Category Archives: Twitter Rules

How To Create Multiple Twitter Accounts Quickly…Without Getting Suspended!

If you create multiple Twitter accounts quickly, Twitter will suspend them all.

Complaining to Twitter that you meant no harm won’t help. Twitter has even acknowledged to users in the past after suspending accounts that the accounts were otherwise fine, but would not be unsuspended.

Twitter is fine with you having multiple accounts. But, they clearly state

Mass account creation may result in suspension of all related accounts.

How many is too many to create all at once? Twitter won’t say. But I’ve seen as few as 6 suspended. I would recommend not exceeding 2 or 3 unless you use the trick mentioned below.

Of course, in practice, you can create as many as you like if you spread out the time it takes to create them, and they aren’t used in ways that gets them suspended.

When You Have To Hide What You’re Doing From Twitter

There are many good, valid reasons to create multiple accounts. Frequently, the organizer of a class or conference does it to provide attendees a social media channel to use at the event. Another common reason is to set up multiple information channels around a topic. And accounts created for nefarious purposes (such as sending spam) will likely be suspended once they start tweeting. So this trick is only for accounts set up for valid purposes! If you’re unclear on the difference, read Twitter’s rules carefully.

The trick to creating several accounts all at once is to pay for a web proxy service to hide your IP address.

You’ll typically need to disconnect and reconnect between setting up each account so each will have been created from a different IP address. This is the main point: each account needs to be created from a different IP address.

But, take care! Some more disreputable proxy services may have the IPs they use added to “banned” lists, and it won’t do you any good. That’s why I generally recommend using a well-known paid service such as this one. Also, if you make an error, or the service has an error, you may have to redo some accounts. So the final step is to check the accounts regularly.

Alternatives And Additional Tricks

Yes, you could use a bunch of friends, or computers at different locations, or other tricks to achieve the same purpose. But for the average user, using a web proxy is the simplest solution. Using a mobile device to register accounts won’t work. (The last person I know who tried using a mobile device had all the accounts they created suspended.)

And once they are created, to make them even less likely to be suspended, tweet something to each of them from any well-established account, and login to a few each day and reply to that established account with different wording. (It can be as simple as “Welcome to Twitter!” and “Thanks!” but remember to vary the wording). Why? Because communication with existing accounts makes Twitter trust new accounts much more.

If the accounts are going to be communicating with one another, make sure you take the time to have them follow one another. This is important! Otherwise it will look to Twitter like the initial tweets are “unsolicited” and could get the account close to being marked for spam and suspended. Put them all on a Twitter list to make this easier.

Also, be sure to educate users that will be using the accounts (if this is your use scenario) on a few Twitter rules as well. Mainly, tell them not to tweet rapidly to a lot of accounts they aren’t following, or aren’t following them, as that looks like spam-type behavior when seen from brand new accounts.

Final Warning

If you do get accounts suspended by creating too many too quickly, realize that Twitter may look at all activity from the IP address you used as suspicious. Which could put any existing Twitter accounts created from that IP address on thin ice. So don’t risk it!

How I Uncovered Twitter’s Trending Topics “Secrets”

Some people asked where I got my information from for the article “Six Secrets About Whether Twitter Censors Trending Topics” at the Buffer Twitter Tools and Twitter Management blog. I have written this post to address that. (And if you haven’t, you should read that first.)

99% of the “controversy” about Trending Topics that I’ve seen is of two types:

  1. They think it didn’t trend, but it did—they simply missed it when it did;
  2. They don’t understand why popular topics don’t keep trending. If they did, Trends would be mostly things like “love,” “hate,” “Justin Bieber,” etc. Trending is about more than just simple popularity.

(In other words, most “controversies” are based on misinformation.)

I’ve relied on three sources of information for determining how Trending Topics are calculated. By combining information from these three sources, I’ve come to certain conclusions. Some conclusions are clearly true; some are only possibly true.

I’ve then taken the conclusions and looked at the information again, to see if it helps gain further insight into the source information.

My three sources for information about Trending topics are:

1. Info from Twitter explaining how trending topics are calculated.

Some of what they say is clear, some of what they say makes certain conclusions likely, and some is unclear.

To Trend or Not to Trend… Key quotes:

  1. Sometimes a topic doesn’t break into the Trends list because its popularity isn’t as widespread as people believe.
  2. Sometimes, popular terms don’t make the Trends list because the velocity of conversation isn’t increasing quickly enough, relative to the baseline level of conversation happening on an average day.
  3. Topics break into the Trends list when the volume of Tweets about that topic at a given moment dramatically increases.
  4. Twitter Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously.
  5. The Trends list captures the hottest emerging topics, not just what’s most popular.

About Trending Topics. Key quotes:

  1. The following behaviors and others like them could cause your account to be filtered from search or even suspended…Repeatedly Tweeting the same topic/hashtag without adding value to the conversation in an attempt to get the topic trending/trending higher.
  2. The most important thing is to make sure your Tweets are genuine thoughts or impressions and not attempts to insert yourself into a trend. Everyone who clicks on the trending topics should be able to see real people’s ideas and links to further relevant information.

Tweets from Twitter management about Trends (e.g @DickC). Key quotes:

  1. …we don’t block topics from trending, we only remove a few specific obscene terms
  2. …trends are algorithmic, not chosen by us but we edit out any w/ obscenities & I’d like to see clearly offensive out too

An infographic Twitter recommended about Trending Topics. Key quotes:

  1. Twitter Trends favor novelty over popularity.
  2. The…algorithm only accounts for interesting peaks: sudden increases that mark an emerging trend.
  3. Twitter used to rank popularity by volume, but changed the algorithm.
  4. …the Bieber effect; becoming part of the constant background noise like love, hate, Christmas [etc.]

