Sunday 12 December 2010

Look after your Twitter account - don't be a jailbird!

Once you get hooked on using Twitter for comping, your account becomes vital to you, not only for entering competitions but for keeping in touch with the new  friends you will make there, so if the time comes that you are unable to use your account, you will understandably be upset. So here are some tips for keeping your account healthy and usable.

There are three ways your account can become unusable
  1. Twitter Jail this is a temporary suspension of your account, preventing you from Tweeting
  2. Not showing up in Twitter search you can still Tweet and your friends may be able to read your messages but if a company is searching for competition entries  yours won't show up
  3. Account suspended if this happens, you can't use your account at all, indefinitely,  and will need to either appeal to  Twitter or start a new  account.
So what happens in each case? What have you done to cause it and how can you prevent or cure it?

Twitter Jail

Twitter allows you to make a maximum of 1,000 Tweets in one day  (that's any 24 hour period, not midnight to midnight) with no more than 100 in any one hour. If you go  over this number, you will suddenly find that you can't Tweet any more, although you MAY still be able to send Direct Messages. You also have a limit of 250 DMs  a day - if you have exceeded this, you won't  be able to send anything at all. Not being able to Tweet is known as Twitter Jail and if you are lucky, will only last for  around  an hour but COULD last for up to 24 hours. While you are in jail, you will still receive Tweets and DMs as normal.

If you find  yourself in Twitter Jail, there is nothing you can do about it. Don't panic, just accept it.  Send your closest friends a direct message telling them  you can't Tweet, if you think they will be missing you, but don't ask them to start posting "Get out of jail" pleas for you. Not only will it not help, it might get them sent to jail for over tweeting too! The only thing you can do is to wait - once Twitter has decided that you have served your time, your account will be back to normal.

You may occasionally find yourself sent to Twitter Jail when you are sure you have not over tweeted. There are other things that Twitter considers to be misdemeanours, although we aren't always told what they are. Some people have been sent to jail for deleting a Tweet then posting an almost identical one.

As a comper, you need to be  very careful of competitions that ask you to post a Tweet or a hashtag as often as possible  - do it too often and you will soon exceed your Tweet allowance.

Something that happens more often - especially if you follow a lot of people - is that you exceed your "API allowance".  This is a rate set by Twitter, that sometimes varies if they are overloaded or having technical issues - connected to your total use over an hour.  When it happens, you will not  be able to send OR receive messages until the hour is up - but as  soon as  your hour is up, everything will be back to normal.  This isn't really Twitter Jail, just a normal occurrence, and if you use a Twitter client such as Tweet Deck, you can adjust the settings for how often you download messages and how  many you download  at once, to help make sure it happens as rarely as possible.

Not showing up in Twitter search

If Twitter starts to think you are a spammer - for the same reasons it may suspend your account (see below) - it may filter you out of the search results. This means, for instance, that if a competition asks you to Tweet a hashtag, and the winner is chosen by searching for that hashtag,  your entry won't show up. This  seems to be quite a common occurrence; in competitions I have run, I have often been puzzled to see that while somebody's entry showed up in my @ replies, it  wasn't listed among all the messages with the hashtag.

The trouble  is, it can be very hard to tell whether this is happening to you because your friends will still see your messages. You may suspect that it is happening if you are a regular winner then find you go for much longer than usual without a win - longer than a run of bad luck would  explain. You can try to check by searching for the hashtag of a competition you have recently entered. If your entry is there, then  you are safe. if it isn't, you can send Twitter a query here  under the "everything else" heading to ask whether you  are being filtered out and why. With luck, your account will be reset within a couple of days, but if you are unlucky I'm afraid you will need to open a new account.

Account Suspended

If this happens to you, there is  no going back - your account is closed for good and you will not be able to use it any more. Twitter does this to prevent abuse, identity theft and spamming, so we should all be very glad they do it, but unfortunately the way some competitions are run puts us all in danger of losing our accounts. There is a list here  of Twitter's rules. Breaking them occasionally can lead to you not showing up in Twitter search - serious or repeated breaking of the rules will lead to your account being closed.

So which of these are of most concern to compers?
  • being blocked by a lot of other people. If  your friends and family get annoyed by your comping tweets, they may block you. One way round this is to have two accounts, one for your non-comping friends  and one for competitions and comping friends. Also if you retweet other people's competition entries,  and don't stop it when they ask you to, they are very likely to block you,endangering not only your competition  entries but your entire Twitter account!
  • your updates consisting mostly of links and not personal updates. If you ONLY use your Twitter account for comping and don't interact with anybody, this could well happen to you. Why not interact with some of the other compers on Twitter? You are always welcome to say hello to me for a start!
  • you post multiple duplicate updates. In most cases you only need to enter a competition once. The T&C may let you post once an hour or once a day - check this. But entering over and over again won't help your chances of winning and might do a lot of damage to your account. Promoters who ask you to "tweet this as often as possible" are themselves breaking Twitter's rules for running a competition, as are those who make.....
  • you tweet hashtags in unrelated updates. If you tweet a hashtag, it MUST be connected  to the text of your tweet. If a competition asks you to tweet the tag  #winathon  and  you were  to tweet "I had baked beans for tea #winathon" then, unless the competition was about baked beans, you would be breaking the rules.
  • you have multiple  accounts and  post the same thing on each. You might think it's smart to have several accounts  with different names so you  can enter every competition several times  - but Twitter is watching!
If Twitter is considering closing  your account,  it may filter you out of search for a time while it investigates you. If it eventually decides to close your account, you will have no option but to start again, building up your list of friends  from scratch - so take care of your account and Tweet wisely!

If a promoter is running a competition that you feel puts you at risk  of breaking these rules,why not send them a link to the rules for running a competition on Twitter?


  1. nicola cowdell-murraySunday, December 12, 2010

    great info thanks , im relatively new to twitter and was wondering why i kept gettin thrown into twitter jail lol x

  2. Jane,
    This is really interesting, thanks very much. I now understand a lot more about twitter rules.

  3. how do i not get put in twit filter? how best can i avoid it
    i know tweeting less but a lot of comps have hashtags
    and we all get over excited if its a good prize
    please can you give me some tips in simple terms
    love @captainscarletz

  4. The best way to avoid getting filtered out is to make sure at least 1 in 10 of your tweets are NOT comp entries - not RTs, not tweets including hashtags, but general chat. Talk to friends, talk about the weather - just tweet about what you had for your last meal if you can't think of anything else to say! That way, twitter considers your account to be better quality, even if the things you tweet are absolute rubbish.

    The other golden rule is to ONLY use the hashtags in relevant tweets. If you use one for a comp, don't add it to general tweets to friends, only use it when you are tweeting about the comp. You can get your account filtered out or even suspended for using irrelevant hashtags.

    And don't get over excited and tweet too much. For most comps, even if you allowed to tweet more than once, all your tweets will still only get you one entry into the comp.

  5. to be on the safe side ill enter 7 comps and use 3 chats
    or i can chat in between comps it makes sense now
    thank you so much
    all the best
    im in filterville at the moment :( its not good :P

  6. Hi Jane @CaptainScarletz drew my attention to the filtering done on twitter and I noticed my # are going un noticed arggggh, after reading your post above I have now got a ticket and await a response from twitter! Thank you for this explanation much appreciated xxx @chrriss88

  7. Thanks for this - interesting reading and makes a few things clearer on twitter now.


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