The Dos and Don’ts of Twitter Automation
Many of us in digital marketing have mixed feelings about automating Twitter accounts. It helps us by saving time and simultaneously maintaining a steady flow of posts geared towards increasing brand visibility and generating user engagement. Alternatively, it can make you appear foolish.
It all depends on how well one is able to execute it. Twitter itself doesn’t seem too fond of automation, stating that “generally most automation is detrimental to the user experience and frequently results in blocks and suspensions.”
In order for automation to work well, one needs to be smart about it. If you thought automation simply meant implementing a few IFTTT recipes and/or scheduling a few tweets via Hootsuite or Buffer, you’ve got to read this.
As a long-time user of Twitter and also someone who relies on automation at times, the following are compiled based on my extensive experience on the platform.
The Big 5 To-Dos
1. DO allow your personality to shine
Yes, even with automation. Especially with automation.
People are attracted to people because of their personality. The same goes for businesses, brands in particular. If you are automating tweets, chances are you are also composing them in bulk. With that there is always a danger that you forget to think about yourself because you are focusing on composing tweets for the future and you don’t really know what you are going to be feeling then.
You might end up making the tweets look too proper, too polished, too something that you feel they ought to sound like instead of letting them capture the essence of your brand.
Whether you are composing for the future or for now, don’t shy away from injecting your personality into the tweets – within reason.
2. DO keep track of @mentions
Some of the IFTTT recipes for Twitter are brilliant. Compiling a list of the users who have mentioned you, for example. It is helpful in that it keeps you aware of the conversation surrounding your brand. You could personally thank people for the mention, address a customer problem, or become part of a new conversation, which is good for user engagement.
In general, it’s a good practice to be aware of the mentions your business earns. Especially if it’s a customer bashing your business, you want to respond to that ASAP!
3. DO personalize DMs when possible
If you are going to be automating DMs, make sure the message is personalized. DMs can be used to welcome new followers, say hi, drop a quick line about who you are (though if a non-spammy account has chosen to follow you, they likely already know this), or address a customer issue. You could include a link to your website but keep it low-key. A salesy DM looks spammy and could get you unfollowed.
4. DO turn off automated tweets during a tragedy
Far too many people appear ignorant of big trending news on Twitter, which is not all that surprising when those tweets have been automated and pre-scheduled.
News about a terrorist strike or a natural disaster may be trending but for some individuals and companies it is business as usual on Twitter. Thanks to automation, they continue to meet their daily quota of tweets, regardless of what is happening around them, and consider it mission accomplished.
During times of tragedy, this is not just ignorant but also in poor taste. In an era of corporate responsibility, increased awareness and a super-connected world, this is probably the most insensitive thing you can do on a platform that is globally favored for news.
5. DO maintain a healthy mix of automation and organic tweets
There could be such a thing as carrying automation too far. You know that is the case when the human touch seems to be taken out of the equation.
One needs to strike a balance between automation and organic tweets. There are a couple of compelling reasons for this.
One, an automated tweet, if that is all that comes out of your account, would feel that way after some time. There is something robotic about it. An automated tweet is disconnected with what is going on. Businesses who send out such tweets run the risk of coming across as insincere, or too business-like. You just know it’s a bot posting and you don’t feel like engaging with it.
And two, there is only so much one can plan and schedule. If there is a breaking story with wide-reaching implications, you must comment on it, if only to express shock/happiness/emotion of some kind if nothing else. This doesn’t mean you have to be political or take sides. Just show that you are aware of the world and hold a compassionate perspective on most topics.
The last thing you want on a platform that attracts in big numbers news junkies and an audience super aware about the world is to appear ignorant, or worse, indifferent to the developments around you, blindly focused on promoting your business.
The Big 5 Don’ts
1. DON’T post the same article more than once in an hour
You want to bring your articles to people’s attention, not spam their feeds. You might want each tweet of yours to attract attention but you should not look desperate in the process.
By tweeting out the same article more than once within the space of an hour, you risk irking followers and alienating those who have already seen the article tweeted out the first time.
Give people fresh content with each tweet. If you must tweet out the same article again, wait a few or hours (or even days) and compose a new tweet for it.
2. DON’T write lengthy DMs
When done right, there is a case to be made for automated DMs. But make sure you are able to do it right. No one wants to read your full bio or a proud list of accomplishments in a DM. They also do not want the entire list of all the Web pages you feel you must link out to.
A brief introduction and one or two links – that should do.
3. DON’T tweet randomly
Tweet with a purpose in mind. Twitter is a broadcast service and every account is welcome to express what they are feeling on this hot day in June or how undigested pasta from last night is causing them discomfort.
But should you? It is one thing to give your tweets personality and quite another to forget why you are tweeting in the first place.
To make the most of automation, give it a clear direction. It’s not enough for tweets to be well-composed; they should also be directed at the right kind of people.
We are assuming you are well-educated in the use of hashtags but it might be time to go beyond it. How about you tweet out to influencers, too? This is a good way to get someone’s attention and drive engagement.
4. DON’T auto-favorite tweets
A number of Twitter apps help you auto-favorite tweets. This is done with the help of keywords as well as the @mentions garnered. This, however, can backfire for your business. Imagine accidentally favoriting a racist tweet. Or a sexist one. Or one that takes a stand you do not agree with.
You don’t know what others are going to post. You are not responsible for what they post. It’s dangerous to auto-favorite tweets based on keywords, especially if you do not vet the tweets at some point and allow the favoriting to stay.
5. DON’T assume that once you have set up automation your work is done
This is the biggest one. Automation can lull us into a false sense of security. We have set up a number of recipes. We have scheduled tweets to appear at certain times of the day. Good work, right?
Wish it were that simple.
Being successful on social media means remaining engaged. Your aim is not to merely execute a task, it is to do so with a purpose in mind – which is overall engagement with the community.
Automation can help you to that end, but not replace human interaction entirely.
What are some of the pitfalls you’ve been led into by Twitter automation? Have you seen others make similar mistakes? What was your response to it? Also, let us know how helpful you think Twitter automation in general is and how you in particular use it. Please comment and share your insights!