Will Twitter’s New Spam Policy Kill #FollowFriday?

Will Twitter’s New Spam Policy Kill #FollowFriday?

By: Katherine Meyer
May 11, 2011

About a month ago, Twitter slyly rolled out a new spam policy that will help declutter our feeds and hopefully get rid of annoying posts like this.

We are all familiar with them and probably have spent considerable amount of time doing one of several things: (1) ingoring them (2) blocking and reporting these people as spam or, if you’re like my whackjob mother @ShellyKramer, you’re (3) blocking, reporting to spam and publicly calling them out as spammers. What can I say – she’s easily annoyed. I’ve learned to pretty much not mess with her.

One big issue that has sprung up with these policy change is whether #FollowFriday can survive. Why? We’ll get to that in a bit.

Kim Castleberry pointed out on her blog that Twitter’s spam policy had apparently changed. She found this out when she got a message from Twitter saying, “This account has been suspended for sending multiple unsolicited messages using the @reply and/or mention feature.” In reality, she was chatting with members of one of the her online communities. It appears the spam policy has been changed to target people who post something like:

@Annoyingly @Long @List @Of @Names + http://somelinkthatnowlookssuspicious.com

Twitter’s spam policy states that you will be under scrutiny if you send large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions or if you send large groups of unsolicited @replies or mentions. So if both are these are generally perceived as tacky, is it such a bad thing? Is it so terrible that the current iteration of #FF could be a thing of the past?

Smart people, like Gini Dietrich, argue that if you are serious about doing #FollowFriday then @dropping @bunch @of @people @in @a @list – isn’t the way to do it. It is annoying and impersonal which is counterintuitive to the whole idea behind #FF.

Other smart people, like aforementioned mother unit, think that sending large numbers of @replies or mentions is nothing short of lazy and is ecstatic as a result of these new changes. For her, having someone say:

“Good Morning @oneperson @anotherperson @anotherperson @anotherperson”

means just one thing. And it’s not good. For her, that behavior implies that you are too flipping lazy to make time to say “Good Morning @ShellyKramer” and want to be efficient with your tweetage, time, etc. Which really is kind of lame, when you think about it. Who wants someone to walk into a room and say “Hi Bob, Sara, Joe, Tom, Susie and Melissa” instead of just greeting you individually? Count me in the camp that would prefer a personal convo any day.

Perhaps this policy change – although not clearly defined – is a good impetus for change for Twitter users. It will not only help us keep spammers out of our Twitter feeds, but hopefully it will also revive a better version of #FollowFriday.

As a bonus, if people actually started talking more with one another, instead of hitting the Easy (Lazy) Button, what would be the downside? A few extra seconds each day actually being engaged in one-on-one conversation? Seems like a big potential upside to me. I suppose it’s not entirely unlikely that I’d look at it that way. Frighteningly enough, I have noticed that I’m becoming more and more my mother’s daughter. Holy crap, am I ever in trouble!

What do you think about the spam policy? Will impact how you communicate during #FF and/or if you’ve long moved past #FF, how about how it might impact how you communicate with communities you belong to?  Will it change the way you “talk” with your friends on Twitter? Do you love it? Hate it? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Absolutely, I’ll definitely own the fact I’ve been guilty of throwing a list of @’s together. For me it was done because of a mix of laziness and want to be efficient. I’ve tried my best cut that out though and make sure I communicate on an individual basis. Agree, #FF has already evolved so much perhaps the spam policy change will help do way with the big #FF lists once and for all.

  • I think the main point I was really trying to focus in on is that with just putting lists of people out there your failing to take a moment to talk about why a person is worth following. My biggest beef is that #FF used to be a practice where people took a moment to say “@TFBPromotions:disqus is awesome because they love to talk about unicorns and glitter just like I do! If you do too check them out”.

    Because we all nowadays seem to be running around crazy, it became quicker and easier to slap together a list of handles with a #FF at the end and call it a day. Which pretty much defeats the purpose of the practice. From a straight up connector standpoint I get listing people’s handles by category so it’s a quick reference list of people that might have similar interests – but in my opinion if they are really worth following you can take a minute and tell me why. Not only a great compliment to that individual, but also a great way for me to really learn about that person.

  • Agree I noticed that the “now trending” “TT” are just as annoying as the list of handles with a spam link. I’m hoping the spam policy updates will decrease these types of Tweets and/or at least clean them up so they are more legitimate.