The first three of these sources were linked to in Six Secrets About Whether Twitter Censors Trending Topics, although the links weren’t particularly obvious.

2. Investigating how the volume of tweets affects topics that have trended

Because it’s hard to know what localization data Twitter is using, I’ve only paid much attention to observations about volume vs. trending for topics, that:

  • …would clearly be popular primarily in the U.S., e.g. use slang primarily popular in the U.S.
  • …trend worldwide, so location data is irrelevant.

3. Observations of the differences in Trends when the algorithm was first implemented.

What do we know about Trends, and what can we figure out?

There are potentially several factors that might affect whether a topic trends:

  1. Are there more tweets about it than about other topics that are trending currently?
  2. Has it trended before?
  3. In what geographic area are its tweets coming from?
  4. How much of the tweet volume is from a variety of people, and how much from the same people tweeting the topic repeatedly?

I think some of the key questions are:

  1. Why does a topic of sufficient tweet volume not trend for the first time?
  2. Why does a topic of sufficient tweet volume not continue trending?
  3. Why does a topic of sufficient tweet volume not trend a second time?
  4. Does Twitter minimize “the same people saying the same things” as counting towards trending?

(“Of sufficient tweet volume” means that a topic has a tweet volume in a geographic area that is higher than the topic with the least tweet volume in a geographic area currently trending, e.g. if volume were the only consideration, it would appear to be worthy of trending—though you would have to check other competing, non-trending topics to be sure.)

What conclusions can be drawn?

Twitter does say that trends are affected by the “volume of tweets…dramatically increas[ing]“. So sheer volume is not the only factor. A gradual increase in tweet volume about a topic to a level of “sufficient tweet volume” to trend might then not trend. So that can explain question #1: The topic is not a novelty enough; is not “dramatically increasing” enough.

Question #2 can simply be because at some point, a topic must become “old news.” So maintaining  ”sufficient tweet volume” won’t keep an item trending indefinitely.

Question #3 would seem to be easily explained as “because it’s not a novelty anymore” and yet, significantly, topics have trended a second time in the same area (point #1 below). So this leads us to search for a possible hidden factor.

The most important thing that Twitter does NOT make clear is the answer to question #4. However, my conclusion is that Twitter does minimize people in the same area saying the same things towards contributing to a topics trending again or continuing to trend. Or, more accurately, they weight people in new areas joining the conversation more highly than people in the area where tweet volume originally caused a trend continuing to tweet. Here’s why, with each point leading to the next:

  1. Twitter says that the same person “Repeatedly Tweeting the same topic/hashtag … in an attempt to get the topic trending/trending higher” may be filtered out from counting toward the topic. This indicates there is at least one mechanism for counting volume but eliminating some people. But more importantly, it shows that there is an inherent need for a minimum number of people to be tweeting. For example, a small number of people each “overtweeting” a topic to the point that total tweets could reach a trending volume could ALL be excluded from being counted due to overtweeting.
  2. I have seen topics that trended a second time in the same area, so it is not impossible. Of particular note is that this means there is likely something in addition to volume that is not novelty that can cause a second trend. I think that something is new people tweeting about the topic (in addition to sufficient volume).
  3. When the algorithm was first introduced, Justin Bieber fans made an enormous effort to create a volume of tweets higher than anything they had previously achieved when they saw that their usual efforts didn’t cause trending. Despite having a very organized network that was repeatedly successful in creating high tweet volumes of his name before, they were unsuccessful afterwards. It can’t only be “lack of novelty” that caused the topic to trend, since it is possible. It appears to have been “the same people saying the same thing” not being counted highly.
  4. Twitter says, in the same article, “Topics break into the Trends list when the volume of Tweets about that topic at a given moment dramatically increases.” but also says “Sometimes a topic doesn’t break into the Trends list because its popularity isn’t as widespread as people believe.” The first quote indicates that “volume” is required, the second that “widespread” popularity is required. The implication is that “widespread” does not mean the same thing as “volume.” Volume would be a count of tweets, but “widespreadness” would be a count mainly of people, or variations in geographic area with the same trending area. This is admittedly not definitive, but considering in particular point #2 above, this seems to be the case.

Does Twitter Manually Censor Non-Offensive Trends?

When something looks non-random, in the absence of other explanations, people often suspect there is some kind of force or interference at work. When you see a lot of tweets about something and it isn’t trending, it’s tempting to think that it’s been blocked from trending. But first you have to understand what trends are, and then you have to do some basic research, such as seeing if the topic did trend, but you missed it.

Of course, anything that trends gets more attention put on it, more people involved, etc. But for topics that have a high volume of tweets without officially trending, clearly just being listed as a trend is not a key issue in making the topic popular. That makes the distinction of being a trend pretty minor. To take the example to the extreme, let’s say 100% of all tweets around the world are about a particular topic, and it isn’t trending. In that extreme case, there is no benefit to it trending, since that’s all anyone is talking about anyway.

Although that’s an extreme case, most cases people complain about are similar. Things that are being widely tweeted about…are being widely tweeted about. They have already achieved popularity. Very little would be gained or lost by Twitter manually censoring them from trending.

Also, Twitter has resisted providing many different governments with information on Twitter users. Yet some people in virtually every country believe that Twitter has censored political trends in their country on the request of their government to Twitter, or due to bias on Twitter’s part.

Twitter has demonstrated that they are the most free-speech, anti-government interference large internet company that has ever existed, yet some people still believe they censor political topics from trending, even though to do so would have very little impact.

Summary

I’ve put how I consider Trending topics to work into the aforementioned article “Six Secrets About Whether Twitter Censors Trending Topics,” so I won’t repeat that here.

