October 25, 2014

Twitter Suspension? First Step: Don’t Panic

Twitter suspension

Since last week, lots of legitimate business accounts have been suspended and then unsuspended on Twitter. Here’s more on what’s been happening and what to do if you find yourself in the same situation.

Legitimate Business Accounts Getting Suspended

It’s been fairly common for pure spam accounts to get suspended.  Most Twitter users applaud spam crackdowns.

But what’s less common is when legitimate small business users get their Twitter accounts suspended.

That happened just this week in the business community, with numerous reports of business users getting suspended.  It even happened to a small account used by a member of the Small Business Trends team. It also happened to another sizable account of one of our best contributors.

Luckily, all of the accounts we know of were reinstated.  No one seems to know why they were suspended in the first place.  Here are some of the reactions to this latest round of suspensions:

 

Anatomy of a Twitter Suspension in Error

Small Business Trends contributor and branding consultant Deborah Shane discovered her Twitter account suspended at about 9 p.m. on May 7.

Shane reviewed the Twitter rules and quickly determined she had not intentionally (or to her knowledge — unintentionally) violated any of the rules.  She filled out and submitted the “file a report” form that appeared when she tried to log into her account.

In the online form, she politely asked why her account had been suspended. She stated that she had not violated any Twitter rules. She explained that her Twitter account was vital for operation of her business and asked how to get reinstated.

Though she couldn’t use her Twitter account, of course, Shane immediately started leveraging her other networks, including LinkedIn, to try to communicate with someone at Twitter. “What I find very troubling is the complete lack of any human communication whatsoever. It’s all automated,” said Shane.

Others she had communicated with had had similar experiences and told her the service would likely be reinstated within about 48 hours.

Sure enough, by the early evening of May 9, about 48 hours after her account had been suspended, Shane found she had been reinstated. She has concluded the suspension was an error based on information provided to her in an automated email from the company. Twitter jail

Algo Tripped?

Twitter has a long list of violations in its rules that will get accounts suspended and put you in Twitter jail.  Let’s take a look at some of these.

One grounds for suspension is “aggressive following.” A Twitter best practices page defines this behavior as “indiscriminately following hundreds of accounts just to garner attention. However, following a few users if their accounts seem interesting is normal and is not considered aggressive.”

Call us crazy, but we thought the whole point of Twitter was following others!  All kidding aside, it appears that following too many other accounts too quickly, is what will get you in trouble.

Another behavior Twitter discourages is “follow churn.”  Twitter defines this as “repeatedly following and un-following large numbers of other users.” We’re not sure why people would do this. It may be a misguided attempt to get around Twitter follow limits (Twitter limits how many you can follow in proportion to how many follow you). So you follow people, and as soon as they follow you back, then you unfollow them so you can follow others. Of course, this kind of behavior is risky, not to mention rude. You could get banned.

Having your Twitter account compromised or hacked can also lead to suspension.  In this case, suspension is a good thing.  It protects everyone from malware and other issues.  Suspension in this case is less painful than your reputation getting smeared when all your followers get spammed with offensive stuff from your account.

Political pundits using Twitter sometimes push things to the limit with behavior that can lead to suspension. This post on RedState discusses examples of intentionally trying to get other users kicked off Twitter, in order to silence political foes.  However, most business users don’t engage in that kind of deliberate targeting behavior.

Small business users understand the value of Twitter. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs spend considerable time and money building a Twitter following.  They don’t want to risk suspensions from deliberate behaviors.

True, there are aggressive online marketers who push the envelope.  But most Main Street small businesses don’t want to take such risks.

So back to the question.  What caused the recent round of Twitter suspensions of non-spam business accounts?

Over the years it’s been reported that Twitter has automated algorithms to detect violations of its rules.  It’s quite possible that an algorithm was somehow tripped in error snagging all these business accounts.  Or it could simply have been a systems glitch of some kind.  (We contacted Twitter for an explanation but received no response.)

More Rules: Why a Twitter Account Can Be Suspended

The Twitter Rules page gives a list of limitations on how to use Twitter. Ignoring these could get you into trouble. They include:

  • Impersonation — You can’t intentionally try to deceive other users into believing you’re another person.
  • Trademark — You can’t claim a user name that another business or user has legal right to use.
  • Private information — You can’t share other people’s sensitive information like credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers on the site.
  • Violence and Threats — You can’t use Twitter to threaten others.
  • Copyright — Twitter has a procedure for handling claims of infringement as a result of something posted to your Twitter account.
  • Unlawful use — You can’t use Twitter in a way that would either break the law or cause it to be broken.
  • Misuse of Twitter Badges — You can’t use official badges such as the Verified badge unless Twitter has given them to you.

