Why did Christian_Aid send 44 almost identical tweets to 71K followers?

Earlier today @Christian_Aid tweeted every police force in the country to let them know that next week is Christian Aid week, and so there will be doorstep collections. I’m impressed that they are letting forces know…but the way they did it was not good Twitter etiquette.

It started with this tweet:

Then they tweeted the same message to every force in the country – all 44 of them!

Don’t believe me?

Every tweet started with a dot: so all their 71K followers will have seen every one of their tweets. What is more, they even got some of the twitter handles wrong!

Some of their followers weren’t too impressed (and I am surprised it wasn’t more!):

They pulled a similar stunt last year:

But at least last year they didn’t copy in everyone of their followers – only those that followed both @Christian_Aid and the particular police force in question.

SO what happened?

I suspect what happened here is that they got a list of police accounts, and hacked together an Excel spreadsheet to bulk upload and schedule from Hootsuite (I checked – the tweets were sent from Hootsuite).

The problem with Excel is that it doesn’t like a cell to start with “@”. The best way round this is to use an apostrophe – Excel is happy, and it doesn’t form part of the CSV file that you upload to Hootsuite.

A (fairly good) alternative would be to precede the username with another symbol (for instance “|”), then run a “find and replace” in text editor on the resulting CSV file to remove all the | (and replace with nothing).

A downright awful alternative would be to use a full stop instead of an apostrophe – because you can’t then remove those from the CSV file, and when you send them EVERY one of your 71K followers sees EVERY one of those tweets…I think this might be what happened.

If that isn’t it (and if anyone from @Christian_aid would like to comment and explain I’d love to know!), I am genuinely perplexed by what they were trying to do here.


There are better ways of getting a message to every police force in the country (for starters all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland publish email addresses on police.uk – and there is even an API to get them!). There is also a list of phone numbers (alternatives to 101) for every force in the country.

If you are going to do it through Twitter, why not do it at silly-o-clock in the morning when all you followers are asleep? Police forces are 24 hour organisations and, even if they are not monitoring through the night, I suspect most will scroll back over their last days mentions first thing in the morning!

This approach did set me thinking of a post I’d seen a while back about using “dark posts” on Twitter as a way of private messaging someone who doesn’t follow you. Unfortunately I couldn’t find that post – so I have written up the technique for myself.

3 thoughts on “Why did Christian_Aid send 44 almost identical tweets to 71K followers?”

  1. I wonder how many forces let that one slip through their net? I’m pretty sure most if not all forces are well aware of Christian Aid Week. It has been going since 1957! No real need to inform forces and certainly not like that. Also, Christian Aid’s Twitter account isn’t following @EssexPoliceUK (possibly none of the other force accounts either) so they can’t even DM them and provide some private feedback.

    Bizarre how they got some of the account names wrong too. They stuck in two for Hampshire – @hampspolice and @hantspolice – just to be on the safe side I suppose. A good reminder than with large numbers of followers come big responsibilities!

  2. Pingback: Using “Dark posts” on Twitter to message people privately « wobable.com

  3. The other thing that annoyed me was that it was 44 different tweets. Why not mention more than one force in a tweet…? There is certainly the space!

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