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Automating Twitter: Is It A Crime? [Poll]

February 28, 2010

This debate continues to rage and will continue for a while yet.Automating Twitter Is It A Crime

Do you automate some of your messages on Twitter or not? How much automation should you be using, if any at all?

There are essentially three camps.

  1. Yes, Why Not
  2. Absolutely Not
  3. Sometimes

Twitter is great for promotion, whether it be of your own posts,other bloggers content, or information at other websites whether that be a post, video or a link to content in all its different mediums.

Twitter runs on several channels such as:

  • The general stream or public stream for all to see
  • The DM (Direct Message) channel  – only between 2 people on the private channel
  • The @stream or RT that still is public but is collected in that persons feed
  • # for aggregating Twitter updates at one location whether it be for an event or a hot topic or a sector

I use the public stream of  Twitter for a broadcasting marketing tool for my blog posts both current and past as well as other bloggers posts that I think are worth Tweeting. I also use it for communicating in public where appropriate.

The tool I use to automate the distribution of my posts is (previously known as which allows me to automate two functions.

  1. Auto follow – where I just say “Thanks for following me, I look forward to following your tweets” which appears in the DM of the follower.
  2. Auto scheduling –  for distributing my blog posts headlines and links so that it can be seen in the public Twitter stream while I work and sleep

Another tool I use is where I can automate sending out other bloggers new posts that I know always deliver top content in the social media space whenever they post a new blog post.

So what are the views of some other top bloggers?

Guy Kawasaki’s take on this topic is essentially that Twitter is a great marketing tool and should be used as such. In a post “What Do You Use Twitter For? New Twitter Power Poll Survey” I quoted  a recent interview of  Guy’s comments (who is one of the top “Non Celebrity” users of Twitter).

Question: ”You currently have over 160,000 followers on Twitter (@guykawasaki) and are one of the top 5 users according to Twitter Grader (wow!). In what ways do you use and derive the most value from Twitter? What advice can you give marketers starting out on Twitter to inspire them that it’s worth investing their time?”

Answer: “Not everyone agrees with my use of Twitter. I approach it as a broadcast marketing tool to help me make Alltop successful. There is no right or wrong with Twitter. Like other large platforms, it’s a tool.”

Rober Scobelizer has another view in a recent post titled “Yo @chrisbrogan you’re doing Twitter wrong” where he discusses Chris Brogans use of Twitter and says

“So, Brogan, can you do the same thing? Give me JUST YOU in one feed and all your conversations in another (I do like that too).”

John Haydon put out a video post post titled “Twitter Techniques I Shouldn’t Be Showing You” that offers another aspect on this topic.

So what is your view?  “Vote Now” Have your say.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2010 1:34 pm

    When I see a Twitter post from you, I know it must be automated since I know you don’t stay up all night. : )

    For me, there is an uneasiness knowing that you’re not there behind the tweet and that engagement isn’t possible. I recognize the “broadcast” benefits of Twitter but I think the real power is the engagement, and I am probably a poster child for that with the number of business connections I’ve been fortunate to make this way. I think you’re a smart and interesting guy and it would be fun to engage more deeply with you too through this channel. You never know where it will lead.

  2. March 1, 2010 6:10 pm

    Sometimes, I use Twitter to interact with others.

    Sometimes, I use Twitter as a news feed.

    Sometimes, I use Twitter as a broadcast tool.

    Different goals, different techniques.

    I automate some of the messages I send, especially when I want to say something at a time when I know people are likely to be reading but when I won’t be online directly. I also try to avoid overtweeting when possible, so if that means I automatedly stagger five tweets instead of blasting them all at once, so be it.

    How people choose to use the tool is less relevant than whether their use is achieving their goals. And if someone is using a tool in a way that devalues your own experience, just unfollow.

  3. March 2, 2010 1:07 am

    The crux of Social Media lies in the ability to connect and engage with one another on an authentic level. If you automate, you miss that opportunity altogether.

    BUT! If you choose to automate, do it sparingly and with respect to your followers. Twitter is not an RSS feed. There is a way to semi-automate, but if you skip over actually being present and engaging, you won’t get the desired results.

  4. March 2, 2010 7:46 am

    The advice I give is simple: Automate your tasks, not your conversations.

    • Tom permalink
      March 2, 2010 2:27 pm

      Liz’s advice is a good one. You can automate replies to people who follow you. Like a “thank you for following me”. What people do not like, I think, are regular auto-tweets by people/companies. Especially the ones when you suddenly see 10 tweets appear in your feed from one person or company. Very bad. If they’d automate it in a way that you wouldn’t see 10 tweets in a row, it would be much better.

      • March 3, 2010 8:04 pm

        I agree with Liz and Tom but you know what I hate? I hate auto replies thanking me for the follow. I use DM to communicate with followers on a personal, one on one basis and I hate having to open a bunch of DMs every morning only to find an automated thanks for the follow. I think we all know that everyone is grateful for those who choose to follow. I tweet both personally, as you see here, and professionally as the professional Twit for a major company 🙂 I use personal tweets and automated no matter which hat I happen to be wearing at the time.

  5. March 7, 2010 9:01 pm

    Automate your tasks, not your conversations. Thank you Liz Cable!

