Hal Lublin on March 25th, 2009
please_fix by lu_lu

please_fix by lu_lu

As Twitter continues to surge in popularity and businesses look at its practical application, a debate has started over the use of Twitter Automation. Services like TweetLater and SocialToo allow you too autofollow everyone who follows you, automatically send dircet messages to every new follower, and even schedule “tweets” to be sent out at a later time. You can even use services like MrTweet to help find new followers and new people for you to follow. Add to that the numerous ways to parse all of the information and twitter becomes a powerful platform to connect with current and potential customers on a national or hyper-local level.

At first glance, this seems like a natural solution for companies and professionals who want to quickly grow their audience and don’t want to spend the time it can take to build a network: they want it all, and they want it yesterday; after all, part of the appeal of technology is its efficiency, no? To be able to write a week’s worth of tweets in 20 minutes, to have people of interest delivered to you instead of searching them out, and being able to send direct messages to multiple users can be very appealing.

What gets lost in this rush is the simple fact that effective communication in Social Media boils down to two things:

  • Relationships
  • Adding Value to the Community

While it is certainly impressive when you have thousands of followers, what is the true quality of those relationships? For a business, is it more valuable to have 100 followers who are truly interested in connecting with you, or 1,000 followers, many of whom might be auto-following you simply because they’re use the same tools you are? I always talk about the value in twitter coming from the quality leads you generate when you make relationships. I am a great person to have as a fan of your service or product because I will promote you (unsolicited) to anyone I encounter. When you blindly follow in the interest of “casting a wide net” you may actually be diluting your overall effort on Twitter.

When I talk about adding value, I speak not only about offering useful information, but also really paying attention to what people are talking about and engaging them in a dialogue – people don’t like being talked at in the physical world and appreciate it even less so in the virtual world; scheduling tweets can amount to force-feeding your followers information they don’t want, don’t need and don’t appreciate.

This is not to say that these tools are all bad; companies can reap several benefits from autofollowing (companies like Comcast that use it for customer relations create a sense of caring when they follow back), and SocialToo has the added benefit of sending you reports of changes in your followers, including showing you the message that may have caused them to follow/unfollow you.

However, while there are some benefits to automating Twitter, one must be mindful not to automate the entire process; doing so can easily remove the human element from social media, which is its primary distinction in the first place.

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