Twitter has been well present in the news in the past months – or even years. Recently, Twitter again appeared in my news feed with some major changes to Twitter’s rules on spam and bulk tweeting. Now, it is about time that we covered some of the new rules and how they may impact your marketing activities.
What has been going on with Twitter
First, it was the constant talk about Twitter not being able to make money – that talk is over for now since Twitter reported its first-ever profitable quarter. Even though Twitter was well received by a solid user base it was still burning money. And some people already sang a song of Twitter going down for good – and marketers thought about finding an alternative to the platform.
Then a ton of changes happened: Some of these changes people loved, others caused major cry outs and #RIPTwitter tweetstorms as the changes to the Twitter timeline. Here are some examples of changes and updates to Twitter rules and limits from the past couple of years
- The character limit for DMs was raised to 10k – allowing real messages
- The newsfeed was changed – now you can choose to see tweet you are likely to like and interact first – contrary to the traditional Twitter timeline where tweets appeared in the order they were tweeted
- Automated direct messages were forbidden
- The character limit in tweets was raised to 280 characters
- Images got more important. You can now add several images to your tweet
So what is the anti-spam update on Twitter about?
Last week, Twitter changed the rules for tweet automation especially for people running more than one Twitter account. You are now not allowed to bulk tweet the same tweet from more than one account. The same goes for retweets and likes. In the past you could do the same action from all of your accounts – even at the same time, that is now forbidden.
This also means major changes for some of the Twitter tools as they have to control the action their users perform via their tools. If you are using some kind of Twitter automation and have more than one Twitter account – you may have to check with your automation tool if any action from your end is required to comply to the new rules! Otherwise, your Twitter automation may not work as it did in the past.
(yes, this has also had some impact on our work last week. We are running several Twitter accounts and use Twitter queues on SocialOomph to tweet our evergreen blog posts. Now we have to make sure that each of our Twitter accounts has its own tweets and does not attempt to send a tweet similar to a tweet another account has already sent in the recent past.)
Why would anyone bulk tweet in the first place?
From a marketing standpoint, bulk tweets sometimes did work. For the simple reason that one and the same tweet sent from several accounts was much harder to overlook than a single tweet.
Bots and spam accounts could be automated to take bulk action and gain even more attention. This could be perceived as very spammy behavior.
Why the changes now?
So far, the possibility of bulk tweeting may sound a little spammy, but there may be worse things happening on Twitter? And these spam problems have been around since social media turned into a mass activity. So why change it now?
Bots and bulk action (not only on Twitter) have turned into a major issue that is very prominent in the news since Russian troll accounts are suspected to have influenced the US presidential elections in 2016.
Twitter, as well as Facebook, have been asked to get the spam bot problem under control. And this recent change to Twitter and their updated spam policy requirements for automation tools are clearly a reaction to this.
Changes To Tweetdeck
That said, Twitter had to change their own tool Tweetdeck according to the new rules. In the past, you could send the same tweet to all or a couple of the accounts you had connected to Tweetdeck. This has changed. You can now only select ONE of the accounts in your Tweetdeck when you are creating a tweet or retweet.
Changes To The Twitter API
Twitter automation tools that are using Twitter’s API now have to make sure that they prevent users to post identical or similar tweets to more than one account.
And this also concerns scheduled updates. So the API not only prohibits bulk action but more or less forbids to use the same tweet for multiple accounts.
A similar rule applies for likes and retweets.
The only exception from these rules according to Twitter are weather forecasts or emergency messages and public service announcements like alerts (for instance Tsunami warnings) and warnings that are of public interest.
If you want to have more detailed information on the changes to the API rules, you can find it in this Twitter developer post.
When will the new rules be enforced?
The changes to the API and rules clearly result in some major changes for some of the Twitter automation tools. So, even though the rules were announced last week, they will not be enforced by Twitter for a couple of weeks. Tools or rather the developers have until March 23rd to implement restrictions to their service according to the new rules.
However, some tools already took action. For instance, SocialOomph already has the changes in place and asks their users to change their actions accordingly.
Will It prevent spam?
These changes to Twitter rules and automation API are clearly a step in the right direction to prevent spam. However, the past has proven, that spammers will always find a (creative) way to game mass outlets like Twitter or Facebook. Fighting spam will most likely be a never-ending story for all major social networks and we as the users will have to watch out for more changes and adapt our actions accordingly.
I admit, that bulk tweeting was not what is annoying me most on Twitter but I totally understand why the changes were necessary to prevent misusage of Twitter.
Maybe sometime in the future, Twitter will find a solution for hashtag hijacking, too. Because that is something that I find really annoying. When you are watching a news event by following a related hashtag and then the hashtag feed gets swamped by porn images – that is something that could easily be a reason for me to turn away from Twitter and find another way to get updates on events.
(Note: Yes, I am a marketer on Twitter. But I do use and love Twitter for other things too. Like watching live events, sometimes sports, sometimes a press conference, sometimes bad news – I would not want to miss Twitter – I am still a fan!)