I’ve been using Twitter for more than 5 years and for the most part I use Twitter in the same way as I started – as a listening device and engagement tool. I connect with new people by distributing helpful content, I engage in debate and I find lots of interesting resources others share. Like many marketers I’ve dabbled in sponsored posts.
But something seems to have shifted with the changing year. Increasingly I’m seeing my peers pressured to “automate” components of their twitter marketing program. To secure high volumes of new followers in very short periods of time. As a general rule I’m a fan of automating repetitive processes that can be rule bound to save time. But here lies the rub. Twitter engagement is not “rule” friendly.
Here are three very good reasons to push back on automation mandates.
#1 You’ll miss important contextual signals
A couple of years ago my son was on a little league baseball team named after the Cubs. After a particularly exciting playoff game I tweeted a high-five to the team for winning. A few hours later the national baseball team Cubs was following me and retweeting my post. They clearly hadn’t read the text of the post which focused on “my 10-year-old son”. If you looked at any of my other baseball related posts, which are few and far between, you would note I’m a Red Sox fan. Blindly following anything that mentioned the Cubs missed the entire point that my post was about my son, not the MLB team. To get real engagement with your target audience you need to understand what they are saying, not just look for keywords. (Note: keyword searches are a hugely valuable mechanism to find people with whom you want to engage – just don’t make the mistake of removing the human factor).
#2 You leave people hanging
There is nothing I hate more than an auto-generated, generic message that thanks me for following someone new on Twitter. OK, there are things I hate more, like wasting a perfectly good piece of milk chocolate by mixing it with nuts and tomato juice. Not a fan of tomato juice. But when it comes to Twitter there is nothing more lazy than an auto-generated “thank you for following me” message. Or so I thought. A couple of weeks ago I followed someone new. I got what looked like an auto-generated direct message, but one that invited engagement. They asked a question. The problem arose when I responded. Their auto generated system didn’t account for my response and everything went silent. Here was this perfect opportunity to engage and instead I was left hanging. Automated systems can’t have a conversation, they can only start one.
#3 You miss opportunities to EARN interest
I was in a planning meeting with a client about a month ago when someone suggested we use an automated system to follow thousands of people, then if they don’t follow back within 72 hours unfollow them. This was designed to keep the brand’s following vs. followers statistics balanced. After a rather cold chill went down my spine I asked an important question. “Do we really feel we can earn someone’s trust and interest with this approach?” After some healthy debate we agreed that if we want people to engage with us we need to engage with their content. We do this by publishing great content, responding to other’s posts and sharing content we find intriguing. Earning a following is not a math formula – it’s hard work.
Automation can help your twitter marketing strategy by improving your ability to listen and identify your audience but don’t be fooled into thinking it will engage your audience. Only people can do that.