The beginner’s guide to social media: Twitter part 3 8

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3958474Twitter jail and lists



Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at Twitter.


In part 1, we covered Twitter Basics for absolute beginners, and in part 2, we covered Increasing Followers and Follower Limits.


This week, we’re covering:·

Twitter Jail – what it is and how to avoid getting sent there.

Twitter Lists – keeping track of who’s who in your Twitter-Zoo.



Twitter Jail:

If you’ve been on Twitter for any reasonable amount of time, chances are you’ve wound up in Twitter Jail at least once or twice. I know I have.


For you newbies, relax. It’s not some literal place the Twitter-Cops drag you off to but the colloquial term for having your account suspended by the powers that be.


Just like a real jail, there are many ‘offenders’ who proclaim their innocence. There are even a few who are still trying to figure out what landed them there in the first place.


Some may even try to beseech the Twitter Judges to grant clemency and set them free.


Chances of a successful appeal are pretty slim when the Twitter-Cops are trying to keep track of over 300 million Twitter users worldwide. That’s an awful lot of traffic to police. Far easier, if you ask me, to just be model citizens and stay out of jail in the first place.


But therein lays the problem. What gets one sent to Twitter Jail in the first place? What supposed crimes have you committed and why are they punished when spammers seem to walk free all the time?


Simple. Spammers know the limits and stay within them.


Now don’t think I am advocating spam.


I’m not, and often find myself unfollowing people that practice it, including some unsuspecting authors who don’t realise they are really spammers.


So what are the Twitter limits?


These are the limits the Twitter-Cops set:


Tweets – maximum of 100 tweets an hour, up to a maximum of 1000 a day. That might seem like a lot but remember, retweets, favourites, mentions and replies all count as tweets.


Direct Messages – maximum of 250 per day.


Following – You can only follow a maximum of 1000 in a 24-hour period, and up to 2000 in total before the Twitter follow limits kick in (see more below).


Going over the first two will land you in jail and (temporarily) lose all your followers and Twitter privileges. Going over the follower limits does result in penalties but they’re more like being on probation than actually going to jail for real.


Here are a few common causes for going over limits:


You tend to use Twitter in blocks, spending an hour a day getting all your tweeting done. This means you might scan through your Twitter feed, retweeting the posts that grab your interest, favouriting or retweeting your Twitter friends’ posts, replying to people who have replied to you, and posting a couple of ‘marketing’ posts.


You respond with a personal message to every new follower. This is fine while your numbers are low but can get problematic when you start getting large numbers of new followers each day. The problem is even more exasperated if you use auto-responders to welcome new followers, as these add to your hourly and daily limits, and can also get you excluded if you send more than your allocated 250 DMs a day. Remember, surveys show most Twitter users do not trust DMs and consider them spam.


You take part in live Twitter chats or live Twitter interviews, or are actively following a trending topic or live television event. While these are great fun to take part in, it is really easy to slip over the limits and wind up in Twitter jail. Take part, by all means, but try to remember your limits when doing so.


You use JustUnfollow or one of the similar programs to follow and unfollow large numbers. While this is a great way to grow your account quickly, it can alert the Twitter Cops and get you thrown in the slammer for Aggressive Following or Unfollowing practices (growing my account to 15,000 has seen me there once or twice). Just try to stay under the radar by staying under that 1000 per 24 hour period.


If you’ve found yourself in jail once or twice, it’s probably just an anomaly and not indicative of your normal Twitter usage.


If, however, you tend to regularly land in the slammer, you might want to rethink the way you use Twitter.


There are other ways you could end up in jail: spamming, inciting hatred, breaking laws, being blocked by an inordinate number of followers. However, I’ll assume none of you would be guilty of those crimes, because you may find your account suspended indefinitely.


Most people end up in Twitter Jail because they don’t understand the rules of the Twitterverse.


How long will you be there?


Well that is where you are at the whim of the Twitter Judges. Your sentence could be a couple of hours; it could be 24 hours; or if the Judges deem your crime to be excessive and you continually land yourself in jail, they could be harsher and take your privileges away indefinitely.




Following limits:


Twitter allows you to follow up to 2000 people before it starts imposing limits.

From then on, your following must be within a 10% ratio of your followers. You’ll still be able to operate as normal.

You can still interact with your existing followers. You can still post and retweet to your heart’s content (as long as your heart doesn’t want any more than 100 an hour or 1000 a day). People can still follow you but you will not be able to follow anyone back until your following/follower ratio has risen.


Want more details on Twitter Following Limits?