There is also a list of activities Twitter considers spamming.  The list is extensive.

You might be surprised by what Twitter says it will take into account as evidence of  “spam.”   Most business users are.

Take a few minutes to study this list.  Note that the rules do not say that each of the items is by itself spam — just that they are “factors” Twitter will take into account in determining whether the account is spam.

We imagine that Twitter looks at an account in its entirety to determine spamming.  Otherwise, a lot of business accounts (even from mega-brands) would be considered spam for such behaviors as primarily tweeting out links rather than personal updates.  Yes, that’s on the spam list.

Try to look objectively at your own account. If you or your staff members are intentionally engaging in multiple behaviors on the Twitter spam list — you are living on borrowed time.  Make changes before you get suspended.

Twitter suspension help

How to Deal with a Twitter Suspension

First, don’t panic! Being suspended from Twitter can be scary, especially if Twitter is part of your marketing and customer service outreach.

But it’s important to keep your cool.  Don’t rant and rave at Twitter, or get abusive. Remain polite and businesslike.

We know you feel outraged. You may even feel betrayed if you’ve spent a lot of time touting the benefits of Twitter for business.  But letting emotions rule will not help.  Follow these steps:

Step 1 — Carefully review all of Twitter’s guidelines again to be sure you have not violated the rules, even accidentally.

Step 2 — Fill out the form provided when you attempt to log in, to appeal the account suspension. Be sure to explain that you have followed all guidelines as far as you know. Ask for a way to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

Step 3 – Monitor the email inbox associated with your Twitter account, too. You may get one or more automated responses from Twitter that you MUST respond to, or they will consider your appeal closed.

Step 4 — Give it time. Many members have reported reinstatement can take up to 48 hours.  But some accounts have been reinstated in just a few hours’ time. If you discover and report the suspension outside of regular business hours, expect it to take longer.

Tip:  Don’t freak out if your Twitter account returns with zero followers at first!  This appears to be normal in most cases, especially if the suspension was an error.  You probably will not have to beg everyone to follow you again. Give it a few hours and your Twitters followers will all likely be back.  It happened that way in all the erroneous Twitter suspensions we learned about from business owners.

Remember, you’re not alone.  Other business users have been in your shoes and survived.

Have you had your Twitter account suspended? Have any advice to share? Please post it in the comments below.

Twitter, Twitter bird, Jail Photos via Shutterstock

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Shawn Hessinger - Editor


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

53 Reactions

  1. I follow a lot of people on Twitter because I love reading and sharing a lot of information. It bothers me that I could be suspended for wanting to use the website for the way it was intended to be used. I have had some people very rudely follow me to get my attention and get me to follow them, and then quickly unfollow me. I do believe that should be a violation.

  2. I am so glad you wrote this, as this week my follower count dropped from 6422 to 124, and yep, I went through the same process. What really bothered me about that was that I have been selective and thoughtful about building my Twitter following. Less is more to me. I was restored in about 36 hrs, after I submitted 5 service tickets (thought that might get their attention). I got an actual reply from an (automated) human. And today I got a follow up asking me to rate their service. That was kind of funny. Never have had any issues with LinkedIn, Facebook or my podcast, just Twitter. I did decide that no social media was going to rule me or make me to feel insane. That’s the best reason to have your own real estate.

  3. Oy vey,
    So sorry to hear you’ve suffered so much trouble on this score, Deborah. Hopefully it’s finally resolved now. Also, hopefully Twitter will eventually realize that unnecessarily inconveniencing valuable contributors is no way to build a community.

    • Hi, Shawn- excellent article! My Twitter account was suspended and then quickly unsuspended. The automated Twitter messages that I received say that I am not suspended. I’ve lost my Followers. My account is also not 100% functionable either. How long will it take to get back to normal and get my Followers back?

      Just Followed you on Facebook. :)

      Many Thanks!
      George Papadakis

  4. Great job explaining Twitter’s rules, Shawn!

    I know that there are millions of users on Twitter, but isn’t there a way for Twitter to provide a bit of a human touch?

    Why can’t someone respond…within 24 hours?

