Why Twitter (Social) Automation Is a Bad Strategy

Matt Moran discusses why automating auto-follow direct messages and other automation is a bad strategy for Twitter and offers alternatives to more effective and efficient social media engagement.

twitter automation
Credit: Matthew Moran (w/image from IDG library)

I was reading the Huffington Post piece on the Top 100 Most Social CIOs on Twitter.

The article talks about improving IT's perception to the enterprise (and world) through more transparent and collaborative communication.

Hey! I'm all about collaboration — see my prior blogs about team collaboration.

Spoiler Alert: I'm going to be writing about my team's use of Glip and why it replaced hipchat, in a week or so. And how that's reduced my email time by more than 60 percent. Seriously ... we have almost EVERY client we work with collaborating rather than emailing.

Back to Twitter, transparency, and engagement.

If you are a CIO or IT Leader looking to use Twitter more effectively, I offer some strategies and tips to make your Twitter experience more efficient and productive.

But first, I'm going to address one aspect of Twitter engagement or lack thereof, that you should avoid — auto-follow tweets specifically and automation in general.

Let's address the problem.

Why Twitter Auto-Follow Messages Suck!

I am more or less new to Twitter. I mean, I've been on the platform since it started ... that's how I ended up with my name: @MatthewMoran. I think I signed up within a month of Twitter going live.

But I made a commitment toward the end of last year to spend more time on social platforms other than Facebook and ... Facebook. Because, that's what we do as a company — although, as our clients know, we are content strategist, not tool-wielding social media "gurus." Those people are dangerous — or at least useless.

Twitter has proven to be interesting. Similar to how we believe meaningless long-form content will bore and then piss off those who take the time to read it, Twitter (and social, in general) has an insidious underbelly.

Automation

"But Matt... don't you guys do automation?"

Yes, my company automates reporting systems, document assembly systems, and system systems, i.e., we automate IT infrastructure! We automate costly and mundane production.

But that's not what social is ... well, not if you want it to be social.

Social should be engaging — engaging with a purpose — sell more of your stuff or better distribute your message. But engaging none-the-less.

Automation Is the Antithesis of Social… it Has to Be

Automation is about setting something up and walking away. It's about disengagement. You cannot disengage and engage at the same time. Make sense?

And auto-follow tweets are some of the worst automation.

I was followed by eight or nine accounts yesterday. I look at each and every profile to determine if I am going to follow back. For individuals or brands that look like they are engaging, I send them a personal message and thank you.

I then add them to one or more list that I maintain ... this will play a part in saving you time later.

On two of those accounts that I followed, I received direct messages a bit later. The messages were the most generic and personally-disconnected tweets you could imagine.

To use Gary Vaynerchuk's vernacular, they threw these BIG RIGHT HOOKS. Haymakers. Totally out of control!

This is similar to what I wrote a few years ago when I asked people to keep your tongue out of my mouth!

It's the same thing. Buy me a drink before you try and lip lock me. And don't you dare throw a big haymaker. I'll duck it and knock you out!

My Response to Automation

Of the two accounts above, one I unfollowed immediately. The other I sent a personal message saying hello and pointing out how much I HATED their auto-follow message. I told them I still liked them though. Yep ... I'm that guy!

We'll see what happens with that.

Automate What You Should - but not Relationships

If you are using social (Twitter, Instagram and others), keep someone real behind the wheel.

We have auto-driving cars coming ... it's the future. I think that's cool! It will give us time to connect, make relationships, be social.

Automating the mundane: reporting, document assembly, IT infrastructure, or commuting — that's all cool. Just don't automate your hello — because then, it's not a hello … it's a cardboard cutout with a motion-sensor controlling a motor on a plastic hand.

How to Engage on Social in Less Time

The main reason for automating is the time-consuming nature of true engagement. Sorry ... I cannot solve that for you.

But I can offer a few strategies and tools to help you make better use of your social media platforms and engage with less time and work. Specific to Twitter.

Keep a Tweets-to-Go Google Doc

I call mine "_Ideas" and it is open all the time.

I put what I want to tweet into it. I have an idea of when I want to tweet. I can get to it via mobile or PC. I use it both to copy ideas into and copy information out of. It's my equivalent of keeping a notepad handy.

Make Use of Private Twitter List

You are going to need to front-load some work to save time on the backend of what you do. This is always the case.

I have several private Twitter lists. For instance:

Los Angeles — local individuals, brands and officials like politicians and LAPD. It's my city and how I stay in touch

Technologists — technologists

Musicians — musicians

MM Key Contacts — my key contacts, those people I want to watch more closely

IT Leadership — CIOs and such

I even have a list called, Are You Worth It. That's where people who appear spammy and un-engaging go if I do not delete them immediately.

I cull my list every couple of weeks.

I don't put everyone into a list. Some people may languish in the general feed unless they really catch my attention.

Use Twitter Mobile's Video Feature

For each individual who follows me, I do take the time to send them a personal video hello. Why not? It's right there on your phone.

Click on the person who followed you. The Tweet box will say, "Tweet to ______ ." Click on it and use the camera icon. Switch to video mode and give it a try. You can actually create several short videos and reorder them — 30 seconds is the max though.

I simply let the person know I checked out their profile and wanted to say hello and thank them for the follow.

I've received some of the nicest messages back and these followers definitely engage more on future posts.

Two Times Per Day

You could be on Twitter all day. But, you don't have to be. You can let it be known — or NOT — that you spend 10 to 15 minutes in the morning and 10 to 15 minutes in the afternoon going through your list and responding to people.

I read through my list, look for what is interesting and check it out. I might copy the link to the article into my above mentioned Google doc for later reading. More often, I copy the the link to the Twitter post itself and store it in my document with a note about the content.

A tool like Evernote can be used for this as well.

If I read it later and find it valuable, I can favorite, retweet, or message the person who posted it directly.

Below is the tweet I posted that prompted this blog post.

Conclusion

Finally, I use Tweetdeck more than any other tool for engagement. I can create columns with my key lists identified, and monitor and respond with key client accounts.

And yes, I've scheduled tweets using Tweetdeck. This breaks my rule about automation. But, I only do so when I am — and will be — at my computer. I don't tweet when I will not be available to control, remove or otherwise engage with that message and those who respond to it.

And I do not have some other person tweeting for me.

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