You’ve lost your account…it’s gone. You can’t log in. All your activity has been erased. You didn’t get an email, not even a warning. You’ve emailed the site a number of times, and nobody will tell you why you’re now a blacklisted member of your favorite social media network.
This is a common tale… all too common, in fact. Some social sites are better than others, but the truth is: most administrators don’t have the time to explain why they deleted your account. You’d be lucky if they even know the reason in the first place. Most likely it’s not a single act, but a number of user submitted complaints that puts your account beyond some threshold they’ve set as a matter of policy. Reach this threshold, and you’re gone…no research to determine the validity of the complaints, no explanation, and a snowball’s chance in hell of getting your account back.
Ok, so while it’s not completely impossible to get a banned account back, certain social sites just don’t bother. And depending on what you did to get banned, you might be wasting your time. In either case, it’s much less frustrating to just play it safe so you don’t get blacklisted in the first place. So here are 9 things that will get you banned that you should try to avoid:
- Break the terms of service – Let’s start with the obvious. If you don’t want to get banned, the first thing you need to do is read the terms of service. Read it for serious. Done? Ok, now read it again. My point is: make sure you really understand what they’re trying to prevent.
Legally, most terms of service allow social sites to remove your account for any reason, and they (usually) directly say as much. But they’ll also go into some specific items that they’re actively looking for. Break any of these, and you’ll find yourself starting from scratch. I’ll cover many of the more common items below, but if you want to know what your favorite social network is specifically looking for, I highly recommend starting here.
- Spam – Another obvious one, but somehow people don’t quite get it. Attempting to automate submissions, Votes, Reddits, comments, Diggs, etc. will almost always end up in a banning. If there’s one thing people hate more than human generated spam, it’s computer generated spam. That goes double –no triple for social sites.
- Self Promotion – I’m not talking about submitting or linking to content you’ve created. I’m talking about going on to other social conversations or threads and trying to cross promote or garner attention to your submission when it isn’t relevant. Link dropping is SOMETIMES ok (read the terms) if it’s directly related to the conversation, but rarely tolerated when it’s not. And it’s DEFINITELY something that can get you banned.
- Submitting Link Bait or Promotional content – Link bait is a (double) 4-letter-word in the social media world. People hate it, and if you’re caught being a marketer, or worse yet: an SEO, there’s nothing that can inspire someone to report you as a spammer quicker. Just be sure you are careful what you submit and if you’re doing it for the links and/or promotion, take great care to be sure the content is worthy of the votes.
- Un-natural voting/promotion – A common story (you might have heard) is the “clever” marketing agency with 200 employees all voting for a submission from the same office at the same time. If you think large sites like Digg and Reddit don’t have filters to identify geo-locations of your IP (and other un-natural indicators), you’d be wrong. In fact, if you’re involved in any schemes like this, you’re making it too easy for them. Nothing can get 200 accounts simultaneously banned easier than this scenario.
- Submit/link to inappropriate/offensive content – Nudity and explicit violence are rarely tolerated, and whenever you feel compelled to use the acronym “NSFW”, think twice before you submit it or link to it. More than likely, someone will find it offensive and report you as such. If an admin gets enough reports like this, the next time you sign in, it’ll be under another user name.
Note: Some sites like Reddit and Stumble Upon do allow adult content, but there are specific sections for it. Make sure to use these sections and/or mark it as adult content if what you are sharing is too racy or NSFW.
- Trolling – It usually takes a lot for comments to get you banned. Down votes aren’t generally enough, but they’ll certainly make you look like a troll to the rest of the community. While joining in on the social conversation (in comment boards and threads) can be a great way to network, try not to be offensive, abrasive, and definitely don’t get involved in a “flame” war. It’s too easy for someone who didn’t like what you said to simply report you as offensive. Even if it isn’t true, trust me, you’d rather just not go there. Also, remember: just because you think you’re being funny doesn’t mean others will. “Offensive” (in terms of comments) is a matter of interpretation.
- Consistently submitting or linking to low quality content – While you probably won’t get banned for having too many down votes, some members of your social network believe it’s their job to take the “bury” button one step further and report you as a spammer. A single report probably won’t get you banned, but if you get enough of them, you’ll cross that threshold and it’s over.
If you’re submitting content from commercial sites make sure that A. the content is worthy, and B. you’re submitting high quality content from elsewhere on a regular basis to dilute any of such reports that may happen.
- Be too good at Digg or Reddit – Don’t worry, most sites won’t get banned for being a power user…that’s an unfortunate myth. What happens, however, is when you’ve become noticed as being “too good” you’ll get away with a LOT less. In effect, all the above points become more important to avoid. Make one slip and the bury brigade will be all over you.
Another problem with being a power user is: you might be able to use the power of your network to promote “less than worthy” content to the front page. When this happens, not only will the submission get buried, but it’ll usually cause an influx of those nasty spam reports. If you’re finding yourself on a list like this one, it’s time to tread carefully. You may also want to have a back-up account…just in case.
If you’ve been banned and you were looking for a way to get your account back, my advice is this: email the site administrator and beg for forgiveness. You can use this email as a template:
Dear [Social Website] Admin,
I’m having trouble logging into my account. It looks as though it may have been removed???
I’m not sure what happened, but if I have done something wrong I truly apologize. I have read the terms of service and am very careful to follow them to the T.
I don’t know if there is anything I can do to get my account back, but I’d love to at the very least know what I did so I can be sure to avoid that activity in the future.
Please let me know if there’s anything I can do!
Thanks in advance,
If you’re lucky: they may tell you what you did, send you to the terms of service page again so you can re-accept it, and you’ll get your account back. Just know, this is pretty rare, and if you’re lucky enough to get an account turned back on, it probably won’t be a recurring event.
Have a story about being banned? Tell it in the comments; I’d love to hear it!
Todd Heim is CEO, co-founder, and SEO manager of Essential Internet Marketing, LLC, an SEM and Social Media Marketing company based in Albany, NY. You can find Todd on twitter at: http://twitter.com/ToddHeim/