How To Stop People From Getting Your Twitter Account Suspended

I’m writing this so that someone is under attack by spam reporters can know what to do to preserve their account and prevent it from being suspended, and if it is suspended, help restore it and prevent it from being easily suspended in the future.

The most important thing you need to know is this:

Don’t send a lot of @ responses to  people who are not using your @username in their tweets, or to people who don’t follow you.

If you do that too much, and they report you enough for spam, you will be suspended.

But: lots of people reporting you for spam where there is NO communication between you and them, will NOT get your account suspended in the absence of other factors, particularly if your account is well-established and hasn’t been suspended before.

If you react to tweets from people that don’t follow you or don’t mention you,  then they report you for spam, you are much more likely to be suspended. Same with following then being blocked.

So the dirty trick some people play is to tweet nasty things (without including your exact Twitter username) that you will personally object to, hoping that you will hear about it and tweet to them, so they can then report you for spam to get you suspended. Any way that gets you to tweet to them will work, but usually they will try to get you angry.

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Disclaimer: This is based on communication from Twitter, and investigating different situations people have shared with me. I’ve combined those investigations, my experience and the statements from Twitter into this post. Twitter has not yet posted a public policy statement regarding all situations of these types, so realize this is NOT a statement of official policy from Twitter.

There are a LOT of combinations of reasons that accounts can be suspended. Automated following and unfollowing is one of the big ones. Auto follow and unfollow and you can quickly be suspended, even if there are no other flags against your account. And if your account is hijacked Twitter may reset your password, suspend your account, or do nothing. It’s not always possible for Twitter to tell whether you’ve been hijacked.

Also, Twitter usually provides very little information when they suspend your account, and this is very frustrating. But don’t believe everything you hear people say about “why” they were suspended. If Twitter didn’t tell them why, they don’t know. So don’t be tricked by misinformation.

1. How Auto-Suspension Due To Spam Reports Should Work

First of all, you can’t get someone suspended in an obvious way: You can’t just get a bunch of people together, then all start reporting an established, never-suspended account as spam. That will NOT work, because Twitter doesn’t want that to happen. Is it absolutely impossible? No. Twitter adjusts their auto-suspension algorithm all the time, so anything is possible. But it’s very, very unlikely. It’s been tried and failed many, many times.

2. How Twitter Wants Auto-Suspension To Work

Again, we’re not covering all scenarios here. Just the mass spam reporting situation. And again: there are lots of reasons an account can be suspended.

If an account continuously spams people that it has no engagement with, and those people receiving tweets continuously report the account for spam, Twitter will auto-suspend the account at some point. The three main factors that determine how quickly it gets suspended are:

  1. Less-established (newer) accounts are suspended faster.
  2. Accounts that send a lot of tweets to people they are not engaged with are suspended faster than accounts that send few tweets.
  3. The faster and more people in total who respond to unwanted tweets by reporting for spam, the faster the account is auto-suspended.

3. How To Prevent Groups From Getting You Auto-Suspended

To get someone’s account suspended, you need to trick them into looking like a spammer repeatedly and then report them repeatedly from the accounts they are tweeting to. (Twitter calls this “multiple unsolicited mentions.”) Reporting from non-engaged accounts won’t work.

Let me repeat that: Sending spam reports from accounts that are NOT receiving “unsolicited” tweets won’t get accounts that have never been suspended before suspended.

So just getting a group of people together to report an established account that hasn’t been suspended before as spam WON’T get the account suspended.

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The “dirty trick” that must be played is to trick the account into looking like a spammer repeatedly and then report them repeatedly from the accounts they are tweeting to. One method is by saying things that they might want to respond to. Typically terrible, nasty things :-(

But the key is: You can’t use the username of the account you want to get suspended (much). The reason is that if you do, when they respond, it looks like a conversation—a tweet went out with with their username, they responded. Twitter’s automated system then thinks everything is okay.

You need to say things that get them to respond without using the username you want to have suspended.

4. Your First Step In Protecting Your Account

So, if this happens to you, the first thing to know is this:

DO NOT rapidly send tweets to lots of people that will likely not want to hear from you.

