Twitter announced today that it will impose major restrictions on the use of automation and bulk-tweeting tools.
It’s the latest in a series of moves by Twitter to combat the spread of spam, false information, or bots on its network.
The motivation behind these new restrictions is to significantly limit the amount of identical information — like that containing false information or propaganda — being tweeted out by multiple accounts.
Why Twitter Has Imposed These Restrictions
That sort of activity is often conducted on platforms designed for Twitter automation and what’s also known as “bulk tweeting,” in which identical tweets are scheduled in advance to be sent out by multiple accounts, or sent by one and retweeted by several others.
In fact, according to the official announcement — penned by Twitter’s Manager of Trust and Safety, Yoel Roth — Twitter has even incorporated changes to its own platform of this kind, TweetDeck, to reflect these new rules.
“Users of TweetDeck,” wrote Roth on the Twitter Developer Blog, “will no longer be able to select multiple accounts through which to perform an action such as Tweeting, Retweeting, liking, or following.”
Twitter is among many online communities that are continuously working to make improvements to the way they’re used and can be manipulated, as the investigation into the weaponization of such networks to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election proceeds. Medium also announced policy changes today, and Facebook recently introduced a pen-and-paper authentication method for candidates looking to run political campaign ads on its own platform.
“A stunning amount of information has come to the light about the magnitude of disinformation spread on social media, as well as the extent to which these platforms let it happen,” says Henry Franco, HubSpot’s Social Media Campaign Associate. “This looks like part of a push from within these companies to reduce the ease with which bad actors can reach such a wide audience.”
What This Means for Social Marketers
While banning such activity could curb the presence of widespread misinformation on Twitter, there’s a catch: Many marketers use these tools for similar purposes to share promotional information and links.
So what does this new policy mean for the marketers for whom such automation was the holy grail of Twitter efficiency?
First, it’s important to note that these new rules won’t impose a blanket restriction. The posting of such information as real-time updates pertaining to natural disasters or other widespread emergencies, as well as RSS feeds, will still be permitted through the use of automation. However, it can only be shared through a single account.
But Franco advises social marketers to take a step back to examine the work they’ve already done, and where they’ve seen success — pointing primarily to the chances that they’ve already weathered numerous algorithm updates from more than one channel.
“As always, social media managers will need to closely monitor algorithm changes in order to be successful on any platform,” he advises. “While automation is no longer an option, marketers have always been able to find innovative and effective ways to manage communications on these channels.”
It points to the age-old rule of inbound marketing: Quality content, on any platform, is going ultimately going to be the most successful. And while marketers might manage multiple accounts under a single brand, diversifying the content shared on them provides a better user experience — especially since users might be following these account to seek different types of information from each one.
Where Automation Stands Now
That doesn’t mean that automation can’t still be used. It appears that tweets can still be scheduled in advance from a single account — though we advise exercising caution in doing so and making sure inappropriate tweets aren’t sent out in the event of a major global event.
Those tweets also can’t be duplicated or retweeted by other accounts that you run, “regardless of whether the Tweets are published to Twitter at the same time, or are scheduled/queued for future publication,” reads the official statement.
And just as Twitter has already rolled out modifications to TweetDeck functionalities, it strongly encourages developers of similar applications to do the same. These changes must go into force and comply with the new policies by March 23, 2018.
HubSpot is also making updates to its own product to honor the new policies.
“Twitter has made it clear that it’s changing its own TweetDeck product to meet the new guidelines,” says Jeffrey Vocell, HubSpot’s senior product marketing manager. “Here at HubSpot, we are also evaluating these new guidelines, and will make applicable changes to our social product as necessary.”