figurine on a pile of peanuts
PHOTO: Afif Kusuma

People all over the whole world use Twitter, from champions of free speech to corporations to politicians. But as with any social platform, Twitter attracts bad actors including fraud-bot profiles, harassers and misinformation manipulators, among others.

In an attempt to encourage genuine dialogue between users and drive away bad actors, Twitter has introduced a number of policy changes and platform features this year, including a ban on all political ads in anticipation of potential interference in this year’s US election, and a new conversation participant feature that allows Twitter users to adjust who sees their tweets, which the company announced at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show. 

The most important change for marketers is the Platform Manipulation and Spam policy. Violation of this policy can sink even the best planned Twitter strategy.

What Does Twitter Mean By 'Platform Manipulation'?

Platform manipulation occurs when two or more profiles create content that is considered spam, inauthentic engagement or, more debatable, coordinated activity. The policy covers numerous instances, so marketers should pay more attention to how Twitter determines what kind of profile usage and ownership becomes spam or manipulates the metrics. An account can be flagged, disrupting a multi-account strategy. That means social media managers or bots meant to provide a customer experience are vulnerable.

Suspensions can impact marketing of all kinds. AP News reported Twitter suspended 70 accounts tweeting on behalf of presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg. The accounts were posting identical pro-Bloomberg messages. Posting similar messages on multiple accounts with the same ownership is considered a spam tactic under the policy.

Another high-profile decision was the suspension of the Planters Baby Nut meme accounts. Meme accounts are profiles with funny videos and memes meant to draw engagement. According to The Verge, Planters had used the accounts after introducing the character during the Super Bowl as part of a larger campaign to “kill” Mr. Peanut. The campaign was suspended to avoid controversy — some experts felt it was in poor taste after the death of Kobe Bryant to speak about killing a brand icon.  But in restarting the campaign with four meme accounts, Planters inadvertently breached Twitter’s policy.

So what should marketers do make sure that your Twitter account is not suspended?

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How to Keep Your Twitter Brand Profile in the Clear 

A good simple step to take is to audit how messages are shared across key profiles and to coordinate the tools used to share those messages. Using a social media dashboard like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck allows you to set a dedicated channel for a given hashtag or account so that commentary and responses do not cross-communicate in a way the crosses the Twitter rules. A screen shot can be used to challenge a suspension decision.

Another step is to audit profile details so the profile doesn't attract trolls. Trolls bring absolutely no business value and arguing with a troll satisfies their desire for attention. Keeping a clean profile should include only sharing images and videos that demonstrate meaningful interaction with customers, as well as acknowledging engagement with followers. These signal to users — and ultimately to platforms like Twitter — that real people are behind the profile managing engagement.

Finally, analyze when people best respond to tweets and shared media. Twitter Insights provides a heat map matrix that shows time of day against the days of the week. Gradient color changes in the map show when people have viewed your tweets. The darker the color, the more engagement has occurred, helping you plan and schedule tweets for the greatest impact.

Twitter insights audience

Related Article: How to Tell if Twitter Is Right for Your Brand

Audit Your Social Presence on All Platforms, Not Just Twitter

Policies like Twitter’s Platform Manipulation and Spam are a reminder to audit how partner agencies and influencers act across all social media platforms, not just one. From my own experience with clients and potential clients there are plenty of instances where a partner who might look professional on LinkedIn has a dangerous persona on Twitter or Facebook — one which allows harassing comments or extremist viewpoints. Usually such behavior damages a brand in ways far more devastating than a suspended social media account.

The aforementioned tips should help marketers navigate the governance storms rising on social media platforms like Twitter. Expect to see more bumps along the way, such as what Planters and the Bloomberg campaign has experienced. But the changes are needed to keep social media safe. Marketers should be in lockstep to keeping their social media strategy — and their brands — safe, too.