    The Franchise King®

    @FranchiseKing on Twitter

    • Hi Joel, I think you’ve made good points about timeliness and human interaction. It’s one thing if it’s a personal account. It’s another thing if you are using Twitter for your business.

      These social media companies are quick to try to sell businesses on the benefits of advertising. But it does absolutely nothing to build goodwill of the business community when accounts are suspended apparently in error, you can’t reach anyone and it takes a lot of time to get resolved. It’s especially bad to turn off an influencer like Deborah. If she gets completely alienated, she will simply advise clients to find other social platforms.

      – Anita

  5. What is so funny is now they are sending me feedback survey’s. How did we do? Since my followers were restored, I am now getting over 100 DM’s from people who look like they were my followers thanking me for following them. Now I have to go in and delete them manually. Double Oye. Pretty over Twitter at the moment.

  6. Not all tweets are so personal, that’s why I guess it happens. Perhaps also the reasons you’re describing here are important. I guess it can happen to everybody. The main thing is not to panic and wait at least 42 hours, because as we can see after that period you are unreleased again.

  7. Yes we have run into the same thing. We are not sure why they have suspended us. We only tweet twice a day and we thank folks for retweeting. People love getting the updates. We assumed a jealous competitor or hacker had flagged us. We are still waiting to get unsuspended. It’s been under 24hrs.

  8. bob de brabander

    I never exually got suspended but I cant recover my account on my own?
    I got suspended this morning and allready sent 3 tickets, I really want to have my account back because I had 4k followers which I had to work for a whole month!

  9. bob de brabander

    Do you have any tips?

  10. This really buzzes me off! My @BuzzCicada account was suspended on 6/11/13. As of today, it is still not restored. As I stated in a blog post about the problem, “…I’m wondering, how is it good business practice to let algorithms disconnect customers and then leave them dangling for days without personal intervention?” In the meantime, my assistant is Tweeting on my behalf at @BzztCicada. In the meantime, I’m a bugged bug.

  11. My twitter @sagswag1 has been suspended for over 48 hours now. I have now submitted 3 requests because they said my other two cases had been “closed” with no explanation as to why I was suspended. I am not a business and I do not frequently follow or @mention people, nor do I post about violence or pornography. I really can’t find the issue. It’s very frustrating to me

  12. Going through this at the moment. I was baffled at first, but it helps to know its happening to a lot of other accounts too. Fingers crossed for a speedy resolution!!

  13. Getting repeatedly suspended/restored, all without notice. Latest: restored yesterday, sent 1 tweet, suspended within 10-minute.

    Their system must be super smart, or stupid, to be able to determine enough to suspend on one tweet.

    Still waiting… @travelogx

  14. Mine’s got suspended for supposedly “threatening” people but I doubt it was. Because it was against some pop star, I guess some who lurked thought it was “threatening” enough to get suspended. Oh well, if I have to wait 48 hours to see my following/followers numbers back, so be it.

  15. Just went through this myself too. Said my violation was misuse of the reply/mention feature. I’ve sent an email trying to understand how this can be when I have hardly ever, if at all, used reply. I initially received a “canned” response, which I replied to and asked for further clarification. I’ve gone through all their rules and don’t believe I have ever violated any of them. How frustrating. GRrrr!

  16. I signed up with a weird email that is now gone, and I can’t get anything back! Will my account come back by itself too?

  17. We just got the account suspended thing too and as it’s tied in with our entertainment website, it just seemed really odd.

    Thanks for writing this article as I was confused on how this happened as we barely follow people and don’t go against any of their rules, regulations and so forth.

    I’ve noticed over the past week several accounts that we Tweet & RT had been suspended and they’re very large ones so I’m assuming their algorithm has been kicking a lot of people off who shouldn’t be.

    The one thing I’ve noticed though is that it’s not kicking off those spammers though that the whole algorithm is in place for.

  18. I was surprised to read “your account suspended”. I followed the steps as stated by clicking links. I got the email from Twitter Support. I filled in. It is nearing 48 hrs with no news of revoking my suspension. Being an old soldier I do not violate any of the Twitter Rules. I am unable to guess the reason for my suspension. Of cource all my followers and followed is shown as Zero. After reading the blog I gained some hope that my suspension might be removed or at least Twitter might tell me my fault if any

  19. I was suspended on July 12 and I have received NOTHING, no email, no anything. I followed the steps after my suspension to get reinstated and have created an alternative Twitter account. I have connected with some of my followers but for the most part, my followers on the other account aren’t following. Being reduced from 2,624 followers to 17 is really frustrating, Ginger and Debilus don’t seem interested in responding to me. What’s the deal :(

  20. My twitter account is also suspended. I’m waiting 2 day’s now.
    I’d try everything but it doesn’t work anymore.
    And now?

