Effective campaigning on twitter: how to avoid spamming

Campaigning on twitter can be frustratingly difficult. You want to persuade people to read your article or sign your petition but they want to look at cat pictures and moan about their lives. You have to grab their attention without annoying them so much that they unfollow you or report you for spam. Read on to see my guidelines for campaigning on twitter.

Unfortunately many campaigners are engaging in spamming. It is common for campaigners to spread links to petitions and articles by @ mentioning dozens or even hundreds of people with the same text and link in each tweet. Not only is this very annoying for people who follow that person who may see the tweet many times, it also fits twitter’s definition of spam and is likely to lead to the account being suspended. I myself have unfollowed quite a few people who I otherwise agree with so as to avoid seeing their stream of identical tweets to other people that I follow.

What defines spam? Here are the relevant rules from twitter.

Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be spamming are:

  • If you send large numbers of duplicate @replies or mentions;
  • If you send large numbers of unsolicited @replies or mentions in an attempt to spam a service or link;
  • If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates;
  • If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account;
  • If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #;
  • If you post multiple unrelated updates to a trending or popular topic;

I appreciate that this makes it difficult to campaign, but it is possible without breaking the rules and annoying people. Here are my tips.

  • Post your links on your own timeline where people can choose to follow you or not.
  • Time your main tweets for the peak times that your followers are on twitter.
  • Make tweets interesting so that people will retweet them.
  • Put an attention grabbing summary in the tweet.
  • Remember: Links on their own are useless.
  • State what you actually want people to do, eg sign a petition, pass on the story, write to an MP.
  • Post variations of your tweet every few minutes or hours to get attention from people on twitter at different times.
  • Seed links to articles and petitions with just a few mentions to key people that you know are likely to retweet them. Do not do this more than a few times.
  • Tweet your link directly to people who you know are interested or who are waiting for it.
  • If you must mention someone use a new mention not a reply. Do not reply to unrelated tweets with your campaign and do not reply to all other disinterested parties in unrelated tweets.

If you have other guidelines please share them in the comments.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

5 thoughts on “Effective campaigning on twitter: how to avoid spamming”

  1. Something I consider when deciding if someone’s a spammer or not is if they engage with people generally rather than just promoting their links. For example, if someone tweets links to their blog a lot but intersperses that with genuine replies of “oh, sorry to hear you had a sucky hospital appointment” and “I saw that too, that was such a good film!” type replies to people I’ll be more likely to consider them “real twitterer” rather than “spammer”.

    (Apologies if the font appears fucked up in this comment. It went wacky as I was typing and I couldn’t get it to behave again.)

    1. Yes, I’d agree with that. (Because it lets me off the hook!) There’s a big difference between someone who only tweets repetitive links and someone who engages, unless the twitter account exists to announce links.

  2. One thing you can do is look for intersections between popular hashtags and the issues you’re campaigning on. I’ve picked up a bunch of followers on Thursdays by linking my normal tweeting to the #bbcqt and #bbctw hashtags – it’s usually not a stretch to find a disability or welfare related spin on what Question Time and This Week are chuntering about, and lots of people follow those hashtags. Contrast can also be a good way in, lots of people followed #equalmarriage when the bill was being debated, but at precisely the same time disabled people were being screwed over PIP in committee, so contrasting 20m PIP and Equal Marriage made quite a powerful image that was also seen by a lot of basically sympathetic people.

  3. Great Article. commentary – I was fascinated by the specifics . Does anyone know where my company could acquire a blank IRS 1099-A version to type on ?

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