Why Twitter needs to count more than popularity

Some people say they wish volume counted for more; it bothers them that something that is very popular isn’t trending. But if they got their wish, they would probably still find their chosen topic doesn’t trend.

Why? Because if anything popular trended, things like “love” and “hate,” etc. could be trending. 

Are Twitter’s Trending Topics Broken?

I would say yes, because they confuse almost everyone at some point or other. Twitter could provide an official “data” page, which would include, among other things, the volume of perhaps the top 50 items per trending topic area, and allow people to click on the ones they wish to filter out. Twitter could run ads all over such a site without too much objection, since people would be voluntarily visiting to check the data.

Is My Analysis Any Good?

What Twitter trends are trying to do is pretty simple, and it’s fairly easy to describe in general. I haven’t said anything particularly groundbreaking here, other than extrapolating a bit from pointing out that Twitter has made statements that they can count people and not just tweets, and has provided examples of their ability to do that.

I am open to the criticism that I have no data backing up my own investigations when I say what I personally have observed about Trending Topics, because each case I checked out on someone’s request was so obviously NOT a case of censoring I didn’t bother saving any information. Every time I have checked, it turned out the person bringing the situation to my attention did not understand the basics of what Twitter means by “trending” nor did any simple checks themselves. (Most commonly complaining about something that DID trend but they missed it.)

Cases I checked out for my own curiosity were also very clear cut, and at the time I never expected to be asked about them. I research dozens of things each day (mostly via Google) and like most people, I don’t keep any notes. I just dig in until I’m satisfied.

There are tools that can be used to go back and check trends vs. volume, and so if anyone has saved information, or wants to share research, I will more than happy to include or make mention of it here.

UPDATE: Great analysis of Occupy Wall Street trends across several hashtags by Gilad Lotan, VP of Research and Development at Socia.

Did you know Twitter hides some tweets, preventing you from eavesdropping?

Did you know Twitter hides some tweets from you?

You can still see them if you do a Twitter search, or look at someone’s Twitter page (e.g. twitter.com/username), or set up a Twitter client such as TweetDeck to show you everything. But you won’t see all of the tweets from people you follow in your stream at Twitter.com. Here’s why:

Ever find yourself eavesdropping because you suddenly heard a name you knew?

That’s how Twitter @ replies work.

If someone you follow starts tweeting with someone you don’t know (don’t follow) you won’t “hear” the conversation because Twitter will hide those tweets from you. (This only applies when they start the tweet with the other person’s username.)

If they tweet with someone you do know (do follow) Twitter will not hide the tweet from you. It will appear in your stream.

How replies work:

Imagine you are @You. You follow

  1. @Mom
  2. @Dad
  3. and @Boss

…and they all follow you.

  1. Neither @Mom or @Dad follow @Boss.
  2. @Boss doesn’t follow @Mom or @Dad.

So when you tweet

@Boss I’m going to be late for work today

Neither @Mom or @Dad will see it, even though they follow you. This is because you’re tweeting to someone they don’t know/don’t follow. If you tweet

@Mom Thanks for the delicious pie!

@Boss won’t see it, because although he follows you, he doesn’t follow @Mom. But @Dad will see it, because he follows both you and @Mom. And so your tweet could be seen as a clever reminder to @Dad to remember to thank @Mom :)

The most important problem to avoid

What if you want to tell people who don’t already know about @GreatTwitterUser how great they are? If you tweet:

@GreatTwitterUser Everyone should follow you!

…you’ve failed, because only people who already follow @GreatTwitterUser will see your tweet. Everyone who doesn’t follow them won’t see the tweet, because Twitter will hide your conversation from people that don’t follow you both.

TIP: Read “Win Friends And Influence People On Twitter In Just 5 Seconds A Day” to understand how powerful making public compliments can be.

What can you do?

If you want to have a semi-private conversation, start your tweet with the username of who you are chatting with. Then only people who follow both of you will see your tweets.

But…if you want everyone that follows you to see your tweet, the first character of the tweet has to be something else. Here’s a couple of common solutions for changing the semi-private tweet “@Friend, how are you today?” into a public tweet all your followers can see:

  1. .@Friend, how are you today?
  2. How are you today, @Friend ?

Both of these will be seen by all your followers. If you start with anything other than the @, your tweet will be seen by everyone. But it’s become common to simply add a “.” at the beginning when you want everyone to see your tweet.

Noise Filter? Privacy Protection? Discovery Limitation?

I’ve gotten some complaints for framing this as a privacy issue, because people see it in any one of up to four ways:

  1. Hiding tweets for privacy;
  2. Filtering out noise;
  3. Making discovery harder;
  4. Helping Twitter’s infrastructure run better.

When Twitter made this change to stop showing all tweets in 2007 they later explained (in response to complaints) that this was a necessary change, because their computer infrastructure couldn’t handle showing all the conversations.

Others considered conversations between people they didn’t both follow as “noise,” and so they called this change an “anti-noise” change. But since finding new people is sometimes called “discovery,” some other people complained that this change was an “anti-discovery” change.

But whichever way you look at it, it’s essential to know how it works!

Hide Your Chats From People That Don’t Want To See That

If you add a hashtag to a tweet, people that search for that hashtag will see your tweet, regardless of how you address it. But if you participate in hashtag chats, you may want to chat a lot without all your followers seeing your tweets.

You can use what you’ve learned in this blog post to hide tweets, by starting them with a username that none of the people that follow you also follow. If they don’t follow the username that you start your tweet with, they won’t see your tweet.

For that reason, I created the @HideChat twitter account for people to use to hide their chat tweets. You can learn more about it here.

How to get Twitter to give you a username held by someone else

Twitter releases accounts on request in certain situations if you contact them.

