. Most people call them Tweeps. If you get in trouble, quickly email your buddies and get them to make some noise and try to help.

B. Make a new account and start making noise. Twitter Gods hate noise. So if enough people make noise, it puts a lot of pressure on them.

C. Log a help ticket. It's really hard to find this link. I'm not sure how much good this does. I often get the impression that the people who receive and work on these tickets just sit back and laugh at them and don't actually do anything, but it's worth a try. Stories abound on the internet of people who asked for help and waited a long time to get any.

D. Send a distress signal to @twitter_tips These guys know everything. They can give you advice.


Why are all these rules so vague? There are several possibilities: one is that they are deliberately left vague so those in charge can change them continually without us knowing when or why. [Likely] One is that they are inadvertently left vague because the software people who developed Twitter are too [stupid] brilliant in technical matters to write good English. [good possibility] Another is that they are deliberately left vague because different rules apply to different accounts. [very good possibility]

In closing I have to mention a few peeps who I talk to and laugh with every day. If I end up in Twitter Jail for tweeting too much, it will be because I was talking to them: @aussie_home_biz @takethe_plunge @lovegoldcoast @singhd and @budgetdude



  • Twitcleaner is a very useful and instructive tool. It will give you the option to clear out spammers; and that includes people you mention here, who say the same thing over and over. It is always sensible to chat and post links, not to do simply posting of links f you are trying to sell something. I tweet about my two Etsy shops and about 11 Etsy team members and their items, but I always chat to people and I tweet so many varied links amongst this Twitter hasn't jailed me since I began.

    By Blogger Linda, At April 14, 2010 at 11:06 AM  

  • well it's a nice post.but I think twitter is not that really strict when it comes to banning someone account.I mean in facebook the rule are very strict and you can get ban easily.

    By Blogger jacobian, At April 14, 2010 at 12:15 PM  

  • Hi Cynthia - Great post and tips - thanks for sharing

    By Blogger Maralyn, At April 15, 2010 at 1:43 AM  

  • An enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing it with us! @_DINA :D

    By Blogger John & Dina, At May 2, 2010 at 11:20 PM  

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