As far as business use I have always seen and used Twitter as an information gathering tool with an allowance for just a smidge of promotion. I am deeply appreciative of the valuable links and insight posted by those I follow and try to return the same in kind. I've also endured plenty of Twitter spam, as a whole probably no worse than the amount of email spam I get. I do appreciate Twitter's desire to reduce spam.

But their Terms of Service revised on October 12 brings into question the long-term value of the service for legitimate business use (if the TOS stays as it is), ironically as Twitter claims to have an eye on offering premium corporate services. Here's a snip:

  1. If you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time;
  2. If you have followed and unfollowed people in a short time period, particularly by automated means (aggressive follower churn);
  3. If you repeatedly follow and unfollow people, whether to build followers or to garner more attention for your profile;
  4. If you have a small number of followers compared to the amount of people you are following;
  5. If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates;
  6. If a large number of people are blocking you;
    The number of spam complaints that have been filed against you;
  7. If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account
  8. If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #
  9. If you post multiple unrelated updates to a trending or popular topic
  10. If you send large numbers of duplicate @replies
  11. If you send large numbers of unsolicited @replies in an attempt to spam a service or link
  12. If you repost other user’s content without attribution.
  13. If you have attempted to "sell" followers, particularly through tactics considered aggressive following or follower churn.

I think the real problem here, particularly for business, is with numbers 5 and 7.

"If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates"

I actually WANT businesses and Twitter users I follow to provide links. Aside from it being pretty much impossible to provide perspective in 140 characters, I think contributing links to tweets promotes the ideal of sharing and adds value to the service that keeps me coming back. Without them, Twitter is sure to return to the kind of vapid, navel-staring that initially hurt its credibility for business (and to some would say this is still the case. I don't know - I don't follow navel-watchers). Maybe they mean you can't post a tweet that consists ONLY of a link. If they do, the TOS should be more clear about it. As it stands, the wording is too vague.

"If you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account"

I don't spend 24/7 on Twitter scanning updates so it's easy to miss tweets that I might want to see but was not online at the time to catch. As both a sender and recipient of business tweets it's helpful to have some tweets rebroadcast once in a while. Provided it's not daily, I'm all for it. Maybe once a month or every two weeks. And if Twitter is able to spot these Tweets and punish people for posting them, why can't they give users an toggle to selectively block or allow them. Why the Draconian approach? Let the people decide.

It also makes sense to be able to post some of the same content across accounts. Many people and corporations manage multiple Twitter accounts and while it would be simpler if each was compartmentalized from the other, the truth is there are times when it makes sense to post the same tweet to multiple or all of your accounts if there is some overlap in the kind of tweets the followers of each account like to see. We should not be punished for trying to tailor content to fit our audiences. I've heard it rumored that so far only tweet text that is EXACTLY the same as recently tweeted text is being blocked and that duplicate links are so far unaffected, but haven't tested this myself.

There is the bright spot in Twitter rolling out the "Report as spam" button and I've read there are humans behind the review process to avoid abuse by someone with an axe to grind. I just wish the terms of use were a little more specific in all areas. As it stands, it feels a lot like being on double secret probation !

Sources:

"Rumors Abound as Tweet Scheduling Services are Targeted by Twitter"   (Jesse Stay)

Twitter TERMS OF SERVICE:  http://help.twitter.com/forums/26257/entries/18311

"Twitter Starts to Talk Up Corporate Account Plan"

"Twitter Confirms Paid Pro Accounts On The Way"  (Silicon Alley Insider)

"Surveillance Cameras" image by Quevaal. Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Original Post: http://marketingroi.blogspot.com/2009/10/twitter-to-business-users-you-are-now.html

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