Q: I heard a blogger mention something called Twitter jail. Does this really exist, and if so, how can I be sure to stay out? It sounds frightening!
Twitter jail is a real term, but as ominous as it sounds, isn’t really that severe of a punishment. It’s simply a common way to refer to a user who has surpassed the limits for tweeting and is banned from posting for a couple of hours.
These limits are 100 messages in one hour, or 1000 tweets in a day (including retweets).
Additionally, if you send more than 250 DMs during one day’s time, you will not be allowed to send more for the rest of the day.
If you’re sent to Twitter jail, there is not much you can do except wait. Fortunately, the term of your sentence is only one or two hours, after which time you will be able to Tweet normally again.
One strategy you can use if you can’t wait and want to bypass Twitter jail is to create and use another Twitter account.
Thinking about these limits, though, many people respond with skepticism: how could someone possibly tweet that much? Although it certainly isn’t much of a risk for most Twitter users, there are certain occasions where these Twitter limits come into play. During major breaking news, for example, some people tend to tweet with high frequency as a story develops. Others like to participate in twitter chats, where a group of users engage in an informal question and answer session all grouped around a particular hashtag. (One popular one is #blogchat) During these rapid-fire discussions, some people approach the hourly limit without even realizing it.
So why does Twitter impose these limits, then? For one, they help lighten the load on Twitter’s servers, and cut down on downtime and error messages. (Have you ever seen the graphic of the whale being held up by a group of birds informing you that Twitter is currently over capacity?) In addition, Twitter limits help combat the spammers who send out mass amounts of tweets using automated software programs.
Overall, Twitter jail isn’t something that you should worry about too much under normal circumstances, there are reasons why it exists.
Additional Twitter Limits
The “jail” limits on posted messages, though, are not the only limits found on Twitter. If you use third-party applications, there are limits on API requests that can be made each hour. Also, once you have followed 2,000 other users, you must have a particular ratio of followers in order to follow more. (This is determined algorithmically and is specific to your own account.)
The follower limit is also a mechanism to fight back against spam, as some Twitter users engage in “aggressive following,” where they use software to find thousands upon thousands of related accounts and automatically follow them. With this limit, however, none of these users are allowed to auto-follow so many people because no one will be following them back. (source)
And finally, of course, there is the 140 character limit on any single tweet!
Have you ever experienced these limits or taken a temporary trip to Twitter jail?
Andrew Walsh is the owner and editor of Social Web Q and A. He is a freelance writer, academic librarian and web entrepreneur. Check out his book Savvy for the Social Web.
(Note: Affiliate links are used in this post)