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Twitter has made a number of updates to its online service and mobile apps over the past week. In addition to improving search features and syncing actions across all devices, the company decided to ban automated following for good.

Automation has come in handy for businesses in the past. For example, someone tweeting travel plans might receive a reply about airfare with an option to book. Even the education industry has found value through automated tweets with the ability to alert followers about school closures.

However, spammers have also taken advantage of automation, and in some cases have amassed tens of thousands of followers. Twitter has many rules in place regarding automatic actions, but most recently it added following and un-following to the list. Moving forward, the company will no longer allow bulk follows and auto follow backs.

Brands and businesses that have relied on automated following — whether through an app or third-party service — in the past will have to abide by the rules or risk having their account suspended. That said, Twitter still permits you to automate your tweets based on activity, such as posting to your Twitter Timeline when you upload a video to YouTube or feeds of your own blog.

In addition to updating its automation rules, Twitter also released updates for seven different apps: Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Twitter.com, mobile.twitter.com, and TweetDeck. For all of these platforms, you’ll now be able to sync Direct Messages (DM) across all of your devices and Twitter accounts. Syncing will roll out gradually, and you’ll need to get the latest version of each app to ensure it works on all of your devices.

Twitter also made improvements to search results for Android, iPhone, iPad, and mobile.twitter.com. Now when someone searches for you on the platform, he or she might see an expanded user result that shows a full bio. The account preview makes it easier and faster to find and learn about the account being searched for. Swiping the preview to the left will reveal similar accounts. For example, if someone searches for one of your competitors, you might appear in the related suggestions.

And finally, the company made it easier to reply to tweets using a built-in tweet composer that appears when you tap to see details. For example, if a customer tweets you with a question, instead of tapping on the icon to reply, you can begin typing right away in the compose box found below the tweet. This might be helpful for the occasional tweet on-the-go, but for a more comprehensive community management experience, consider taking Sprout Social’s dashboard with you by downloading our mobile app.

[Via: TechCrunch, Social Media Today, Image credit: MDGovPics]