Transparency & the Trouble with Twitter

I got notice that Twitter updated their TOS. There are more pages about what they do and such, but for me: a day too late and a dollar short!

I manage approximately 30 Twitter clients with the help of Hootsuite. I pop in and out all day,  keeping my eyes  peeled and reacting, very organically, to what is happening in their worlds.  Which is why my annoyance last week went sky high when:

One of My FAVORITE client Twitter accounts was SUSPENDED!


And when I say favorite, I don’t just mean that I like the client. I mean; I like the client,  I like what they do, I like the way the Twitter account is being used, I like the way people react and interact with this account and I like being this account. And now, I have had my/clients voice taken away.

I immediately, went over to Twitter to find out what was going on and submit my request ticket for an explanation. Being I had I run this account through Hummingbird the day before, I was pretty sure this had triggered Twitter to accuse the account of “strange activity.” Yet, how “strange” can it be really? I was following a bunch of relevant NY people, granted with an automated tool, but it was very logical.

Plus, isn’t that the whole ideal of Twitter to follow people that you, or your account, would find interesting?

I don’t make our account follow everyone; I make our accounts follow relevant people to their industries because I actually make a point of reading the Tweets! If someone is just broadcasting and spamming, I stop following those folks because the human in me is bored of them.

So, I open my “ticket” and send in my request. I’ll spare all the gory details of the ten Twitter responses, but as I am an impatient person by nature (and did I say that this was a great Twitter client and I Tweet for them daily?)  so I was pressing for a result. The auto generated responses I was getting were not working for me. I longed for a human being, but alas,  at Twitter, even when it seems like maybe you have a human at the other end of the email, it still feels rather automated.

Hang our Heads in Shame: Accused of Aggressive Follower Churn

My first response was to explain how really, I didn’t think that the account had really violated the true nature of Twitter as they accused:


So, I went line by line explaining if the account had defiantly NOT or possibly could look like it had upset the little bird. I admitted that I had used Hummingbird, but not excessively and how the account really had value.  I wanted to know what exactly had caused this to happen. Actually, I needed to know what had caused this to happen so it did not ever happen again! Eventually, I got a specific answer:

“Your account was suspended for aggressive following and follower churn (repeatedly following and un-following large numbers of people.) This is a violation of the Terms of Service and Twitter Rules:
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 by either a) re-opening this ticket or b) filing a new ticket and referencing this one”

So I went over to the “Rules” ( which why is that different than the TOS) and went to see the defination of “Churn”. Here, we find a very vauge and ambigious defination:

“If you have followed and unfollowed people in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive follower churn);”

Some of  the Twitter Rules Pretty Much Ridiculous.

I could go line by line and rip into the Twitter Rules. OK, not all of it, as I do agree with some of rules and some are just logical, but others? Insane!

  • If you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time;

So, what happens if you are a newbie and sign up and then immediately start following a bunch of folks because you are so excited with this new tool?

You get suspended.

And you do because this also happened to a new account I started for a client by doing exactly that. Good way to exclude those new adopters of Twitter.

Then I like this one too:

  • If you have a small number of followers compared to the amount of people you are following;

So what if you don’t have a lot to say?

What if you are a boring tweeter and no one likes you?

I mean, what if you just like checking out other people’s Tweets? Why does Twitter think that they can penalize a person for being unpopular? It’s not high school!

And then, of course, my personal un-favorite this week:

  • If you have followed and un-followed people in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive follower churn);

Could we get a bit more specific please?

What is considered a small number of followers? What is a short amount of time? Is that different from a short time period?

I was and am Quite Frustrated with Hummingbird.


After all the CEO of my company bought the software for us to use and paid the full $197 for it. So paying for a service that gets one’s account suspended is frustrating.   Plus, they claim that Hummingbird works within the Twitter TOS. Obviously, by this example….NOT! I’ll throw Birdfeeder under the bus here too. We paid for that as well and now I am hesitant to use it for our accounts.

And I specifically said this to the maybe human automatic email I was begging to. Please tell me what the actual number is for “aggressive churn” Even if I never ever use Hummingbird again, I know I can follow and un-follow almost as fast as the automated during a normal lunchtime “weeding” session.  The magic allusive “small number” is greatly needed!

Thankfully, I did get an answer:


And I thanked “trihawkathon” and went to lick my Twitter wounds for the week until the date that I could beg again.

Which has come and passed and now we are on week 2. I keep on asking them to reinstate the account, promising never to offend the Twitter God’s again, yet all I get is closed tickets with promises of more information soon coming from automated responses.

It’s still not resolved and I am still mad at Twitter and that’s not a good thing:

Since my JOB, in part, is to teach, educated, and promote the use of Twitter.

The new TOS is not helpful. The rules are still not transparent and specific. And the really stupid “goes-against-the-very-nature-of-twitter” rules still exist.

Stupid little bird.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 and is filed under Integrated Marketing, Social Media in Marketing.

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