If you do, and many of them respond to your tweet by reporting you for spam, you’ve fallen into their auto-suspension trap: They’ve made you look like a spammer. Unfair? Absolutely!

What you CAN do is create a new account with a variation of your name, and respond from that account.

It will likely be suspended, but since you don’t need it, it doesn’t matter. But don’t create more than two or three accounts from the same IP address in a short period of time, because Twitter may suspend them, suspecting you are “mass creating serial accounts.” If you need to, have friends create accounts for you. (Twitter allows you to have many, many accounts, but will suspend them if created quickly one after the other for “serial account creation.”)

Alternatively, you can have friends reply on your behalf. But they also need not to send too many tweets. Mostly this happens in the form of someone telling their community that bad things are being said, and them community members decide of their own accord to communicate with the “evil-doers.”

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5. Is This Real? Does This Work?

Someone that sends enough “unsolicited” tweets that are then marked as spam will absolutely be suspended.

So yes, it’s a real and serious problem.

Twitter is essentially tying your hands from sending a lot of @ responses to  people who are saying nasty things if they are not using your @username in their tweets.

The more important question is can your account be suspended solely because a lot of people that you are NOT interacting (non-engaged: not following/followed, no conversations) with report you for spam. In other words, do you have to fall into their “trap” of sending them “unsolicited” @replies that they can then mark as spam?

Here other factors have to be taken into account:

For example, if you have a newer account, lots of spam reports from non-engaged accounts CAN get you auto-suspended. No “trap” is required.

But, if you have an account that is several months old with lots of engaging tweets, it is impossible for spam reports from non-engaged accounts to be the sole reason your account is auto-suspended. At least, that’s how Twitter wants things to work, and they make serious efforts to see that this IS how it works.

And, if your account has been suspended before, for whatever reason, it’s easier for it to be suspended again (see point #8 below).

This often confuse people, because once you get suspended and unsuspended, it’s MUCH easier to get suspended again. You have to ask Twitter to intervene manually if you’re under an attack from a group trying to get you suspended (and they have a pretty good track record of intervening to protect accounts—although they don’t respond very quickly anymore).

6. Your Second Step In Protecting Your Account

Don’t @reply to lots of people in under an hour or less!

How many is too many? Very hard to say. But if you send just 5 unwanted tweets in a short period, and all report you as spam, you will almost certainly be flagged by Twitter’s algorithm. The exact number and time that leads to auto-suspension is always going to be unclear, because Twitter tweaks their algorithm regularly.

But, if you don’t want to create a new account, don’t want to engage your community in the “fight” (and don’t want to simply ignore the tweets against you), at least avoid the main trap! Spread your tweets out.

Whenever I see an account suspended that has sent several “unsolicited” @replies just before receiving a suspension warning about sending @replies, this is the most obvious cause. Here’s what that looks like:

While Twitter is accurate in saying you “sent multiple unsolicited mentions to other users” they have no way of knowing that you may have been baited into doing so by folks waiting to report you for spam when you send them a mention.

Fair? No, not in many scenarios. But it’s hard for Twitter to tell the difference between you and a spammer when this happens.

7. Why Does This Get Your Account Auto-Suspended?

When an account created to send out spam starts sending it, it knows it will be suspended shortly. So spammers test how many spam messages they can send before they get suspended, and how quickly then can send them. The reason speed often works in their favor is that people don’t see and report as spam right away. Every minute they can keep sending is valuable to them. So a bunch of tweets close together that all get reported make you look a lot like a spammer.

Of course, Twitter tries to combat this by adjusting their algorithm to guess if tweets are spam, even in the absence of immediate reports. It doesn’t work very well yet in this scenario, sadly. The spam reports are still an important part of the system in most scenarios.

But the takeaway is the same: don’t be tricked into looking like a spammer.

8. If Your Account Gets Suspended

At this point, there is very bad news, and very good news.

Watch Out For Repeat Suspension!

The very bad news is that once your account has been suspended due to a group that you have sent tweets to reporting you for spam,  it will very likely be suspended again. Although I’ve only researched a handful of these scenarios, in all but one case the account was suspended three times.