  • Agree with the abuse or overuse of #FF I think some people have simply gotten burned out by the practice – hence #FollowFriday now appearing as posts on people’s blogs, a #FollowFriday site etc. At the very least I hope it cuts down on the spam! Complete agree with your #FF methodology. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment!

  • Reporting is good! I’m sure @ShellyKramer:disqus contributes quite a few spam reports – you should try to give her a run for that title ; )

  • Amen! Educating people about the proper way to engage is so huge – thank you for saying this. Please keep doing this good service out there in the social world! Thanks also for stopping by and weighing in the on the post!

  • Well welcome to Twitter! I don’t consider myself an expert Twitter user at all, but I have learned that a personal recommendation is the best way to convey that one of your Twimigos is the bee knees and why people should follow them.

  • Agree the channel can get pretty crowded with all that going on!

  • Absolutely Mari – I agree with every single word you wrote. Thanks for synthesizing my thoughts so well ; ) I also agree with quality over quantity. Thanks so much for stopping in to comment.

  • #LeSigh good for them that they at least put together a little blurb but repeatedly sending out the same message. Yuck. So glad you liked the post – thanks for stopping in to comment!

  •  Well, I’ll have to remember not to [email protected]:disqus to the group “Good mornings” I do sometimes…! I do them sometimes, not all the time, and when I do, it’s either to people who know each other, or people I think should meet. Of course I also talk to them via individual messages, but quite a few have made new connections because of this, and do the same now. To each their own. :p

    I don’t do #FF the regular way any more, stopped doing it a while back. I felt it was becoming a kind of competition, so while I appreciate anyone who gives me one, to me, the best thing I can to do help showcase someone is talk to them one-on-one, go to their blog, ask them to guest post on mine, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Valid point, Hansjorg. And each to his or her own, I suppose. I like personalizing my conversations – but do, however, see how it might be considered “too much” by others. Always a good discussion. 

  • Anonymous

    I see your point, Sharon. And while I don’t have as many followers as you, I have a fair amount. I’m not necessarily saying that every conversation should avoid multiple @ mentions (although based on the changes to the spam policy, it might well be smart to do so), but I think that it’s not a bad idea to also engage in one on one interaction. And I know that you do that, too.
    My comment is more specific to people who ALWAYS send multiple “hello” at mentions, which, to me, seems rather impersonal. And it happens to me quite often. I’d much rather you speak to me less often, but when you do, speak just to me instead of to a group. 

    But once again, the beauty of any medium is that what’s right for you is the best solution. You’ll rarely see a group post from me, but when I see one from you, based on the depth of our existing relationship and the many conversations we’ve had, it doesn’t bother me a bit. And maybe therein lies the difference!

    Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts. I always love your big brain.

  • Anonymous

    Heartfelt. Spontaneous. Can never go wrong there, Bridget!! I’m with you. 

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  • Alas, many of us have got lifes to live and fulltime jobs to do. I barely have enough spare time to do the shoutouts in the first place, let alone add a reason why to follow someone for all of my 10k+ followers individually. That would be up to my followers to click and decide if they want to follow someone. About 95% of my followers always follow back anyway, which is the main point. As I said, I try to list people with similar interests together, eg. all animal lovers, authors, bands, rock music lovers, beliebers, christians, human rights activists, news feeds, techies, charities, promoters, etc etc., which makes the reason more obvious and a description less required.

    My main description is “100% #TFB”, ie. follow these people and expect them to follow you back.

    I hear you though, and I really wish I had more spare time, and also more than 140 characters…

  •  Gr8 post Shelly, you gave some really cool examples of how to make #FF Better..

    In general you have a gr8 point, make the FF personal, tell why we should follow a person, that way it wont be a spam..

    Thanks for sharing, i was not aware of it, and its good to know.

  • Katherine,
    I like the idea of more one-on-one real life interaction. But one can’t be authentic about that unless they really want to be. For #FF I really try to avoid long lists – I try to focus on a few people who deliver real content in a certain niche.

    But there are many reasons to allow the lists. Case in point, breaking news when you’re trying to get the attention of select folks. As Ray pointed out below, i think there are genuine conversations that take place, especially in certain chats and I wonder if this will impact those. Also as Ray pointed out – mom – “she’s special.” (This is coming from someone who referred to her mom as her “birthing vehicle” in a newspaper article – still catching smack for that one )

  • Katherine M

    Hi Judy,

    From a journalistic standpoint, I definitely can understand how lists are very helpful – especially when their is something big going on. Regardless of how you use it, hopefully Twitter’s policies don’t impede conversations between people who value and often use Twitter as a conversation channel.