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Twitter Rules

Understanding the Twitter Rules: How does Twitter Define Spam?

Spam is unsolicited mail or messages. Most email programmes do a relatively efficient job of syphoning unsoilicted messages off to the Spam box. Twitter, it appears, does not have such capability. Instead, it takes the blunt instrument approach of suspending the account.

When Twitter suspended my account last week, they suggested I check the Twitter Rules find out where I’d gone wrong. My first reaction was that I hadn’t. But then I read the rules

Let’s look at the rules in detail.

There are three sections to the rules:

Content Boundaries and Use of Twitter

Pass. I’m not tweeting anything illegal, pornographic, or violent.

Abusive Behavior

Pass.

Maybe.

I”m not making threats, engaging in hateful conduct, giving out private information, impersonating anyone, harrassing anyone, or threatening to harm myself.

However, I do “operate two accounts with overlapping use”.

But I don’t operate two accounts “in order to evade the temporary or permanent suspension of a separate account”. I operate a personal account (@IolaGoulton) where I share book reviews and blog posts on writing craft. And I’m the volunteer administrator for a writing group (@ACWriters) which shares blog posts from group members (including me). Some of those are posts on writing craft, and some are book reviews.

I can see that if you compared the two accounts, it does look like they have overlapping use. And I do operate both. But I have no nefarious intent or motive. The problem is an algorithm can’t measure intention. It can only monitor action based on predetermined rules.

Spam

My first reaction was that of course I don’t spam on Twitter. But according to the Twitter Rules, Twitter’s definition of “spam” is wide. Very wide. And it includes some of my activities—activities I’ve adopted based on the advice of Twitter experts with a large and engaged follower count.

Let’s examine what is considered spam in the Twitterverse:

I’m not username squatting (inactive accounts can be removed), sending invitation spam, selling usernames, posting malware, or phishing.

But then there is general spam, which Twitter defines in a long list:

If you have followed and/or unfollowed large amounts of accounts in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive following or follower churn);

I follow around 500 people a week, and unfollow those who don’t follow back. My current Twitter following is over 13,000, so that’s a relatively low percentage (~4%). I would have thought this was designed to cover Buy 5,000 Twitter Followers Today! clickfarms, not someone who adds and deletes a few dozen followers over her morning coffee.

Crowdfire reports Twitter is actively targetting accounts with aggressive following or unfollowing patterns, and Twitter points out that using “Get More Followers Fast!” apps is not allowed.

If you repeatedly follow and unfollow people, whether to build followers or to garner more attention for your profile;

I do regularly follow and unfollow people to build my following. It’s a tactic many Twitter experts recommend. But I don’t follow and unfollow the same users over and over and over. I use the paid version of CrowdFire for following, then unfollow around a week later if they don’t follow back.

For [paid] users, we hide users they’ve previously followed so they don’t end up irritating Twitter users by following them again and again.

If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates

I do mostly post links. It’s called curating content. Curating content is a tactic recommended by many Twitter gurus, and is practiced by many major accounts (including the @Twitter account). It’s modern marketing at work: the principle of reciprocity (via Robert Cialdini and Seth Godin).

In my uneducated view, it’s also possible for accounts to have too many personal updates (e.g. what people ate for breakfast, and the accounts of many prominent politicians). But I can take a hint: more pithy one-liners coming your way. MaybeTwitter thinks the internet needs more stupid.

If a large number of people are blocking you.

I hope not, but how would I know? Twitter only shows me how many people I’ve blocked.

If a large number of spam complaints have been filed against you.

Again, I hope not, but how would I know?

If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account

This is where it gets tricky.

I use SocialJukebox (see Introducing SocialJukebox) to repost old blog posts—my own posts, and posts from group blogs. I can set how often I want posts to repeat—anything from 0 days up. I thought I had all my jukeboxes set at 30 days, but found I didn’t. Now I do.

I also use RoundTeam on the ACWriters account. RoundTeam automatically retweets any post mentioning ACWriters (many of which are mine, because I’m one of the most diligent Tweeters in the group). RoundTeam also retweets tweets from group members. Again, many of these tweets are mine.

Oops. I may have a problem. Unintentional (it’s not my fault I’m the most prolific Twitter user in the group). But a problem nonetheless—I’ve had feedback that Twitter doesn’t like Roundteam.

I have now changed the RountTeam settings to exclude me from the retweets. Avoid even the appearance of evil and all that.

If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #, trending or popular topic, or promoted trend

If you send large numbers of duplicate replies or mentions

If you send large numbers of unsolicited replies or mentions

If you add a large number of unrelated users to lists

If you repeatedly create false or misleading content

No, no, no, no, and no. The “large numbers” is disturbingly vague, but I don’t do any of these things.

If you are randomly or aggressively following, liking, or Retweeting Tweets

If you repeatedly post other people’s account information as your own (bio, Tweets, URL, etc.)

If you post misleading links (e.g. affiliate links, links to malware/clickjacking pages, etc.)

If you are creating misleading accounts or account interactions

If you are selling or purchasing account interactions (such as selling or purchasing followers, Retweets, likes, etc.)

No, no, I don’t think so, no, and no.

I have posted Amazon Affiliate links, and I don’t know if they are marked as such, and if that’s considered misleading. The Tweets are automatically generated by Amazon when you push the little Tweety Bird button at the top of the screen. The idea is to share book specials, or tell your followers you just bought a book. You know, to advertise Amazon. Sorry, Amazon. I guess I won’t be clicking that any more.

If you are using or promoting third-party services or apps that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising “more followers fast”, or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account).

I do use CrowdFire, but it doesn’t add followers automatically – only those followers I select (which I could do through native Twitter, then just use CrowdFire to manage unfollows). I don’t use follower trains or #FollowFriday or #FF, although I’m sometimes included in #FF posts from other people. But I can’t control that.

In conclusion …

Do I spam or don’t I spam? I know of one author who tweets a buy link for one of her books every ten minutes. I think that’s spam. She has over 350,000 Tweets, fewer than 5,000 followers, and a measly 16 Likes. That’s some form of engagement from 0.004% of her posts. Does she sell books this way? I don’t know.

In contrast, I’m not selling anything, and my 12,000 posts have attracted over 2,800 Likes—a much more respectable 23 engagement%. Which of us is the spammer?

This experience has reminded me that Twitter, like every other social network, is not my property. They let me play there, but that’s not a forever thing. The purpose of social media reach should be to drive people back to my property: my website, and my email list.

Which reminds me … if you’re not on my email list, sign up on the right. I email once a month, and include updates to Christian Fiction Publishers (a new edition is due out in January), links to my blog posts for the month, and other useful information for Christian fiction writers.

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