    I agree with Mark. I think you are a bot 🙂 with amazing empowering information. Keep sharing!!

    I would love to see the distribution or the “degree” among those who responded “sometimes”. Is it a 90 10 or 50 50 or some other mix of (automate : personal)? I have had the same issue with at least one poll I did. When you offer the most logical response option of “sometimes”, it unfortunately dilutes broad intensity measurements. I am not using “sometimes” as a response option in single question polls any more 🙂

    Always enjoy your posts.


  6. March 15, 2010 7:34 am

    Great article (as usual!) and great comments.

    I think scheduling/repeating tweets is needed but is something you need to do carefully.

    One aspect with scheduling tweets which is not mentioned often is that sometimes scheduled tweets come out at the same time as a major news event (eg the Chilean earthquake)…such tweets can look a little insensitive then.


    • April 15, 2010 10:03 am

      This is my issue with automation. Tweets about business during the holidays or during major news stories. Seems that the “Automator” should remember they engaged a tool and shut it off when appropriate. I am naive enough to think tweets are genuine – not only about pushing promotional spam. Using a automation tool for Twitter posts is the same as setting up your broadcast email tool. As the recipient – I can opt out of both and do when there is no value.

      I realize I was brought this post by an automation – but I do see value to Jeff Bullas.

  7. March 25, 2010 8:04 pm

    I am ok with tweet automation as long as it is not used as a mechanism to serve the same tweets over and over again. That said, I always have the option of ‘unfollowing’ an individual or organization so I feel I have some control if there is abuse.
    I also agree with Mark Schaefer with the fact that automation diminishes the opportunity of having an instantaneous engagement. Perhaps in the future, we will have the ability to identify automated tweets and follow/unfollow that type of tweets.

  8. April 15, 2010 9:39 am

    I’m not a fan of auto DMs from people when I start following them as it’s slightly pointless in my eyes and always obvious it’s automated.

    Auto posting I don’t mind so much if it’s for the right reasons. If it’s content from your own blog which you would want to share anyway then it’s just common sense to make the process as efficient as possible.

    From a scheduling perspective, this can be great if you find a few useful posts you want to share but don’t want to bombard people.

    Automation/ scheduling is does not have to mean your posts are not personal.

  9. April 27, 2010 8:05 am

    In my opinion, in general:

    AutoDM is worthless and fake, cluttering the DM box and doing absolutely nothing to further the relationship. Even worse is when people respond to AutoDMs and get nothing back, solidifying the useless/fake aspect. Might as well unfollow the person, right? Clearly they don’t give a shit.

    AutoFollow is fake and makes your stream less relevant. You’ll eventually need to unfollow fake/spammers/non-engaging people, and it will be annoying. There is value in following someone back to indicate a reciprocal interest, but the truth is when you automate, you dilute that value.

    Hand-selecting and scheduling tweets is fine, and can help even the flow of information coming from your stream. It’s more about the intent behind the tweet/care in spreading the information, rather than whether it’s been scheduled or not. Which brings us to…

    …Twitterfeed and similar services that pull other people’s blog posts sight unseen, to your stream. These lack authenticity and clutter your follower’s streams. Repetition is only valuable if there is some weight being given to the posts. In the case of an unread, automatically published post from someone else, there is no added value.

    When you choose to tweet a link from someone else’s blog, you’re adding your opinion or influence to it. Conversely, you can gain relevance and influence by consistently providing people with top quality, relevant content (from others).

    Using Twitterfeed to pull Mashable, etc all day long just makes it easier for me to know you’re not genuine…and that most likely leads to an unfollow.

    In your case specifically, you’re automatically sending out Mashable posts, but starting with @mashable…which means ONLY people who also follow @mashable will see the tweet. Pointless, no?

  10. April 27, 2010 10:03 pm

    Interesting post once again. I enjoyed the comments just as much and agree with much of what has been said. Like anything there is for and against. Personally I do both….automate and communicate. I love having conversations on twitter and enjoy retweeting quotes and interesting links. So for me automating works well & I understand if someone else does the same, after all it is as Guy Kwasaki says….a tool, as are all the other means of social media. However, I do love the fun and quick pace of twitter and it is by far my most favourite place to be….ergo why I am still up at 11pm 🙂
    Thanks again for helpful and interesting posts.

  11. June 10, 2010 3:44 pm

    Auto DMs are annoying and impersonal.

    Automated Tweets are sometimes necessary. There are peak times when the most Tweeps are on and listening. If you have some good tweets to share, it is nice to be able to automate tweeting them during those times.

    Otherwise it is good to stay away from Automated tweets. It is more personal to get real-time tweets engaging in conversation.

  12. July 11, 2010 9:57 pm

    I agree that auto DMs are annoying. I always ignore them. I do agree with Justin Kownacki — sometimes you use different methods depending on the outcome. I’m a sometimes user of all methods. Live conversations are really the best way to meet people though. I have made friends around the world with Twitter, which is what I love about it most!

    What I really don’t like is when people automate RT. They will lock on a keyword and RT any post with that keyword. That is obvious, annoying, and they have no idea if what they are RT’ing is even valuable content, and often end up RT double and triple their own RT. I find RT a way to say “thank you for tweeting that,” and automating it really loses the point.

    Great post, as usual. Thanks!


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