Overnight, Twitter made a policy change titled ‘Promotion of alternative social platforms policy’.
The policy states that going forward (we understand the policy is effective immediately), Twitter will no longer allow free promotion of specific social media platforms on Twitter.
The word free in this statement, suggests there may be a paid opportunity to do this in the future, likely a part of the Twitter Blue subscription.
What we don’t know is the volume of users on Twitter who would link their audience off to alternative social accounts and see users follow the link. Perhaps the more important piece of information is not the clickthrough rates of a single link, but rather if there’s an engagement reduction on Twitter after a user follows that link.
If we understood that data was of a meaningful volume, that had the potential to significantly impact the future revenues of Twitter, then the new policy makes sense from a commercial reason.
What is a violation of this policy?
At both the Tweet level and the account level, Twitter will remove any free promotion of prohibited 3rd-party social media platforms, such as linking out (i.e. using URLs) to any of the below platforms on Twitter, or providing your handle without a URL.
Here’s where things get interesting.. some external platforms are ok, others are not, how these are selected is not clear in the policy. The Prohibited platforms include:
- Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Post and Nostr
- 3rd-party social media link aggregators such as linktr.ee, lnk.bio
It’s a little strange that two of Meta’s platforms Facebook and Instagram are blocked, but not WhatsApp. Mastodon is a straight-up competitor, so that makes sense, however we don’t see one of Twitter’s biggest rivals, TikTok on the banned list. YouTube and LinkedIn also escape the ban hammer for now.
- “follow me @username on Instagram”
- “check out my profile on Facebook – facebook.com/username”
Accounts that are used for the main purpose of promoting content on another social platform may be suspended. This is fair enough, while this policy is a change does contravene Elon Musk’s previous statements that effectively anything that’s not illegal would be fine, Twitter is a commercial business and this position is understandable.
As you consider how to respond to this policy, it is important to recognise that Twitter has called out attempts to bypass restrictions on external links to the above prohibited social media platforms through technical or non-technical means (e.g. URL cloaking, plaintext obfuscation) is in violation of this policy.
This means that wrapping your URL using URL shortener services such as bit.ly and tinyURL will not be effective. It’s trivial for Twitter to explode these links when posted, discover the real URL the link points to and validate if it breaches the policy, so you would risk suspension.. tread carefully.
This includes, but is not limited to, spelling out “dot” for social media platforms that use “.” in the names to avoid URL creation, or sharing screenshots of your handle on a prohibited social media platform – an example of this is “instagram dot com/username”.
What happens if you violate this policy?
If violations of this policy are an isolated incident or first offense, we may take a number of actions ranging from requiring deletion of one or more Tweets to temporarily locking account(s). Any subsequent offenses will result in permanent suspension.
If violations of this policy are included in your bio and/or account name, we will temporarily suspend your account and require changes to your profile to no longer be in violation. Subsequent violations may result in permanent suspension.
Concerns for the future of links
One of Twitter’s biggest strengths is its ability to drive traffic for businesses. Twitter should be very careful when considering what pieces of functionality to carve out for commercial purposes. One of the reasons many businesses use Twitter is to help their audiences link to full, longer-form content on their own website. This website has advertisements and ultimately funds the business operations.
If Twitter decided to implement a Reddit-style policy where you could not self-promote, that is, link to a website you own are involved with, other than those who pay for that functionality, it would destroy the usefulness of the platform.
Twitter should move to add value users are willing to pay for, but that should be in addition to existing functionality, not charging for what we understand to be core fundamentals of how the platform works. Today’s new policy is the first step in what could be many policy changes in this direction.
When a policy is added, updated, or removed, Twitter users should receive notifications when they next access the website or mobile apps. The Twitter API would also need to be updated and 3rd party apps also display this notification to users.
By ensuring all users are at least notified of a policy change, Twitter has a far better chance at having users understand the boundaries in which they use the service and comply, rather than discovering there’d been a policy change once their account is suspended.
You can read the full policy at Help.Twitter.com
Since the Policy went live, Twitter owner Elon Musk has replied to a few unhappy customers.
Things change fast at Twitter, with Musk now posting that the policy will really only target accounts dedicated to promoting alternative platforms. This comes as a response to a suggestion from news content organisation TheQuartering.