How to get Twitter’s attention

You must be aware of how Twitter’s ticket system works. You must file a ticket with the appropriate link. Click the links in the appropriate section below to file the right kind of ticket.

If you’ve filed a ticket and didn’t get an email response, check your spam folder and check here: http://support.twitter.com/tickets

► You have the domain name and want the Twitter name

If you bought a domain name, and someone registered the Twitter name after you bought the domain name, let Twitter know. Their registration of the domain may may be considered to be name squatting. The account will need to be inactive for a period of time before they will consider your request valid, however.

As Andrew Guenther explained to Ross Duggan, by contacting Twitter support and submitting this information on an impersonation report, the handle could be yours in less than 48 hours.

► A Twitter username is trademarked by you

Twitter’s trademark policy allows you to request they turn the username over to you. You’ll need to submit a trademark ticket request providing the details that Twitter asks for on their on their trademark policy page.

If you want an existing inactive Twitter account, as Sunil Jain points out below in the comments, some folks have been known to buy the domain name, then trademark the name, then file a ticket with Twitter claiming trademark to try to get the inactive Twitter account.

► Someone is impersonating you on Twitter

You’ll need to submit a special ticket request to Twitter. The information you’ll need to include when reporting impersonation is outlined on their impersonation policy page.

If what you want instead is to have your account verified by Twitter, realize that Twitter closed their public verification program. Yes, accounts are still verified, but those are of people who have paid Twitter to run ads, or are affiliated with Twitter partners.

Some of the factors Twitter takes into account when determining what conduct is considered to be username squatting are:

  • the number of accounts created
  • creating accounts for the purpose of preventing others from using those account names
  • creating accounts for the purpose of selling those accounts
  • using feeds of third-party content to update and maintain accounts under the names of those third parties

► You want to buy someone else’s account

Twitter’s policy does not allow the buying or selling of Twitter accounts. You can be suspended you if you list yours for sale, or are found to have sold or bought one.

However, many accounts have traded hands with Twitter’s approval. You can hire the owner of a Twitter account and receive the Twitter account as part of the hiring arrangement. Twitter has also given special approval for government and charitable sales of Twitter accounts.

Twitter defines what you cannot sell as their “Services,” which they define as your use of Twitter’s products, services and web sites. The Twitter Rules explain that unless you have been specifically permitted to do so in a separate agreement with Twitter, you agree that you will not reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade or resell those “Services” for any purpose.

► You want to take over an inactive account

Twitter does not release inactive accounts just because they are inactive. They used to, years ago, and they say they will again someday, but they have said that for years now, so it’s hard to predict when you might be able to request an inactive Twitter account again. Read Sunil Jain’s comment below to see what some folks do.

Twitter admits editing offensive Trending Topics, plans more

Today Twitter’s CEO said they may in the future “edit out any…clearly offensive [trending topics].” He also said “we edit out any [trending topics] with obscenities.” Thanks to @rachelsklar for finding this tweet and @AbigailCollazo for pointing it out to me:

This is major news from Twitter.

Probably they have not already begun removing “clearly offensive” trends because they are harder to identify than those with obscenities. After all, you can make a list of obscenities that are not allowed, but it’s harder to list topics, because topics can be presented from different perspectives (for/against/nuetral) and wordings can vary.

Dick’s choice of words is interesting too: “I’d like to see…” He doesn’t elaborate whether this means Twitter plans to, or why what he’d like to see hasn’t begun happening. Twitter could also allow users to choose to filter trending topics, as opposed to outright censorship, although this would mean a change to their infrastructure.

Why Twitter needs to clear up their policy, and fast

The problem is: If Twitter does what the CEO wants, where will they draw the line? It already seems inappropriate that Twitter has not taken a clearer approach, e.g.

One of the reasons this is such major news is that Twitter allows accounts where all their tweets are about clearly offensive topics. Twitter’s terms of service doesn’t allow child porn, but it does allow a lot else. Many people have been frustrated in Twitter’s unwillingness to remove offensive accounts, but Twitter has always come down on the side of free speech, and against censorship.

Clearly Mr. Costolo feels that allowing offensive accounts is one thing, but amplifying offensive topics is another.

Twitter shouldn’t have policies that are not publicly stated.

They at minimum need to change their public policy page on trending topics to reflect what they are actually doing, such as by publishing a list of obscenities that are removed from trending topics.

Prior to this admission from the CEO, all Twitter policies said about obscenities was:

  1. You may not use obscene or pornographic images in either your profile picture or user background.
  2. Twitter does remove obscene or pornographic images in either user profile pictures or user backgrounds.
Particularly since many people already believe Twitter censors some political and business trending topics sometimes (I don’t believe they censor), Twitter needs to clarify what they are doing.

Do you think Twitter manipulated a trending topic?

If you do, you need to at minimum read Twitter’s explanation of how topics trend, and check the volume of other trending tweets before and after the time you think one is being suppressed. If you don’t know how tweets trend, and you don’t know how to compare the volume of one versus another, they you are, by definition, ignorant. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but you can’t know nothing about trends and have no data and expect to be taken seriously when you say you think Twitter is manipulating trending topics.

On the other hand, Twitter does in a manner of speaking manipulate trending topics over time by changes to their algorithm. As Twitter once explained to Mashable:

“Our Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The list is generated by an algorithm that identifies topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously.

“There’s a number of factors that may come into play when seemingly popular terms don’t make the Trends list. Sometimes topics that are popular don’t break into the Trends list because the current velocity of conversation (volume of Tweets at a given moment) isn’t greater than in previous hours and days. Sometimes topics that are genuinely popular simply aren’t widespread enough to make the list of top Trends. And, on occasion, topics just aren’t as popular as people believe.”

