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What's Changing at Twitter (Hint: no more spam)

What’s Changing at Twitter? (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

Today’s post is part of the monthly Author Toolbox Blog Hop. The Hop is organised by Raimey Gallant, and has over 40 participating blogs. To find more posts, click here to check out the main page, click here to search #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop on Twitter, or click here to find us on Pinterest.

What’s Changing at Twitter?

I had planned to continue my series on email lists and giveaways this week. But I discovered Twitter have announced changes to their rules and policies around automation, and the changes come into effect on Friday (23 March 2018). These changes affect me directly, and indirectly affect all my fellow #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop participants. That’s why I’m covering it today.

These changes affect:

  • Anyone who manages multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Anyone who posts the same Tweet more than once (i.e. recycles Tweets).

If you don’t fit either of these categories, congratulations! You’re good to go. Otherwise, read on …

The Background

As we all know, social media has become a lot less social. In early 2018, Facebook announced they are changing their algorithm to reduce the number of posts from businesses, brands, and media so we’re better able to use Facebook for the original purpose: to stay connected with the people who matter to us. The subtext to this announcement is that Facebook are going to push businesses, brands, and media to pay to advertise or to boost posts, because that’s how Facebook makes money.

Now Twitter is taking a similar approach.

There are three ways to post a Tweet:

  1. Direct: A direct Tweet posts immediately from Twitter.
  2. Scheduled: A scheduled Tweet posts at a set date and time in the future, and may be scheduled in Twitter, or in an external app.
  3. Automated: An automated Tweet is when someone uses an external app such as Audiense ,Buffer, CrowdFire, Dlvr.it, Hootsuite, MeetEdgar, SocialJukebox, or TweetDeck to tweet on their behalf. Automated tweets are often duplicate Tweets.

Twitter have noticed (haven’t we all!) that a lot of Tweets are automated sales tweets, fake news, or spam. I often come across accounts where the Tweets all appear to be automated sales Tweets, sometimes coming from multiple accounts. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Authors are not innocent in this. I’ve read blog posts teaching me how to upload hundreds of Tweets to a programme like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, so the Twitter account can automatically Tweet sales messages. I’ve seen authors Tweeting these sales messages as often as every ten minutes. One author I know of has over 370,000 Tweets, but less than 5,000 followers … and just 16 Likes. If that’s not spam, what is?

What’s Happened?

I’m sure we all agree that Twitter would be a lot more social if there were fewer automated Tweets … especially automated sales tweets. So Twitter have updated their rules. Twitter now explicitly prohibits certain actions, and these changes come into affect this week, on 23 March 2018.

Twitter says:

  • Do not (and do not allow your users to) simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content to multiple accounts.
  • Do not (and do not allow your users to) simultaneously perform actions such as Likes, Retweets, or follows from multiple accounts.
  • The use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted.

Twitter will police these changes, and suspend or terminate accounts which break the rules.

The first two points only apply to people who operate more than one Twitter account, so the easy solution is to stick to one account!

People who do operate more than one account now have to be sure they are not duplicating content across the accounts.

This is easy when the accounts have a different focus (e.g. an author who also sells homemade cards on Etsy may have two accounts, but they are unlikely to be posting the same content). It’s a little harder when the two accounts have a different but overlapping focus (e.g. an author account, and an account for a group blog).

I have access to three Twitter accounts: my personal account, and two accounts related to group blogs where I’m part of the administration team. I don’t simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content across all three accounts, but I’ll make sure my team members know not to do this as well. We will also be careful about retweeting between accounts, as that could attract Twitters attention in a negative way.

Posting Multiple Updates

The third point is the one that has many authors worried: posting identical content.

The use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted.

This is a change of wording, but not a change of official policy. When I wrote my previous blog post on the Twitter rules, this was one of the rules:

[Do not] post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account

Twitter says they do not permit multiple duplicate updates (i.e. recycled content) on one account. But they have historically permitted recycled content as long as the posts were at least twelve hours apart (according to dlvr.it). Dlvr.it say:

Twitter is now poised to enforce this policy much more aggressively by restricting all duplicate content posting, even if it the posts are made even days or weeks apart.

Most Twitter apps and Twitter experts are saying this means the end of recycled content. For example, MeetEdgar says:

Moving forward, it means you should expect scheduling tools that have allowed for automated content recycling to no longer offer that service for Twitter accounts.

MeetEdgar is planning an upgrade that will enable users to upload multiple variations on the same Tweet at the same time. Tweets will be marked as sent, and won’t be resent. They are also considering a spinnable text option.