  21. I think that I got suspended because I followed too many people at one time. But I think Twitter should tell us or give us a warning before suspend us. Thank for this, I really appreciated. How long do I wait tho ?

  22. My account has been suspended, and I filled out the form about suspended accounts with an apology for following too many people. Twitter then produced a screen saying I would receive an email response to this form submission. I have not received anything. I have now been suspended for 5-6 days and I don’t know what else to do. Twitter hasn’t responded in any way, the emails aren’t coming through at all (even to junk folder), so I’m out of ideas! Anyone got any clue?

  23. Dear twitter please kindly activate my followers/following

  24. Anyone ever have this happen to them? I was suspended because of too many @mentions and I posted the same link to a blog of mine a few times too many. I have only has this new twittter account for about a month and a half. Any chance it can re restored? It happened on Tuesday of this week and still nothing. I politely explained my situation to them multiple times and got this reply back each time. Never had a problem with twitter up until now. Anyone have any advice or input? Thanks!

    “Hello,
    This account was suspended for sending multiple unsolicited messages using the @reply and/or mention feature. These features are intended to make communication between people on Twitter easier. Twitter monitors the use of these features to make sure they are used as intended and not for abuse. Using either feature to post messages to a bunch of users in an unsolicited or egregious manner is considered an abuse of its use, which results in account suspension. As this appears to be a repeat violation, this account will not be restored.
    Thanks,
    Twitter Support
    @Support”

    • MJ, have never had that happen. But it sounds like you probably need to start over and watch the @mentions next time. This is the first time I’ve heard of anyone getting a message saying their account “will not be restored.” Sounds final to me.

      – Anita

  25. Hi! My account @amckercher has been suspended earlier in the week, and it still is! Someone help me! It is killing me. I need twitter. I dont know why I have been suspended I didnt break any rules or anything!
    :(

    • Alyssa, sorry your account was suspended. I think you’re really better off contacting Twitter directly while taking into account the awesome details Shawn has shared on this post.

      Hope your account gets reinstated. Good luck.

  26. I want my twitter account back and unsuspended now please thank_You

  27. My Twitter account’s never been suspended. Fingers crossed, it’ll stay that way. What it reminds me of though was when one of my Blogger blogs got suspended by Google for no apparent reason. To my knowledge, I’d broken no rules. So I just put it down to Google’s automation system having a hiccup (it later got reinstated once I contacted them). It sounds like it might be a similar thing happening with Twitter’s system with some innocent accounts getting caught up in it.

  28. Hi ! I retweeted a lot of tweets and sharing all website to gain more follower’s then I was afraid cause that my account was SUSPENDED, I’m afraid that my twitter account wouldn’t be used, how many hours, day’s, week’s, and months till the Suspended will lasts ? I need your Help, I’m now panicing about it.

  29. ♥ CHINITALL ♥ @iamjomar15

    This is my Twitter Username @iamjomar15 please help me to back my account I need it.

  30. What I don’t understand is how I got suspended when I just made my account 5 mins ago. I read all the rules and I KNOW I didn’t violate them – even the aggressive following one. I added in 13 doing the help sessions thing (‘add 5 of this’ and then ‘add 5 of these’ and then ‘add 5 friends’…. I did 13…). I added two more later on that I thought of that I wanted to follow. I posted a general ‘tweet’ to my account and I posted a reply to a tweet on one of my follows.

    Whammo… suspended. I don’t get it. I knew I didn’t want to join Twitter!

  31. RB RADIO SHOW™ (@REALBROTHER0003)

    I was suspended after Racists posting my personal information and address and threatened to rape my underage daughter as well as my wife. The Monsters Todd Kincannon and Robert Melinicki(@Rem63489) and a couple of other Racist bullies would call for my death post my address personal info every day. Twitter being owned by White Racists wanting to destroy the President did nothing. When I threatened back I was banned. Its so wrong I have never posted anyone’s personal information or threatened. They won’t reinstate me for nothing.

    TKCAL

  32. I too got the reply/mention suspension. I don’t get it. We can’t reply?

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