Automating Twitter

March 24, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

You’re back! Awesome. So are we. I have a feeling this one may get pretty good. And by “good”, I mean “rowdy” and by “rowdy” I mean that I may get even more snarky than usual. Because automation makes me throw things. But we’ll see how this goes. I promise not to hit anyone with my laptop. I still need this thing for a few more SES sessions.

Up on stage we have Matt McGowan moderating Brett Tabke, Hollis Thomases, Tracy Falke, and Paul Madden.  Ready to go?  Grab something to throw.

Hollis Thomases is up first.

Hollis starts by giving us some best practices for automation.  She says:

  • Don’t just put Twitter on autopilot. You can’t ‘set it and forget it’
  • Keep self-promotion to an absolute minimum
  • Use automation to help build relationships, manage accounts and enhance your Tweets
  • Improve your Twitter experience and your followers
  • Integrate Twitter into other applications
  • Monitor and stay informed

Some forms of automation can help you to build relationships.  You can use Twitter Lists to find groups of relevant users, use hashtag aggregators like Twitterfall or Monittor.  She also mentioned using MrTweet or Twibes to get follow suggestions, build communities, and auto-notifications.

Managing Your Account

One account, multiple users

  • CoTweet
  • Hootsuite
  • EasyTweets
  • MediaFunnel

Use automation to enhance your tweets.  There are twit apps like twtpoll, twtsurvey, twtvite, twtaway, twtqponTwitterfeed is a popular form of automation that will tweet your blog posts for you,

Useful Twitter Utilities

  • Scheduling Tweets: Social Oomph, HootSuite, EasyTweets, TweetMiner
  • Content Mining
  • Useful Twitter Bots – News (@cnnbrk) or Spellcheck (@_spell)
  • Twitter BackupTools – BackUpMyTweets, TweetBackup

How can you integrate Twitter into your own account:

  • Use widgets like Social Mention
  • Blogs-to-Twitter: TwitterFeed, Tumblr, Posterous
  • Integrated Social Media Apps: Twitter in Facebook app, Twitter in LinkedIn app

Next up is Tracy Falke.

How do you automate correctly? What most people forget is that you have to use good common sense. It’s about proper etiquette. You need to be social and you need to be polite. Tracy has an amazing accent.

No Limits or Know The Limits?

One of the first and worst things she’s seen is the direct message auto follow.  Twitter is about knowing the limits of the channel.  Do not dump constant crap in her stream.  If you’re going to automate, consider location, timezone, points of interest, etc.  It’s too much information when you tweet too often right after one another. It makes the user ignore all of it. She recommends an 80/20 split between automation and human intelligence. You have to check it every day to make sure that you’re engagement is valuable and useful.

She talks about Guy Kawasaki. If you follow him, he auto DMs you to tell you to follow another one of his accounts if the volume on his main account gets too high. Now, if you KNOW its a problem, why are you still doing it? Probably because it’s Guy Kawasaki. And he doesn’t care about you. At all. Twitter is a weapon, remember?

Bots Gone Bad

You have to think about your bots. You have lots of content, lots of engagement and lots of things that you want to share. Automation is about making all of that easier. It’s about making interactions easier and sharing content easier. Automation can help you do that but you can’t just set it and forget it.

To set up a bot to RT on the basis of your name is a really bad idea. Twitter sentiment analysis is 50/50 and can do serious damage to your brand when you’re accidentally tweet negative information about yourself.  If you’re going to set up a bot, make sure there’s a human on the other end of the phone. Otherwise, it becomes dangerous.

How do you do it right?

You make automation human [jumbo shrimp!]. You want to make the experience of the user valuable, insightful and to use their content to help you. Don’t be the loud trucker in the bar and tweet volume for volume sake.

Next up is Paul Madden. He’s going to cover the dark side of Twitter automation. You know, like making up people and stuff.

Paul says the problem is that you HAVE to be on Twitter.  But putting people on Twitter costs money.

The solution? Automation.

The challenge is that anyone can code a bot but not many people can code a person. How do you code a person? [YOU DON’T!]  Apparently, that’s not Paul’s approach.   He says you can do it as long as you don’t make the fake person account speak solely for the brand. In other words, its a secondary account. Not your main one.

But how do you do it?

Build a following:  He says that the follow/unfollow game still works. [It may, but OMG is it annoying] The tool you use to do that has to be fairly intelligent. There are throttle points, as well. For example, once you follow 2,000 people, you can’t follow anyone else until you have 2,000 followers.  It’s a starting point.

He uses a Hybrid Model that uses a server based app coded in php. Tweets are loaded more than a month in advance for each account

Make the bot a person: Use a clear, inviting and consistent avatar.  In the UK, Gumtree is a good place to buy people’s photos.  In the US, probably Craigslist.

Automate Tweets

Include different types of tweets:

  • General Tweets: lifestyle-type tweets that will make you look like a person. Tweet about your (made up) dog, your favorite (made up) movies, your (fake) dinner, etc.
  • Ask Questions: Do some fishing to get people to engage.
  • Links: Don’t include more than 1 link per 10 tweets as a rule. All links should NOT be for the brand
  • Hashtags: Use ’em appropriately. Too many hashtags and Google may filter your tweets out of the SERPs because they’ll judge it as spam.  Yahoo will do the same thing. Because they don’t get how awesome hashtags are.

Engage: Reach out to people that you want to engage with.  If you want someone to follow you, start talking to them and get on their radar. This will help this person to maybe follow, but it will also attract that person’s OTHER followers.

Padding the Tweets: Building up the .xls of tweets take time…so you could use someone else’s.  Gah! No! Don’t steal someone else’s tweets! Abort!

Match your Audience: You’ve got a stream of tweets going up on people’s screen. They’re on there for a certain amount of time. You want to match your tweets to the site’s analytics. You want to tweet when the site has active users using the site and using Twitter.

Step in and Engage: Use a multi-account client like Tweetdeck. Set up time to step in and engage.

How Not To Get Caught

Twitter has set some rules for things you’re NOT allowed to do. For example:

  • You’re not allowed to impersonate another person.
  • You’re not allowed to create mass accounts.
  • You’re not allowed to follow/unfollow (even though people do).

However, Paul says, as long as you don’t risk the main brand account you can get away with most of this because Twitter tends to ignore their own rules.

Brett doesn’t given a presentation. he says he’s going to run all the tweets from this panel and see what kind of analysis he can get from them. He’s going to write a post for Search Engine Watch.


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