Twitter have also updated their rules to specifically prohibit users from creating additional accounts to get around the “no duplicate Tweets”rule. The updated rule is:

[Do not] post duplicative or substantially similar content, replies, or mentions over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account, or create duplicate or substantially similar accounts

Under this updated rule, “duplicate content” has become “duplicative or substantially similar content, replies, or mentions”. Users are also now expressly forbidden from “creating duplicate or substantially similar accounts.”

So recycling Tweets is against the Twitter rules, and has been for some time. The difference is Twitter will now be policing this more strongly. This will directly affect me, and may indirectly affect all my fellow #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop participants. Why?

Because I currently recycle Tweets.

I recycle Tweets using two different apps:

Buffer

I use Buffer’s Power Scheduler feature to Tweet all my new blog posts seven times over the next year. I currently alternate between two tweets for these, so each individual Tweet gets sent three or four times.

Buffer does allow me to create a unique Tweet for each share, so I will utilise that feature going forward—the only problem will be getting creative enough so each Tweet is not “substantially similar”. This is the approach recommended by Digital Decluttered. Problem solved.

SocialJukebox

I use SocialJukebox to share my blog posts, #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop posts, and posts from the two group blogs I administer (Australasian Christian Writers and International Christian Fiction Writers).

This is more of a problem, as SocialJukebox (like MeetEdgar) is a once-and-done solution for recycling Tweets, which means repeat Tweets are duplicate Tweets. However, I can control how often the posts repeat, and I have now set this to 90 days. At most, any individual post will be seen no more than three or four times a year.

I hope this will be enough to escape the attention of the Twitter suspension team. But my Twitter account was briefly suspended last year, so I need to be careful. If I get suspended, I’ll pause all my SocialJukebox streams and hope that solves the problem.

I’m not sure what this will mean for SocialJukebox. It’s a paid service, and my renewal is coming up soon. The only reason I use SocialJukebox is to recycle Tweets. SocialJukebox have not made an official announcement about changes to their service relating to this update.

Do you administer more than one account? Or post identical updates to one account? How will this change affect you?

Introducing Buffer

Introducing Buffer

What Is Buffer?

Buffer (www.Buffer.com) is one of many programmes that allows users to manage their social media posting. Other popular options include Hootsuite and MeetEdgar. I like and recommend Buffer because I think it has a better user interface than Hootsuite, and it’s not as expensive as MeetEdgar.

Buffer Plans

Buffer’s free plan allows users to post to:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Instagram

The free plan allows up to five accounts—one from each network—and allows you to share up to 10 posts per network. This could mean one post a day for ten days, or ten posts every day (although then you’ll have to reload your Buffer each day. If you’re sharing this often, you might benefit from a paid plan).

The Awesome Plan

I subscribe to Buffer’s Awesome plan, which costs USD 10 per month and is awesome (Buffer don’t have an affiliate scheme, so I’m not being paid for saying that). The Awesome plan gives subscribers access to 10 social accounts across six social networks—the five networks available on the free plan, plus Pinterest.

The Awesome plan allows users to queue up to 100 posts in each social media buffer (so that’s 1,000 posts in all). They’ve obviously changed the rules a little, because my personal limit is 12 accounts, and if there is a limit on the number of posts per social media account, I haven’t found it yet. Moral of the story: subscribe early, to get the maximum benefit for the minimum cost.

The Awesome plan is designed for individuals—there are also a range of business plans starting at USD 99 per month (with a 50% discount for registered not-for-profit organisations). For more information on these plans, see their Pricing page.

How do I use Buffer?

Buffer is one of the tools I use to enable me to post to social media when I’m not actually on social media. I use a tool called Freedom to lock me out of social media for most of the working day. Buffer posts during the day instead of me, posting content I’ve added ahead of time. There are two types of content I share through Buffer:

  • My own content (e.g. blog posts)
  • Curated content (quality blog posts from other people)

Curated Content

I subscribe to more blogs than I care to admit through Feedly. Each weekday, I scan my Feedly feed and check out the titles of all the posts that have come through. I’ll read those which interest me, and pick a few to share. (This is why it’s important to have a catchy blog post title.)

But I don’t want to clog my social media feeds by sharing everything at once. Instead, I click on the downloadable Buffer extension. From here, I can choose which of my linked social media accounts I want to share to, and can write an individual message for each network.

I can write different messages for different social networks.

This is important when it comes to post length and hashtags. Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, while the limit (!) on Facebook is 63,206 characters. Two hashtags are ideal on Twitter. Instagram allows up to thirty, and Facebook … well, Facebook allows hashtags but they haven’t really caught on. #AndMostPeopleDontKnowHowToUseThemAnyway

However, if I share to a Facebook profile, a page, and a group, each one will show the same message. I can share the same post to two different Facebook pages with two different messages, but I’d have to share the post twice—first to one page, then to the other. This isn’t hard—it takes about 30 seconds per post.