Twitter lists:


You might have heard Twitter lists being mentioned, but what exactly are they?

Simply put, lists help you categorise the people you follow and make sense of your Twitter feed. They are also beneficial in maintaining the balance of your following ratio.

There are two ways to follow lists – either create your own or subscribe to other people’s lists.

First things first. You do not have to be following a person to add them to a list. In fact, by adding them to your list, you really don’t need to follow them. This is really helpful if the chances of that person following you back is very slim, but the person has great information you would like to share with your followers.

Maybe that’s a NY Times Best-Selling Author, or the Editor-in-Chief of a famous magazine. Maybe you write about celebrities but dont’ want to upset your following ratios by following a whole bunch of celebs who will never follow you back.

Once you follow several thousands, your Twitter feed will start to look pretty congested. You can either spend hours sifting through the rubble searching for a gem to retweet – or you can narrow your search down by looking at the Tweets of your selected list.

Where do you find lists?

Go to the ‘ME’ tab on your Twitter page. On the left hand side is a link for lists (scroll down on an smart phone or tablet). Click on the link. It will show the lists you’re subscribed to, as well as the list you’re a member of. Lists you subscribe to are lists you choose to join. Lists you’re a member of are usually lists someone else has added you to.

You can search for existing lists.

Mashable – – has popular lists you might like to subscribe to, which can be searched by interest, topic or keyword.

The other alternative is to create your own list.

As an example, let’s say you want to create a list called ‘Awesome Bloggers’, which of course you’d add me to. :)

Click on the ‘Create List’ tab, name your list and add a description. Decide whether the group will be public or private and save the list. Now add people you want in the list. You can do this by searching their name or copying and pasting their twitter handle (if you know it), and dropping down the ‘head’ icon next to the follow button. Under the drop down button you can add or remove that person from your lists.

For example, if you were starting a list of ‘Awesome Bloggers’, you would go to my profile (@rileybanksbooks), drop down the button and add me to the ‘Awesome Bloggers’ list.

You can add as many people who fit the criteria for that list as you like.

The next time you log into Twitter, go to you ‘Me’ page on Twitter, click on your Lists tab, click on ‘Awesome Bloggers’ and it will bring up all the Tweets by those users.

You can create different lists for a range of different topics. You could have Marketing Tweets, Writing Advice, Celebs on Twitter, Awesome Retweeters…

You get the picture. The sky is the limit with how targeted you want your lists to be.

And the best thing about lists: you can bypass all those spammy posts about topics you have absolutely no interest in and read just the Tweets that are of interest. For more information on using Twitter Lists, go to

Hopefully you’ve got a better idea about using Twitter now. Feel free to put your newfound skills to practice on me. :)


Want to know how to write tweets that go viral?  


In the future, we will get into some more expert uses for Twitter, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for some of our upcoming Beginner’s Guides to Social Media. We’ll be bringing you guides on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Goodreads, Triberr and more.

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Rebecca Byfield

About Rebecca Byfield

Rebecca Byfield is Editor-in-Chief of The Writers' Shack and its associated blogs. She has more than 15 years' experience in journalism and communications. She writes fiction under her alter ego, Riley Banks. Rebecca is available for freelance assignments. For more information, go to Also, check out our Pens for Hire page for a list of freelance writers, editors, translators and more -

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8 thoughts on “The beginner’s guide to social media: Twitter part 3

  • Mary Jean Adams

    Great post! I’ve never personally ended up in Twitter jail, but believe me, I’ve been tempted to spend an entire day doing nothing but tweeting. Fortunately, reality always intrudes, but I can easily see how it could happen.

  • Anjali Manwani

    I really congratulate the writer for creating such an impressive blog. Thank you for your valuable discussion on this great topic.

  • Keith Kiely

    Iv been in twitter jail today and yesterday all because I was giving SPECIALSHOUTS to my followers and twitter decides to jail me well I’m discusted it’s about conecting with people and I’m trying to help my followers connect with each other that’s nothing bad things like that should be aloud

  • Rebecca Byfield
    Rebecca Byfield

    Keith, I feel your frustration. My journalism account got banned a couple of weeks back for doing much the same thing – I was sharing things I had read on Triberr, but because it included the @ in the post, Twitter regarded it as spamming. My husband works in IT and tells me that Twitter are very harsh on accounts with less than 1000 followers, which is probably very true because I have little to no trouble at all with my Riley Banks account, and I send heaps of tweets from that. My only suggestion is to grow your Twitter account beyond the stage where Twitter is keeping an eye on you – get it out of the kindergarten and into real school!

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