Don’t believe everything you read

“Blocked” Trending Topics

Again, topics do NOT trend only because people a lot of people are tweeting about them. They trend because new people recently began tweeting about a topic in sufficient volume. But volume of tweets alone isn’t enough.

The key word is “recently.”

Many topics trend on Twitter, then disappear, even though they become more popular later. But Twitter’s algorithm considers it “old news” once it has been trending for awhile. If it didn’t, the trending topics would be overwhelmed with things people are talking about all the time (such as Justin Bieber).

The exception is if new people begin tweeting a lot about something.

The key is that something has to be “new” to be considered “trending.” Either new people, or a new topic. Having the same people tweeting about the same things won’t make a new trending topic, or keep an existing one going.

So popularity isn’t enough. To trend, a topic must be new, or an older topic tweeted by people who haven’t tweeted about it before. Otherwise the algorithm won’t place it on the trending topics list.

Frustratingly, some news topics trend and then disappear, even though new and important things are happening. But if the same words are used in tweets, Twitter’s trending algorithm considers the topic to be getting old (despite whatever may be happening with it in the real world) and unless new people begin tweeting about it, or new words are used, it will fall off the trending list.

Suspensions

I regularly see people saying Twitter has done something wrong, censored something or someone they “shouldn’t have.” I used to get involved, but now I just wait a few days for the inevitable correction to appear.

Most of what I’ve read about Twitter suspensions are incorrect. Most commonly from people who were smart enough to file a ticket with Twitter requesting information on the suspension, but haven’t heard back right away and decided to write an angry blog post speculating on the situation. But now, with Twitter’s CEO admitting they have an unpublished policy to censor trending topics, and that they may do more, raises the question of what other unpublished policies they may have.

But regarding suspensions, though I’ve never experienced it myself, I know Del Harvey, head of Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, has a lot of compassion for folks who get suspended. If you did something wrong, @delbius is very forgiving. Once you understand the problem and promise not to violate Twitter’s policies again, your account is almost always unsuspended. Some folks have even been suspended and unsuspended more than once. As I say, @delbius is very forgiving :)

Don’t Be Tricked Into Retweeting People Trying To Manipulate You

If you look at some people’s Twitter streams, you can see they complain about whatever hashtag everyone else is complaining about and ask for retweets.

You can tell they don’t care about any particular issue at all. They’re  just trying to get retweets by using the hashtag. They claim to be “outraged” about something they don’t care about at all.

The most annoying thing is that some tweets trend just because people complain about them!

For example, when #Reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend began trending, I checked repeatedly and every single tweet using the hashtag was against the hashtag. Only very early on were there a few people tweeting actual negative tweets.

Using Controversy To Get Retweets

I heard one person say “It’s trending anyway, what’s wrong with me trying to get retweets?”

A favorite tactic of these folks is to say “retweet this to get Twitter to stop this.” But Twitter doesn’t do anything because groups of people complain. They act only through their system, according to their policies.

So if you see someone asking you to retweet them to get Twitter to do something, you may want to think twice about participating in building these people up. It’s fine to complain about what people are doing on Twitter, or to complain that you wish Twitter would change things. Just don’t lead people to believe that by retweeting a complaint about Twitter, you are helping them change things. You aren’t.

TIP: If you want to contact Twitter to request that they change something, write them at http://bit.ly/TWICKET. (Here’s some information about how Twitter tickets work.) If you want to learn more about Twitter’s policies regarding abusive users, read this.

Are you just complaining? Or are you manipulating ignorant people?

I’m not okay with manipulative people using the ignorance of others to build themselves up, but I understand that some confused people will tweet their genuine outrage thinking that Twitter will somehow take notice of their tweet.

Asking Twitter to change things, such as removing a hashtag from trending topics, or to suspend an account doesn’t work. If you’re outraged by something, blog or tweet that you are outraged, not that other people should retweet your tweet to get Twitter to change things. You’re misleading people for your own benefit if you do. People should retweet your outrage if they are outraged themselves. Not because it will make any difference to Twitter’s actions. It won’t.

How Twitter Works

Here is some more information about how and why Twitter suspends and unsuspends accounts and deals with Twitter issues.

Twitter’s CEO said they may in the future “edit out any…clearly offensive [trending topics].” He also said “we edit out any [trending topics] with obscenities.” Thanks to @rachelsklar for finding this tweet and @AbigailCollazo for pointing it out.

Note that Twitter doesn’t censor tweets (though Twitter will remove content promoting child pornography), and Trending Topics are automated. However, Twitter does suspend accounts that violate its content boundaries.

10 Guidelines to do doing well on Twitter

I was asked to summarize our approach to Twitter and Social Media into ten rules for an interview with Canada’s Sun newspaper chain. While I find that I’m always learning, I thought I’d share the response I gave:

  1. Seek others that you can help, and help them.
  2. Seek others that can help you, and take an interest in who they are and what they do. Always be looking for better and better mentors. Study their behavior. Emulate them when it is natural to do so. Have more than two mentors.
  3. Work at striking a positive tone in all your communications.
  4. Use Twitter as a Personal Learning Network (PLN).
  5. Seek out and promote people, organizations, missions and projects that you believe in that help others.
  6. Work to strike a balance between personal, mission or business and fun or interesting posts
  7. Anything beyond a few brief messages is best moved to a private channel. For example, if you’re having a longer interaction with someone, switch to direct messages on Twitter or chat on Facebook.
  8. Create your own set of helpful links that you use when helping others. For example, save links to the appropriate help sections at Twitter and Facebook to share with others who need them. It makes helping people faster and easier for you.
  9. Be biased toward setting a good example, instead of telling people who are still learning what you think they should do differently.
  10. Don’t follow rules that feel restrictive or take away the fun! Make your own rules. You can be successful doing things differently than other successful people do. Be yourself—no one is better qualified than you to know what is best for you!

