What the New Twitter Rules Mean for Content Promotion and Employee Advocacy

Is your Twitter sharing set up to automatically share the same tweet to multiple accounts? As of March 23rd, that's against Twitter's terms of service. See how to adapt to the new rules here.

Twitter is changing.

As of March 23rd, you can no longer share the same tweet to multiple accounts simultaneously or even to the same account, either simultaneously or over time.

So if you’ve been scheduling the same tweet to be posted more than once, or you have personal and business Twitter accounts that you share the same content to, that all ends today.

This applies to any scheduling or promotional Twitter tool that would let you create one tweet and then “simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content to multiple accounts” or even to the same account. Tools like Buffer, Hiplay, Quuu, Missinglettr and Dlvr.it, among many others, all offer this functionality.

There has been some confusion around the web about this. Specifically, about whether or not you can reshare identical or even “substantially similar” tweets from one account.

The public statement Twitter put out about these changes (cited above) does not explicitly say that duplicate tweets from the same account are no longer okay. It says,

Do not (and do not allow your users to) simultaneously post identical or substantially similar content to multiple accounts. “ (Our italics)

That cites multiple accounts, but does not say single accounts can’t send duplicate tweets.

However, it appears that emails sent from Twitter to their developers did say that duplicate tweets from one account are no longer okay.

As one commenter on the Dlvr.it blog, wrote:

New Twitter rules 2018

So if you’re confused, you’re not alone. Many of the services that let you schedule multiple duplicate tweets from the same account (like Buffer and Hiplay) seem to have thought these new rule changes did not apply to duplicate tweets sent from the same account. We all understood that sending identical tweets out to multiple accounts was no longer okay, but things got murky when it came to what individual accounts could do.

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But other services that offer these scheduled reshares, like MeetEdgar and Missinglettr, did seem to grok what Twitter’s emails to their developers said – that duplicate tweets from one account are no longer okay.

And a tweet to the fellow who actually wrote Twitter’s announcement about the new rules, Yoel Roth, confirmed that Twitter’s TOS says identical tweets from the same account are spam:

New Twitter rules - what about duplicate content from the same account?

What is considered spam in the new Twitter rules?

So despite all the confusion, that appears to be the final consensus: No more duplicate tweets from the same account. They are spam.

This is a major change for anyone who promotes new content (or anything) by setting up a series of tweets and scheduling them to go out.

As one commenter on Twitter said, “I’m going to have to delete my Buffer queue.”

How rigorous Twitter is going to be about enforcing this new rule is yet to be seen. As Yoel Roth noted, Twitter’s definition of spam as duplicate tweets has been on the books for a while. A lot of us have been, by that definition, spamming our feeds for years.

How different your tweets need to be is also unclear. But we’ve got some ideas for how to address that issue below.

Mass likes and retweets and follows are also out

The new Twitter rules also say, “The use of any form of automation (including scheduling) to post identical or substantially similar content, or to perform actions such as Likes or Retweets, across many accounts that have authorized your app (whether or not you created or directly control those accounts) is not permitted.”

This will probably affect far fewer marketers than the no-duplicate-tweets-from-one-account rule. But if you’ve been using software to automatically mass like or retweet tweets, that needs to stop, too.

It also means mass following people is over, too. “Users of TweetDeck will no longer be able to select multiple accounts through which to perform an action such as Tweeting, Retweeting, liking, or following.”

The Twitter rules for developers continue, “If your app or service includes features which allow users to perform simultaneous actions across multiple accounts, you should make changes to bring it into compliance with this policy by March 23, 2018. Failure to comply with these rules could result in enforcement action, up to and including the suspension of associated applications and accounts.”

This really shows what Twitter is aiming for here. As you’ve probably guessed, Twitter’s new rules are largely going after the type of bots and propaganda tools we’ve all been hearing about on the news lately. Twitter has to take action before their platform drowns in spam and bots and fake accounts.

Mass-liking tweets or automating hundreds of accounts to retweet the same message is an ideal way to manipulate a tweet’s, or a hashtag’s, or even a message’s or an idea’s visibility.

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And so, to suppress the influence of the bots and bad actors, we’re all going to have to up our game. Twitter marketing must become less spammy.

The implications of the new Twitter rules on employee advocacy

If you’ve been encouraging your employees to tweet about your company’s content, and you’ve been giving them all a pre-formatted tweet to just paste into their social media feeds, that has to stop.

There are programs that tout their ability to do these sorts of mass shares. It’s also possible to schedule some of those automated, mass-shares so they post later. This makes an automated action look less automated, but with these new Twitter rules, this is all against Twitter terms of service.

So hopefully your employee advocacy program is not so fully automated.

Maybe you’ve just been casually announcing new content to your team or your entire company. You do this by shooting out an email that basically says: “It’s live – please share!” And your team writes their own tweets and sends them out.

So long as those tweets are substantially different, you’re still okay. Your team can also retweet a message from your company’s Twitter account, so long as it’s “done from a small number of distinct accounts that you directly control”.

So what is “substantially different”? Good question. Again, Twitter has not expressly defined this. But here are a few ways for tweets to be “substantially different”

  • They use a different image
  • They have a link with a unique tracking code
  • The hashtags are different
  • There are a few words of commentary, and those words are unique to each tweet

All four of those things may not need to be different for each tweet. But to guess, I’d say that if you have any two of those four things different across every tweet, you’re probably okay. Having three out of four of those things be different would be even better.

You could still send a pre-formatted tweet (or even better, several completely different pre-formatted tweets) and ask your employees to modify those tweets a bit before they posted.

You might ask them to stagger their posts a bit so the tweets don’t all go out at once. Perhaps some trick like, “if your last name begins with A to K, please share today and then again next week. If your name begins with L to Z, please share tomorrow and the week after next.”

Perfect system? No. Not even a little. But the days of easy automation on Twitter may be over.

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Despite that, you still need a way to get your content some exposure and shares. And content desperately needs those shares. Remember, social shares have fallen by 50% in the last few years. A new report from BuzzSumo recently announced that the average piece of content only gets four shares, down from an average of eight shares in 2015.

Employee advocacy is one of the best ways to beat that depressing number. It’s just that now marketers will have to share content in a way that looks more like how humans share, and less like how bots share.

This could (should?) help Twitter become more authentic and interesting. It may also mean more work.

Closing thoughts

Twitter’s new rules remind me so much of the Google Algorithm updates of the past.

Were you around for those updates? The ones where automatic spammy link building got some sites penalized? Or the technique of “article marketing” where you took one article and published it verbatim across 100 sites … and how that technique then hurt some sites in some Google updates?

Then there was “article spinning”, where instead of using the identical article across multiple sites, you bought software to make that one article look different, even though the resulting articles were basically unreadable, and existed only to point cheap links to your site and fool the search engines?

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I actually think we may see some “tweet spinning” software develop from these new rules. If each tweet has to be unique, then the obvious way to get around that is to create a piece of software that spins multiple calls to action, multiple images, and multiple hashtags to create unique tweets that can be posted safely.

This is probably not what Twitter wants, but marketers and developers have to get traffic and shares.

Let’s face it: There’s a long history of people trying to game the internet. Seems like Twitter might be just getting a little more sophisticated, like Google did about a decade ago.

As it gets harder to automate some social media work, reporting will continue to get more important. Tracking your Twitter account’s performance is critical. Who knows… maybe sending more unique tweets may even improve your results from Twitter. Only your reports can tell you.

Pam Neely
Written By Pam Neely
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