When it comes to social media, automation is not welcomed by everyone, and rightly so. Having said that, one cannot ignore the fact that the sheer volume of new media applications and services is overwhelming us. One cannot actively manage multiple social media accounts and some level of automation is a must. But, doing it in a wrong way can land you in trouble resulting in suspended/terminated accounts. Let's try to understand automation principles for a popular social media service - Twitter.
Like any other social media service, twitter has set guidelines and best practices for automation. Adhering to these guidelines ensures you're playing safe without any worry of account suspension. Sometimes, twitter filters out spammy accounts from search results before suspension process is initiated. If bulk of your tweets is automated, it is advisable to check them in twitter search results everyday. Absence from twitter search is a clear indication your account has been pinned down by twitter and its time to rethink your tweet strategy.
So let's get started, and try to understand the type and degree of automation a twitter account can withhold without violating any rule.
Account creation - An individual or a business/organization can have multiple twitter accounts. However, creating mass twitter accounts in an automated way with overlapping use is not permitted. That doesn't mean charities; non-profits and similar entities can't have multiple accounts that broadly post similar content for social cause or general community service. But for that, make sure you take prior permission from twitter by submitting a request for the same.
Streaming external content - Apart from general conversations posted manually, twitter users love to stream content from external sources (feeds, multi-media updates - video or snap upload). Twitter encourages you to stream content owned by you, but that's not a strict requirement. Automating other feeds should be supported by proper attribution giving due credit to it's owner. Stuffing your tweet stream by countless automated external feed updates and that too without any attribution can lead to account suspension.
Streaming dodgy feeds - If you auto-post a feed containing links that go through a redirection leading to a landing/advertisement page before user can see the actual content, you're at risk of getting your account terminated. Avoid automating such feeds and make sure the links in every automated feed are free from any kind of redirection.
Trending topics and automation - A large chunk of tweets comprises of trending topics on twitter. Some applications have the (facility!) of automated tweeting on the basis of keywords within trending topics. This greatly reduces the quality of tweets within the trending topics stream. Twitter generally filters out such streams, but in case, your automated application is tweeting unrelated references associated with a trending topic, your account can be suspended for indefinite period.
Streaming ads and affiliate links - Automated tweets for which you're paid (per-click, per-tweet, per-sale) are strictly prohibited on twitter. This is a surefire way to get your account terminated. However, you can post sponsored or paid tweets manually (or approved manually) making sure they do not reappear in your stream. Needless to say, flooding such tweets can only bring your account under scanner and can also help you in losing your followers in no time. In a nutshell, paid tweets should never be automated or scheduled.
Streaming @replies and mentions - Certain so-called smart twitter tools send automated @replies to bunch of users based on keywords in their tweet stream. If you're using such tool, be assured that soon your account will be suspended. This is clearly a clever way to send unsolicited messages to unknown users (SPAM). Another kind of spam is automated retweets based on keyword searches. Do not try to automate such kind of updates else you'll risk your account being terminated.
Follow and unfollow - This is one of the most popular method through which large number of twitter accounts are terminated. Automated following and unfollowing based on keywords or in random order is not allowed on twitter. Only auto-follow-back (following a user after they have followed you) can be automated. Some twitter tools claim to get you thousands of followers overnight by indulging in mass automated following and unfollowing. I strong advice you to do this process manually and that too within the limits.
As a general rule of thumb, if your tweeting behavior results in large number spam and block reports to twitter, your account will be suspended or terminated. A simple example can be - sending automated direct messages to new followers containing affiliate links. It's up to you how you leverage this excellent social media platform in a right way. Keep yourself updated with the general set of rules and guidelines and if you're in dilemma about a certain automation process, ask any expert and head over to official twitter help. Happy automated tweeting!