(Again, this isn’t about all scenarios. We’re talking only about the scenario where people are reporting you for spam. Although regardless of why you were suspended, getting suspended once makes it easier to get suspended again.)

The good news? Once you contact Twitter, they will often intervene manually to protect your account from additional auto-suspensions. (And then you can @reply to those people without easily being auto-suspended again. Not that I recommend it.)

So, what can you do?

Open a ticket with Twitter via http://bit.ly/TWICKET and let them know you believe people are using mass action to try to get your account suspended. Also contact sympathetic media or bloggers who can report the likely mass action against you. Twitter will see your “error” in sending “multiple unsolicited mentions”…but they typically also check to see the mass action at work, and protect you.

This is an important step! Just entering the captcha in the form and reactivating your account is not enough! Because what did NOT work to get your account suspended the first time—unengaged people reporting you for spam—WILL now be able to get you suspended again, whether you tweet or not.

Also, do NOT send multiple tickets to Twitter. Just send one, and reply to the automated email you get in reply that you still need help, and describe your situation. If you do not get an automated email response, check your spam folder, and check to see what email you are using with your Twitter account (in case you have forgotten).

You MUST get that email and reply to it and wait. If you create multiple tickets, each will cause the previous one to be deleted (yes, that’s Twitter’s policy) and your new one will go to the back of the queue.

9. Summary

Don’t get tricked into “multiple unsolicited mentions,” and if you do, contact Twitter right away, as your account is in serious danger of being repeatedly suspended, and you will need Twitter’s help.

 

 

If you want more followers, retweets, clicks and Klout, you’ve GOT to try this!

Here’s the tip: Tweet when more people are listening by using a tool that takes care of everything for you.

How much can it help?

@AskAaronLee and @DanaMStanley gained 11 and 15 points on their Klout score when they started using BufferApp in barely three weeks. BufferApp takes whatever you click to share, and posts it when the most people will be listening. Other people who’ve tried Buffer have found it doubled their retweets,  gotten over 100 new followers, increased clicks (200% CTR rise) and raised their Klout score several points.

You should definitely try it yourself!

The information I’m quoting about increased engagement on tweets is from a study of 2000 Twitter users done by Buffer, which is a free tool that helps people automatically schedule tweets for the best times of day, and helps you tweet more while spreading out your tweets more easily. The study is of Buffer users.

You can do this by adding just one click to your sharing routine

Buffer simplifies your sharing by integrating with other tools, so making a maximum impact is always just a click away. For example, here’s what it looks like when integrated with Twitter.com:

Buffer automatically sets itself up for  times you are likely to get more engagement (clicks, retweets, comments, etc.) or you can use your own research and resources to determine your own best times to tweet and adjust Buffer accordingly. It’s easy and simple to use. I use it, enjoy it, and recommend it. To make the most of your tweets, you should also be familiar with the “What makes a tweet great?” article.

Some of the many places you can integrate Buffer into your sharing routine include:

  • Your browser: Available for Chrome, Firefox or Safari or as a Bookmarklet for any browser
  • Twitter.com
  • Google Reader
  • Android mobile browser
  • On any Mobile
  • On your website or blog (help others share your posts)
  • StrawberryJam
  • Refynr

(If you’d like more information on the methodology and findings from the study, contact @LeoWid.)

 

The 12 most confusing things about Tweets, Retweets, Replies and Direct Messages

Want a short URL to remember to share this specific post with new folks? Just tell them to visit bit.ly/BestTwitterTips

Because different interfaces create and display Twitter messages in different ways, depending on your interface, you may have an entirely different idea of what a retweet is than someone else does. And also because tweets that look similar can act in different ways, people take a long time to learn how messages on Twitter work.

Here are the twelve things that confuse people the most about tweets, retweets, replies and direct messages.

► 1. Tweets that start with “@…” are mostly private and won’t be seen by many people.

These are known as “@messages,” and are pronounced “at messages.” As private as they are, there is a trick you can use to make @messages be seen by everyone. And it can help you make friends quickly on Twitter.

