All social media management tools offer automation features, from simple tweet scheduling to fully automated RSS feeds. Some automation is very useful for businesses, to make community managers more productive and reduce mistakes, but carried to excess it makes the whole exercise rather futile. Many times I have seen robots auto follow my account because I mentioned a certain hashtag. When I check who is following them I discover other robots -- so robots are following each other and no humans are in the loop at all. Pointless.
So where is the line between acceptable automation and self defeating automation -- the sort that gets your account unfollowed by humans? Here are five best practices.
1. Have a Human Community Manager to Respond to Tweets. The worst sort of Twitter account is one that simply repeats a cycle of advertising messages automatically but whenever anyone responds the most they get is an automated reply, usually less. Twitter is about engagement so what people value is this human-human contact.
2. Have a Human Monitor Tweet Schedules to Avoid Waves. Scheduled tweets are useful because they help to make sure that announcements go out on time and they allow many people in the organization to line up tweets in the queue. But what you don't want is to have a wave of tweets at the same time. Better to have someone who watches for peaks and maybe reschedules lower priority tweets to spread them out.
3. Be Open About Your Twitter Office Hours. If your twitter account is being monitored by a human only at certain times be open about this and say on your profile page when someone will be there. It also helps to mark the start and end of this period with a tweet.
4. Never Send Automatic Thank You Direct Messages. When someone follows your account or retweets you by all means tweet a thank you, but make sure it is a human message. One of the most annoying forms of automatism is the auto DM to new followers. Most users find this a complete waste of time and it just underlines the uselessness of your account.
5. Be Very Careful About AutoTweeting Other People's News. Modern social media management tools make it very easy to collect news from RSS feeds and automatically tweet it. This is not good practice for a company account. When I am watching the Acme twitter account I came to hear about Acme. This type of solution makes sense only for news aggregation accounts where this is their business.
A well managed corporate Twitter account should be a mix of scheduled tweets about news, offers and so on, perhaps some automatically generated information such as flight delays and human responses to tweets from customers. The secret is to use just enough automation to make the work efficient but not so much people are repelled and unfollow your account.