Twitter is a great tool for driving traffic to your web site or blog. We started using Twitter in the early days of ElevateCA, and since then have amassed around 700 followers – largely from Auckland and Northland. Great for building our brand locally. Once or twice a week one of us has a random unknown person saying “hey, I follow you on Twitter” or something similar. And we have even picked up a couple of good clients from Twitter. Nice. But then last week a notice like this popped up on our Twitter account for all the world (or at least for all our followers) to see.
“Account Suspended. This account is currently suspended and is being investigated due to strange activity. If we have suspended your account mistakenly, please let us know.”
Embarrassing, to say the least!
So what happened? Were we in breach of the Twitter terms of service?
We didn’t spam. We didn’t pass ourselves off as someone else. We weren’t phishing. We didn’t breach anyone’s copyright. We weren’t pushing porn. We didn’t post other people’s content without attribution.
We were stumped.
So I emailed the good folk at the San Francisco head office and asked the question. Here was their response.
“Your account was suspended for aggressive following and follower churn that we take very seriously. Accounts engaging in aggressive following and follower churn are typically suspended for a minimum of one week; at the end of that time, you may petition for reinstatement.”
So what exactly is aggressive following and follower churn? Well, Twitter doesn’t actually define that phrase in their new terms of service – conveniently released today. But although operating within the published Twitter limits (one must follow no more than 2,000 people – or up to 10% more than your number of followers, whichever is greater), we were obviously deemed to be in breach.
In fairness, I had just unfollowed a bunch of folk who were not following us back – and I had immediately followed a fresh batch of interesting looking prospects. But isn’t that what everyone does on Twitter? Should I have done my unfollowing and following a little bit at a time in order to stay under the radar? How much or how little unfollowing and following is acceptable – and when is it deemed to be aggressive? Aggressive to whom, anyway?
Rhetorical questions aside, my message here is this: Twitter is great. But don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself – or to get yourself listed on an exception report at the Twitter office, because there is clearly a rather low threshold for hitting the “suspend” button. And there is no warning.
So is ElevateCA back in the Twitter fold? No – not yet. Our week of suspension ends tomorrow evening so I’ll be onto the email to ask forgiveness for past misdemeanours – and to petition for our reinstatement.
I’ll keep you posted – hopefully on Twitter!
Fraser Hurrell is one of three directors of Elevate CA Limited, Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors in Whangarei, New Zealand.
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