Are You Using Twitter To Find New Readers? Think Again!

For security purposes, your Twitter account has been lockedFor security purposes, your Twitter account has been locked

This message does not help at all in using Twitter to find new readers.

If you are relatively new to Twitter and have based your book marketing strategy around using Twitter to find new readers and sell your books, and you have received the above message, take a long breath and think again.

There’s something happening that is going to mess up your carefully laid marketing plans.

I have been on Twitter since 2009, so I have been around the Twitter block quite a few times, including during the famous ‘Fail Whale’ era, but sometimes Twitter seems to quietly change its methods or rules.

Now, these changes are difficult to detect and then comprehend in any measurable detail, because Twitter’s rules are infamous for being so obtuse and vague that it would be easier to calculate the increase in the sweat rate on the left-hand side of slugs on days that exceed the average daily temperature by more than 5% than to understand and comply with Twitter’s rules of fair use that can and do change, without in fact actually changing in their written wording.

This though is the beauty (or dastardly intent) of the Twitter rules.

They are so infuriatingly obtuse that any change will, of course, adhere to the previously stated rules, which in fact have changed, except in words, but somehow still obey Twitter gravity. It’s a bit like time travel without a towel, but not nearly so much fun.

Anyway, for those who have received the following dangerous looking email message, you will know about the frustration of trying to understand what Twitter is really trying to tell you.

For security purposes, your Twitter account has been locked.

Then there is this equally obtuse warning on your Twitter page that appears to be so caring.

Equally NOT so self-explanatory like the email, but what it really means is that your Twitter account is for all practical purposes, dead. Well very dead actually, but Twitter kindly killed it for you, for your own good. But why?

Twitter lock warning

What’s the real Twitter problem here?

After weeks of frustration, deleting apps, resetting and searching Google for answers, I can say with relative certainty that this issue has nothing to do with ‘security purposes’, or that your account being ‘compromised’.

I have checked over and over again, and there are no security issues at all with any of my Twitter accounts. They are set and used as they have been for years.

What I do know for sure is that these warnings only appear after I follow some people on Twitter.

I have ceased following for a few days to check, and the warnings and account locking usually stop. Then when I follow back or follow some new accounts again, the warnings and account lockings generally go away, but weeks later can start all over again.

However, just to extend the obtuseness, this problem hasn’t affected all of my Twitter accounts. One of my Twitter accounts has operated quite normally forever and has never been locked for following new users. Well, yet anyway.

If I am right though, in that Twitter is actively dissuading building an audience by following, what does this mean for authors trying to increase their readership by using Twitter?

It means I have been lucky to have had many years start on you, and have been able to follow a hundred or so accounts every day quite happily for years.

The reason why this policy or algorithm changes from time to time is something only Twitter can answer, but it seems determined not to do so.

Naturally, I have contacted Twitter Support during the problem periods to ask this question on more than one occasion, but all I have received are platitudes, copy and pasted replies wishing me an ‘awesome day’ and referring me back to their infamous Twitter rules, which as I may have mentioned before make no definitive sense at all, except when they say that you can technically follow 1,000 users per day, but in fact you can’t, well, technically speaking that is.

Normality will not resume in 60 seconds.’

My only conclusion is that since becoming a publicly listed company on Wall St, Twitter now has powerful external pressures, and with them comes change.

It is no secret that Twitter is struggling to attract enough new users to satisfy investors, which has been reported widely in the news. However, by deterring existing users from following new users by a security subterfuge, won’t this be self-defeating for Twitter?

I don’t care what the reason is really, and I may be totally wrong in my assumptions, and all the inconvenience might be due to a Twitter glitch that took a very long time to fix.

All I know for sure is that it can be annoying to use Twitter and to follow other users, so maybe you should forget about your plans for gaining a few thousand new followers on Twitter and immediately switch back to gathering Facebook Likes.

Update: I believe that this problem is happening far less in recent times, so it seems safe to do moderate following on Twitter now.

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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

2 thoughts on “Are You Using Twitter To Find New Readers? Think Again!

  • As a social media manager, I can shed a little light on this topic. My company often has clients who are focused on follower count and not so much on having actual conversations with those followers. They request we do a following ‘blitz’ of following anyone who is vaguely relevant to their industry/product. In the world of SEO, this is technically a black hat technique if done too much, too often. The problem is that the retention rate for followers gained this way is horrible and weakens both your brand/ author platform and that of the social media platform this technique is used on; both author and platform gain a reputation for not making/building connections. No relationship= no value for follower. (If you’re familiar with Google’s SEO and content policies and changes, you can see an echo in the emphasis of original, engaging content which is where Twitter got the idea for their new policies from.)

    Twitter wants to see followers build up organically, which if you’re anything other than a celebrity, means much more slowly. The new algorithm is 1000k you can follow for the 1st 100 followers you gain. From there, it becomes fuzzier and seems to be a daily cut off. Our policy is to stop after following 30 people in 1 day. Sometimes you can go as high as 100-150 but it’s not worth the risk of having the account locked. RTing interesting articles and participating in Twitter chats in addition to your own original Tweets are much better ways to gain loyal followers and get you and your book in front of more eyes. Little more time intensive but ultimately better quality.

    • I agree, Susan. After gaining 1,000 followers Twitter becomes very fuzzy indeed. Like all of Twitter’s rules and best practices, there are more ‘get outs’ than a kid needs to skip the whole of high school. But I think you make salient point when you say, ‘if you’re anything other than a celebrity’. Twitter allows millions of fake bot accounts to follow say, @ladygaga or @goodreads, and then be sold as followers for $25 per 10,000, but they get upset if I follow 100 active users in 24 hours. Hardly logical, but at least I provide content! Bots don’t add anything. However, I think Twitter are very sensitive to numbers of users, bots or not, as Wall St mounts pressure on them to perform and increase their active user base.

      So ok, Google SEO I understand, and organic growth is all well and good, but I’m afraid that Twitter has policies that are as clear as mud and change on a whim. That is little help to anyone.


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