Some people call this Twitter preventing you from eavesdropping. Here’s how it works: If you are @Girlfriend on Twitter, and @Boyfriend sends you this tweet:

@Girlfriend Dinner tonight?

None of @Boyfriend’s follower’s will see it unless they also follow you. (However, it can also be found in Twitter search, or if someone visits @Boyfriend’s Twitter page directly, e.g. Twitter.com/Boyfriend.) The most common error is sending a tweet something like this:

@TweetSmarter is very helpful—if you’re looking for help, contact them.

None of your followers will see this tweet unless they already follow @TweetSmarter! You need to rewrite the tweet so more of your followers can see it, and the easiest way is one of these methods:

  • .@TweetSmarter is very helpful—if you’re looking for help, contact them.
  • If you’re looking for help on Twitter, try @TweetSmarter. They’re great!

For a detailed table covering all the possibilities, see Meg Pickard’s great table of replies & DMs here.  If you are seeing tweets from someone you follow that start with “@…” that means that either:

  1. They are writing to someone you also follow;
  2. Twitter is having errors
  3. You didn’t notice that it was a Twitter.com “native retweet” (explained next).

Here’s how native retweets work:

► 2. You will sometimes see Tweets from people you don’t follow

UDPATE: Twitter is beginning to put ads from people you don’t follow into your stream…another way you may see a tweet from someone you don’t follow.

There are two main forms of retweets. One is sent out looking like a regular tweet, but include a tiny retweet icon. This is the Twitter.com “native retweet.” All others use some form of writing in the tweet to let you know it is a retweet (see #3 below). It’s confusing, because Twitter prefers the kind they created, and so don’t provide much information on the other kinds of retweets (again, see #3 below).

What you need to know is how to identify one of the special kinds of retweets, or it will look like people you don’t follow are posting tweets in your timeline. As Twitter says “If you see a message from a stranger in your timeline, look for the retweet icon – the retweeter should be someone you follow.” See the white highlighted area in the picture below—this is what the retweet icon looks like:

However, many Twitter clients will let you easily edit retweets. But when you do, what are the rules of etiquette for how you can edit a tweet to turn it into a retweet? Start here:

► 3. Retweets need to include the username of the original tweeter, and not necessarily the author or website usernames.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s perfectly FINE to include the usernames of an article’s author or website—it’s just not required to make it a retweet. Twitter actually has rules regarding this, but they are not strongly enforced. The general idea is that if you see a tweet and then make a tweet of your own as a result, you need to credit the person who wrote the tweet, and crediting anyone else is optional. Here are some handy guidelines:

  1. What are the standards for retweeting?
  2. Retweet Glossary, Syntax and Punctuation
  3. Tips and benefits of being brief when retweeting

► 4. Twitter turns some things into links…but only if you do it right

If you write a bunch of characters that start with “http://” Twitter may turn it into a clickable link for you. So, for example, if you type “http://blog.tweetsmarter.com” into a tweet, it will appear as a hyperlink that users can click on, e.g. http://blog.tweetsmarter.com. But if you only write “blog.tweetsmarter.com” it only might become a clickable link. Why? You should start URLs with “http://” and there must NOT be any space after the //

But even then, it could be turned into a WRONG link. If the URL is the last thing you type in a tweet, you should be fine. But otherwise, make sure you have a space at the end of the link! Without the space, Twitter may think that what you wrote next is part of the website URL.

Two other things Twitter turns into links are #hashtags and @usernames. The same rules apply: If the #hashtag or @username isn’t the last thing in your tweet, be sure it is followed by a space. However, some punctuation marks are okay, for example @TweetSmarter: will be turned into @TweetSmarter: but if you’re not sure, put a space after the #hashtag or @username to make sure the link is accurate. And that there is NOT a space after the # or @. So an error might look like @ TweetSmarter —which will NOT be turned into a link in a tweet because of the space between @ and Tweetsmarter.

► 5. That funny “#” sign can be a menace or a friend

If you put a # in front of a word, Twitter will turn it into a link, and some websites might display your tweets. This is called a “hashtag” and would be written like this: #hashtag. Some people believe it helps their tweets be seen by more people, and so they figure using more is better. Wrong. They make your tweets hard to read, and using too many often hurts more than it helps.