Of course, I would say that you should always keep in mind Twitter Rule #1 when looking at lists like this!

 

Should you EVER repeat the same tweets?

UPDATE: You may want to also read “The most complete guide to finding the best time to Tweet.”

The most famous example of someone who repeats the same tweets is @GuyKawasaki. He’s tested and found that repeating the same tweet three times nearly triples the number of clicks the link in the tweet gets. So, since clicks are money to his business, he repeats almost every tweet four times. If he didn’t, a majority of the audience he reaches wouldn’t see the tweet.

However, he’s also well aware that a LOT of people don’t like this. He initially responded by saying “unfollow me if you don’t like it,” but later also created an account that only tweets each item once. Whether you repeat tweets is primarily a question of what your audience cares about, and in what ways you care about your audience ( Twitter etiquette). So the conflict is between irritating some people vs. having a majority of the audience for a tweet miss out on it.

Twitter’s Rules

Twitter does not allow identically duplicate tweets. They have a system to detect and block them, which you may have noticed if you’ve ever tried to repeat a tweet (although some seem to get through at times).

@GuyKawasaki, for example, changes the short URL of his repeated tweets to stop  Twitter from blocking him from tweeting them. However, if you send the same tweet or DM to different users (starting each with a different username), Twitter won’t block them—but if you do this too much, Twitter will suspend your account. Tweets that are identical except for the username at the beginning of the tweet are usually spam, and are against the Twitter rules even though they aren’t blocked from being posted…yet. E.g. sending @user1 buy my product; @user2 buy my product; @user3 buy my product; etc are not exact duplicates, but are obviously spam and can get your account suspended.

(In addition to the Twitter rules, you may also want to read Twitter’s “Automation Rules and Best Practices.”)

What should you do?

Don’t repeat a tweet unless it is very important to you for some reason.

If you feel you must repeat, try to find a balance, while always looking for ways to do less repeating of tweets. Many people on Twitter are bloggers, and they would like to get more readership of their work. Tweeting a blog post just once for all time often doesn’t seem right to them. My opinion is that other than Twitter’s specific rules, there are no hard and fast rules (see Twitter Rule #1).

There are several schools of thought about repeating tweets, most centered around trying to repeat in such a way that few people notice that you have:

  1. Repeat key tweets only once in a 36-hour period (two tweets in total), and spread them 8-12 hours apart;
  2. Repeat key tweets no more than once every 60-90 days;
  3. Repeat key tweets four or more times, once every 39.5 (or 15.5) hours;
  4. Repeat key tweets four or more times, once a week at a different times of day.

I think number three and four on this list are too frequent. But sometimes they can be useful guidelines for how often to repeat tweets that are only similar, not identical. For example, let’s say you’re going to be tweeting about something that you’ve never tweeted about before, and you don’t want to overdo it or alienate anyone who doesn’t expect these kinds of tweets from you. You might keep your frequency to no more than once a week, or try the 39.5 hour trick if you want to tweet more frequently.

Avoid repeating things at the same time of day

Re: number 3—why repeat every 39.5 hours? Because this is the most frequently you can repeat tweets while preventing them from being tweeted again at the exact same or nearly the same time of day. It will repeat 47 times before going out again at the exact same time, and about 36 days before it even repeats within one hour of the originally tweeted time.

This actually works for a 15.5 hour time interval—39.5 is just the 15.5 interval spaced out another 24 hours (15.5+24 = 39.5) because if you’re going to repeat a tweet 47 times, putting 39.5 hours between is a lot less annoying than spreading them out just 15.5 hours.

Repeating Tweets is unpopular with readers

Your best bet is always to repeat fewer tweets, and deemphasize that you are repeating them. As @vbalasubramani points out, it’s often a bad idea to say “In case you missed this earlier” as it draws attention to the repetition.

Should you change the headline on repeated tweets?

If you do, you will upset some people who will feel tricked into clicking the same link twice. You will lose some followers eventually by doing this. However, if you have a large following, and tweeting your links is a business to you, changing the headline will allow you to test what people respond to. However, I suggest most times trying to write your best tweet and repeating only that—if you consider yourself good at writing tweets. You’ll upset fewer people and get more clicks total because you’ve sent out your best tweet.

How frequently should you tweet?

While this is another question for a future blog post (and I’ll link to it here when the post is available), I will point out that it’s beneficial to space out tweets (that aren’t @ replies or DMs to others). There are lots of exceptions to guidelines on how to space tweets out, but it’s never bad to look for ways to put more time between your tweets.

For example, if you tweet ten times in one day, it would be good to put at least 15-60 minutes or more between each tweet. Tweeting 10 times in one minute would cause those tweets to completely dominate your follower’s streams—and they might complain or unfollow you for it. Remember, this isn’t about @ msgs—those aren’t seen by everyone (read how @msgs work, and how you can take advantage of them).

It’s particularly good to try to space out many tweets of the same kind, such as #FollowFriday tweets. If you have a bunch of similar tweets to send out, try to use the scheduling feature of a Twitter client such as TweetDeck, HootSuite or SocialOomph, or use a service such as Future Tweets (there are many others as well that provide scheduling). That way you can write everything up once and not have to come back to tweet over and over again throughout the day.

What I do on the @TweetSmarter account

If many people in our community vote for a tweet by favoriting, retweeting or clicking on its link, we take that vote very seriously. It both guides us as to what to share and what to reject when selecting future tweets. And because @TweetSmarter is popular in every time zone worldwide, we’ve decided to repeat a small number of tweets that meet a threshold of being either very popular or very important to our community. Repeating is decided by how popular or important something is.