If the post is time-sensitive (e.g. a book giveaway), then I’ll ask Buffer to “Share Next”. This means my queue is rearranged so this is the next post shared on each network. Otherwise I’ll “Add to Buffer”, which means the post is added to the end of my queue, and will be shared at different times to different social networks depending on what other posts are in my queue.

My Own Content

I use Buffer to share my own blog posts to my social media profiles. With my own content, I usually elect to “Share Next”.

I also use the Power Scheduler to share my own content over time.

What is Power Scheduler?

The premise of the Power Scheduler is related to a time management principle: Don’t Trust Your Future Self

Your future self won’t remember to promote your old blog posts on a regular basis, but you can act now and set the Power Scheduler do it for you.

When I have a new blog post that isn’t time sensitive, I use the Power Scheduler to set that post up to Tweet regularly over the next year. I could also use PowerScheduler to repost to Facebook or Pinterest—and I probably should.

Note that Twitter doesn’t allow you to share exactly the same Tweet too often, so Buffer will sometimes reject posts to Power Scheduler. I’ve found the easiest way to get around this is to write two slightly different Tweets for the same post, perhaps with different hashtags as well. I then share alternate between the two Tweets.

I share each post eight times through Buffer: today, then in 7, 15, 30, 61, 90, 180, and 360 days. That means I cover each day of the week. This takes about two minutes each day, and ensures my posts are scheduled regularly over the next year.

You can achieve a similar result through a WordPress Tweet Old Posts plugin, or using another app, MissingLettr. I’ve tried both, and found Buffer’s Power Scheduler is quicker and easier to use than MissingLettr, and easier to customise than a plugin.

What about reposting in perpetuity, not just for a year? I use Social Jukebox for that, and I’ll talk about that next week.

Being Social on Social Media

Using Buffer means that when I visit a social media network, I’m visiting to check notifications, respond to comments, thank people for mentions, and generally interact. I’m not there looking for something shareable—I’ve done that already, and I know my social media tools will deliver that for me.

Instead, I can use social media for the purpose for which it was originally intended—to be social.

Do you use Buffer or other social sharing software? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Reader Question: Should I Hire Someone to Build my Social Media Presence?

Today I’m visiting Australasian Christian Writers to answer a question from a reader:

Building Your Social Media Presence

An agent liked my manuscript, but said I needed to build my social media presence before he’d consider representing me. I work full time. Should I hire someone?

Short answer: Maybe. Long answer …

Maybe. It depends on what your agent means by a social media presence, the kind of books you write and plan to write, on your brand, and on what God wants for your writing …

To read the rest of this post, click here to visit Australasian Christian Writers.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in a future blog post, please email me via www.christianediting.co.nz/contact, or tag @iolagoulton on Twitter.

Best of the Blogs: 11 February 2017

My roundup of the best blog posts in the week ending 10 February, on writing, reading, publishing and marketing.

Writing

Free Writing Books

In case you hadn’t heard yet, I’m one of 18 writers involved in this Instafreebie promotion. Click here to find free non-fiction books on writing, publishing and marketing. But get in quick, because the promotion ends on Sunday 12 February.

(Over)writing

Christina Delay visits Jami Gold’s blog to share her 5 Steps to Avoid Overwriting (broadly defined as the lines we love the most. No, not really).

What do Readers (and Authors) Want?

Carrie at Reading is My Superpower (is that a cool blog name or what?) shares five things she wishes she saw more of in Christian fiction … and five things readers can do more of.

Publishing

Self-Publishing Tips

Pam McCutcheon visits Funds for Writers to ask: Should I Hire Someone to Upload by eBook or Do it Myself? I thought DIY was a no-brainer, but Pam points out as a PC user and non-US resident, I can’t upload to Apple or Nook myself. Paying someone like Pam to do it for me would mean I didn’t have to share my royalties with a distributor like Draft2Digital or Smashwords.

Marketing

Social Media

Do you use a social media scheduling app? The two main choices are Hootsuite and Buffer, and this post by Meenakshi Krishnan from Jeff Bullas’s blog takes you through the pros and cons of each.

I use Buffer, because I find the interface easier to use. While the analytics might not be as good as Hootsuite, they are more than sufficient for my needs. And Buffer supports Pinterest, which Hootsuite doesn’t.

Book Promotion

Jennifer Brown Banks visits Nina Amir at How to Blog a Book to offer some handy tips on creating a social media marketing plan for your book. I’ll certainly be applying some of these ideas to my own marketing plan. My favourite is to make sure your posts do double duty, by cross-posting to social media.

 

That’s all for this week. What’s the most useful blog post you’ve read this week?