Generally if you don’t understand how to use hashtags, avoid them. And usually try not to use more than two or three per tweet. (One or none is often best.) Only the most popular or current #hashtags generally have any beneficial effect on your tweet being seen by more people. Here are a few references about hashtags. Of course, if you have a deeper understanding of how hashtags are used, sometimes it makes sense to use a bunch of them in a single tweet. But not usually.

► 6. How do tweets become pictures, videos or documents?

Some interfaces make it appear that a Tweet is a picture or video, and people get confused. What you need to know is that you can put a link IN a tweet to a picture, video or document (or anything else that can be linked to). But first, the picture, video or document has to be posted somewhere on the web. See this list of services that make it easy to take something from your computer and post it via Twitter.

► 7. Why did my tweet disappear?

There are a lot of different scenarios possible. One that is often overlooked is that people type what is intended to be a public message into a DM box. At least once a week someone I follow sends me a Direct Message something like this

“Hey @Mom, I’ll bring the potato salad on Sunday.”

And I have to write them back and tell them that @Mom never saw their tweet, because they accidentally sent it to me as a Direct Message!

If you start a tweet with certain word, such as “get” Twitter interprets it as a command, and your tweet will disappear!

For other reasons regular tweets sometimes go missing, see this. If you have sent a DM that disappeared, here is one of the weirdest and least-known features of Twitter: If you send someone a DM, and they delete it, it disappears from YOUR sent DMs as well as their received DMs. That’s right, people can remove DMs that you have sent from your outbox by deleting them from their inbox!

If someone deletes their Twitter account (or it is suspended) all the DMs they sent to you will disappear as well.

► 8. Why did my private tweet get posted publicly?

There can be several reasons for this. Usually it’s because you were using “d” or “dm” to create direct messages and you had a typo. (Starting a tweet with “d @user” or “dm @user” turns it into a direct message if that user already follows you.) Specifically, you have to be careful about replying to DMs that you receive by text/SMS. See Twitter explanations for common public DM problems here.

► 9. An awful tweet got sent to me—why can’t I delete it?

You can delete DMs that are sent to you (Direct Messages) just as you would an email message. But if someone send a public tweet, you can’t delete it. It would be like being able to delete other people’s blog posts. You can only delete tweets that you created, or any kinds of Direct Messages.

However, you can hide tweets you don’t want to see from some interfaces by creating a search that filters out what you don’t want to see. The best example of this is TweetDeck’s global filter.

► 10. Why can’t I edit my retweets? Other people do!

The retweet function on Twitter.com creates a special kind of retweet than can’t be edited. Some ways to be able to edit retweets include:

  1. Use a browser plugin that creates editable retweets.
  2. Copy/paste and write your tweet by hand.
  3. Use something other than Twitter.com to tweet from, such as HootSuite or TweetDeck.

► 11. Why do certain retweets behave strangely?

Why can’t I see some retweets?

If someone uses the Twitter.com retweet link (classic retweet) it won’t be seen in some situations:

  1. Twitter.com classic retweets do NOT show up on Twitter lists. So if you follow someone via placing them on a list, you won’t see ANY of their retweets sent via the Twitter.com classic retweet link.
  2. Once someone has retweeted a tweet using the Twitter.com classic retweet link, it won’t be repeated in your timeline. So if you missed the first retweet of it, no matter how many more people retweet it, it won’t be shown in your timeline ever again.

Why can’t I retweet certain tweets?

This is most likely because you’re viewing a tweet from someone who has protected their Twitter account. See Twitter’s explanation here.

► 12. I’m getting DMs that I can’t reply to!

If you follow someone, that is the same as giving them permission to DM you. But only if they follow you can you send them direct messages. Sometimes people intend to follow you but forgot or had an error. So if you’re pretty sure they meant to be following you, just send them a tweet something like this:

“Hey @user will you follow me so I can reply to your DM?”

► 13. Bonus answer: “____ doesn’t work or always gives me an error!”