The good part about this is we spend more time sharing higher quality tweets. The downside is that the best ones are duplicates.

Also, we only rarely change the headline on a tweet significantly, but we preface all repeated tweets with “r/t…” so people can avoid them…or seek them out, if they are only looking for our most popular tweets .

For example, one of the first times we repeated a tweet it got over 23,000 clicks! If you count every click as a “vote,” I would say that tweet was worth repeating (and no, it wasn’t to our own blog or to anyone we had a relationship with or even had ever heard of before). We generally space a follow-up tweet 10-14 hours after the first tweet if we see that the first one was exceptionally popular, or we feel it provides exceptionally useful or much-requested information. So if a tweet at midnight was very popular we might repeat it around noon for a different audience. If it’s not time-sensitive we might also wait a day or two before repeating it at noon.

If we weren’t popular in every time zone, we would probably very rarely do any of this. We will also repeat a tweet one more time within 36 hours if it provides critical or exceptionally useful or popular information for Twitter users (or if we’ve made a mistake). For example:

#Warning: Protect yourself—iPhone passwords can now be cracked in just minutes: http://j.mp/ieXxwc

At @TweetSmarter, we also manage an account called @TwitterBulletin that never repeats tweets, and only shares the most popular tweets from @TweetSmarter each day. It does not share urgent information (downtime, attacks, hacks) quickly, however. If you feel like you’re getting too many tweets from @TweetSmarter each day, we recommend following that account (and unfollowing@TweetSmarter).

Also, a handful of the very most popular tweets are repeated again within 6-18 months or so (as long as they’re still accurate and relevant).

Interestingly, since we limit the number of tweets we will send per day, repeating more important/higher-quality tweets means we have to get rid of other tweets we might have sent that are less urgent/less popular/lower quality. So the one result of repeating tweets is that we post fewer not-very-popular tweets.

Help! My Tweets Are Missing!

Do NOT leave a comment here that your tweet count is wrong—you need to visit the Twitter page for your issue. Leave a comment only if you have already visited the Twitter page for your issue (see below for links).

UPDATE: Twitter has put out updated statuses from time to time: · November 27 status · December 10 status · May 25 Status

 

Click the link below that best describes your problem:

TIP: Sometimes switching to mobile.twitter.com will show your missing tweets.

  1. My Tweets and Hashtags are not showing up in search.
  2. My Tweet count is incorrect.
  3. I’m missing mentions and/or @replies.
  4. I have a different Twitter problem—my problem isn’t listed here.
  5. Tweets that should appear in a search don’t

TIP:Clearing your browser cache http://bit.ly/FixBrowser often fixes some missing tweet problems.

My Tweets And Hashtags Don’t Show Up In Search!

There are several reasons this could be happening. Very old or protected tweets won’t show up, of course. And Tweets from new accounts (or newly changed usernames) can take a few days to show up.
But if those issues are not your problem, do this: log out and log back in at Twitter.com. If you see a big red warning saying your email address is having delivery issues, you need to fix it before Twitter will show your tweets in search (links are provided for what to do).

While it’s true that Twitter technical problems can block tweets from showing up in search, you should first check to make sure YOU haven’t broken any of Twitter’s rules or best practices.

Have you broken any Twitter rules?

Twitter will NOT show the tweets of anyone who fails to follow these Twitter rules or these Twitter best practices.

The good news

You can request that Twitter show your tweets in search, but you’ll have to agree to follow the rules and best practices before they will reverse the decision not to show your tweets. File a ticket at http://j.mp/twicket and explain that your tweets are missing and you’d like to know what you need to do to have them come back.

Missing Mentions and @Replies

The symptom here is that you’re missing older tweets or seeing an incomplete number of tweets when viewing your @username mentions in the the replies tab on Twitter.com. If you cannot page back to see older @username mentions this is your issue. Go here and let Twitter know this affects you.

If you’re just not receiving all my @ replies, know that Twitter is working on a long-term fix for the missing @ replies problem. You need to let them know you’re affected by filing a ticket at http://j.mp/twicket.

My Tweet Count is Incorrect

This issue is still affecting many people. You can read the latest from Twitter here.

In the Belly of the Whale: How to get your Twitter problem fixed

Update: If you follow @Support, you can DM them (even though they don’t follow you) and ask your question that way. Though it doesn’t always work. For what is often a better but sometimes slower way to contact Twitter support, read on:

Top Issues

Account hacked?

  1. If you’ve been suspended, read this first.
  2. Change your password. If you can’t login, have Twitter reset your password.
  3. Revoke bad, unfamiliar or unused apps.
  4. If you’re still having problems, let Twitter know your situation at http://bit.ly/TWICKET
  5. Write one or more tweets letting your followers know what happened.
  6. Contact anyone who unfollowed you because of the hack, letting them know what happened, and that you’ve fixed the problem according to these steps.
  7. Tell others how you fixed your problem: Twitter accounts are often hacked in groups, and if you were hacked, it’s likely others were too, and are searching for information on what to do.

Account suspended?

  1. First, check your email inbox for any notification from Twitter.
  2. You many also want to read the Official Twitter Rules to see why you might have been suspended. If you’ve been used automated tools to follow or unfollow users, read the Twitter’s following best practices.
  3. Next follow these steps to confirm that your account was actually suspended and to appeal suspension. Alternatively, remember that you can you can follow @Support and send them a DM (you used to also be able to send an email to [email protected], but apparently they no longer monitor that).

If you didn’t get any email notification, you’ve filed a ticket regarding suspension and it’s been awhile and you haven’t heard anything back yet, send a tweet something this:

@Delbius my ticket number is #12345 want to know if/why my account was suspended & what I can do

Suspension is not always a death knell!