Many Twitter features are a little bit broken at times. Some problems can be easily cleared up by clearing the cache in your browser, so that is a good thing to try first. Otherwise, check out this reference to fixing Twitter problems, or send a tweet to @TweetSmarter with your question.

What Happens When Spammers Copy YOUR Account on Twitter?

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Spammers sometimes autocreate accounts by copying existing accounts to help themselves look more real.

Realize that they are not “impersonating” you if they don’t tweet or otherwise pretend to be you. Specifically, if they do not “portray another person in a misleading or deceptive manner” it is not impersonation, according to Twitter’s policy.

But if you do need to report someone for impersonation, first read Twitter’s impersonation policy page.

Yet it can be very disturbing to see someone copy your bio and your name (usally with a number added, like @BillW34356).

But know that if you don’t tell anyone about the account, it’s very unlikely that anyone will ever notice the similarity, and extremely unlikely that they would actually mistake them for you, unless they are using a background with your photo on it, or similarly personal information.

You can ask your friends to report them for spam, but realize that a lot of communication using an account’s username Twitter takes as a sign validating that account, so if you need to discuss the account, do so mainly by DM.

Why Twitter closed your support request without reading it

Summary: Use Twitter’s online system (not email or tweets), reply to their email response, wait. Do NOT create multiple tickets, and be SURE to reply to their first email. Here’s why:

Many people miss their responses from Twitter because they don’t check their spam folder, or they don’t realize they will be getting an email, or they have forgotten which email address they used when they signed up for Twitter. If you plan to ask Twitter for help, first check which email you have entered on your Twitter account at and make sure you still have access to it. Then go here to contact Twitter, and be sure to check your email AND spam folder for a response afterwards.

Yes, Twitter closes support requests without reading them

If you create a support ticket (via http://bit.ly/TWICKET), Twitter will reply by email, usually with links to pages that might have information about the issue you are asking for help with. However, if you read down to the bottom of the email it may say something like this:

“If you’re having trouble with something that isn’t addressed above, you can either:
1. Reply to this email to re-open your ticket and let us know…”

That’s right—your request may have been immediately closed without being read. You have received an automated response, and your ticket has been closed. Only if you reply to the email will a person read your ticket and respond.

What to do

Check the links they sent you in the email! Yes, one of them probably addresses your issue, and this is the quickest thing you can do.

99% of the issues we hear about are listed on the Twitter support site. Only if you can’t find information relating to your issue should you reply. If you don’t see an email at all, check your spam folder and visit http://support.twitter.com/tickets. If you haven’t already, read how to get your Twitter issue fixed for more details.

Why doesn’t Twitter respond to all help requests personally?

Caveat: this is just our opinion. We don’t work for Twitter—we just try to help where we can.

  1. Twitter has explained 99% of issues on their help site—all you need to do is find the article relevant to your problem. So most Twitter help emails contain a list of links to the information most likely to help you.
  2. Many issues “fix themselves”—either the person realizes it was an error/misunderstanding on their part, or it was an actual problem that only happened for a brief time. Read about why Twitter breaks things on purpose to learn more, or see how browser problems on your computer sometimes cause Twitter problems—and what you can do to fix them.
  3. When Twitter.com goes offline, or there is a serious issue reported at status.twitter.com, most of the (potentially thousands per minute) help requests that come in Twitter is already working on fixing, and will have fixed within minutes or hours.
  4. Twitter would have to add hundreds of tech support employees to respond to all support requests quickly and personally, and 99% of them would just end up saying “We’re aware of the issue you’re having and we’re working on fixing it. Click here for the details.”

Twitter’s Mobile Users Are Young and Highly Engaged on Twitter

A new Compete study has found that 18 to 34 year olds are 52% more likely to be logging into Twitter primarily via a mobile device.

These users are twice as likely to use Twitter when they are out with friends, and 62% of mobile Twitter users communicate with people near them via Twitter, like tweeting a friend to let them know you’ve arrived. Or Tweeting a photo with friends and include their Twitter handles when you’re all out at a restaurant.

So how else is a user that accesses Twitter primarily on mobile different from the average Twitter user?

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Mobile Blog Post 3

Mobile Blog Post