Accounts can be permanently suspended. But for lesser infractions, or for some first-time infractions, accounts can be restored/unsuspended. Just because it was suspended does not always mean you can’t get it back. It DOES mean though that changes to your practices MUST be made or problems fixed.

Twitter has a number of “tests” for an account before it comes under review or suspension. They don’t divulge all the flags against you but point out the main area they feel you need to improve in.

Be sure to read Automation Rules and Best Practices

Granted, Twitter could provide more details to users whose accounts become suspended. A common error that can get your account suspended is automated following/unfollowing combined with links that are clearly from feeds. This marks an account as possibly fully automated which Twitter does not want.

Missing Tweets?

There are several different kinds of issues that could be happening here:

  1. Your Tweets and Hashtags are not showing up in search.
  2. Your Tweet count is incorrect.
  3. You’re missing a group of Tweets from my Profile timeline.
  4. You’re  missing mentions and/or @replies.

All these issues and more are explained at “Help! My Tweets Are Missing!

What to do if you have a general problem

  1. First, you might try clearing your browser’s cache.
  2. Also good is to check Twitter status.
  3. You may also want to check detailed status for different parts of the Twitter service. (And even more detailed.)
  4. It’s never wrong to file a ticket with Twitter letting them know you have a problem and are seeking help. Watch your email for a response after filing a ticket.
  5. You can also check Twitter known issues, search for help about your Twitter issue, or check the Twitter FAQ. If you leave a comment on a Twitter known issues page, Twitter may be in touch with a temporary solution in advance of fixing the problem permanently. However, if you notify Twitter about your problem by filing a ticket at http://bit.ly/twicket you will often receive an email suggesting possible known issues to read.
  6. You might want to read this interesting article to better understand how Twitter has organized their help system.
  7. Besides http://bit.ly/twicket, you can also reporting bugs or problems to Twitter via http://twitter.com/HELP

SPECIAL TIP: If your problem is on Twitter.com, you can reset your browser cache (which is known to fix some problems) by using your keyboard. Here’s an approach that works for most: Hold down the “Ctrl” key (command for Mac) and press the F5 (function) key at the same time. If that didn’t work, see http://j.mp/ClearCache.

Options for help outside of Twitter

Many things are not Twitter problems, per se. It’s always a good idea to search for a support website or support account relevant to your problem if it’s an application or third-party service, such as TweetDeck, TwitPic, etc.

  1. You can ask other users for help on the Twitter page at GetSatisfaction. Twitter used to say they monitored this site. Now they say instead “We encourage users to help each other get the most out of Twitter. Often the community provides answers and solutions faster than we can respond directly.”
  2. Searching Twitter to see if others have your problem can also be helpful. Try adding keywords to this example search for problems.
  3. There are also a variety of third-party services that try to help Twitter users get all kinds of questions answered. One example is the TweetQA service.
  4. And of course you can always send an @message to other users that you think might be helpful. Don’t bother sending @messages with questions to @Twitter though. Your best bet if you want a response from Twitter is to file a ticket.
  5. You can also try ComplaintCommunity which is also on Twitter as @CompComm


Too much spam?

There are several solutions to help you get less spam on Twitter. A good one to try first is TwitBlock.

How Twitter finds problems

Twitter “tracks tens of thousands of metrics in real time” to find problems. They also watch incoming trouble tickets, and comments users post on the Twitter known issues pages. They don’t pay much attention to tweets to most employees, so if you feel you must send a tweet a Twitter account like @Support, file a ticket first and include your ticket number in any communication.

How Twitter fixes problems

Twitter handles trouble tickets in the order they are received. For some tickets, you may receive an email with suggestions on what to do, and a note telling you to let Twitter know if you still have a problem. If you get this kind of email and fail to respond to Twitter that you “still have a problem” your ticket will be closed. So, watch your email after filing a ticket. Also, if you have left a comment about a problem you are having on a known issues page, you may receive a tweet with further information.

“Feature Darkmode”

This is an annoying method Twitter uses to keep things running when there are problems, or when things are being worked on. Basically, features are intentionally turned off! Learn more about why Twitter “breaks” it’s own feature here. Also, realize that if you get a FailWhale, sometimes its just a slow server, and if you reload the web page, you’ll get a faster server…or at least you’ll get to see the page you’re trying to visit :)

How Twitter has improved

UPDATE: In June, 2011, Twitter announced its new search and photo sharing services. Twitter engineering put out this blog post explaining the new details of how search would work.

Twitter’s biggest improvement was to switch to a queuing technology called Unicorn. This caused them to use 30% less CPU and much less memory on their servers. It was such a big improvement, it allowed them to deploy many fixes and new features without downtime.

John Adams of Twitter has stated “[garbage collection and] SQL problems are root of most of our issues.” Considering that, it is disturbing that Twitter recently decided to halt moving away from SQL for tweet storage, at least for the time being. To help take the load off servers, Twitter stores some things for up to 60 seconds to speed up your access to “real time” information.

On October 6, Twitter announced a new search architecture that would let them index roughly 50 times more tweets per second than they were currently getting. The new system is also “extremely versatile and extensible,” which Twitter hints will be used to “build cool new features faster and better.” And in late 2010, this information about how Twitter is using NoSQL was released. One tidbit: Twitter now logs 80 different categories of data. See also (below): “How Twitter analyzes social graphs.”

The geeky details

John Adams and Nick Kallen of Twitter in the video and slideshow below describes all the geeky details of how Twitter handles issues. Instrumentation and logging is critical at Twitter. Here is one of the key diagrams from the video:

 How Twitter is changing their infrastructure in 2011: