When Bot Talks to Bot: Why Too Much Twitter Automation is Pointless

Every day I get followed by Twitter accounts that are obviously using some sort of autofollow tool triggered by a keyword in one of my tweets. I know that they are autofollows because it is clear that the account has no interest in my content and it is unlikely I would be interested in theirs. Most use a crude keyword trigger so that if I were to tweet that I hate carrots I would be followed by carrot vendors, which is clearly pointless. Mostly these accounts are also just broadcasting a sequence of prefabricated tweets, something I can verify just by sending an @reply to see if there is a human who can respond. Usually there isn't.

At this point I am not going to follow back this kind of account and most other thinking humans would do the same, but out of curiosity sometimes I look to see who *is* following them. Very often the accounts that follow autofollow bots are other autofollow bots.  So what is happening is that one bot is tweeting to another bot and there are no humans in the loop to read any of the tweets. There are plenty of good reasons for not using Twitter in this way, but surely the most compelling for bot herders is that it is mostly pointless.

Serious Twitter users almost always use some sort of automated tools to handle part of the work. Many use tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite so that they can monitor several accounts at the same time. These tools also allow you to schedule tweets in advance. This is a function that you can use to take care of simple chores like remembering to send out a link to a new blog post or a reminder for an event at the right time. They are also useful when you want to tweet the same link at different times to cover different time zones. Scheduled tweets work well when there is a human ready to answer @replies or questions addressed to the account. It is poor practice to schedule tweets when there is nobody available to engage with users. In a similar way some other tools like If This Then That can be used as productivity boosters without negative effects. For example, you could setup a task that tweets when you have a new video on YouTube, saving five minutes of manual work.

Other automated features are much less useful.  One especially pointless one is the tool that pads out your stream with news taken from other sources via an RSS feed. If the feed is taken from sources in your own organization then I can see some value in it, but when you take it from news organizations that provide the same information directly then you are adding nothing; I would follow the original if I wanted to and all it tells me about you is that you don't have anything to say therefore you are not a good follow.

But the most pointless form of automation is the automatic Direct Message, where your robot sends an automatic direct message to people who follow, mention or retweet you. Nothing annoys people more than a meaningless auto DM and it makes many people click the unfollow button. Once again the only users who won't mind getting an artificial insincere robotic thank are other bots, so you will end up having your bot thank another bot, with no human in the loop.

See what I mean?  Pointless.

Extreme automation will save you from having to do any work. It may even get you thousands of followers, but it will not influence anyone, except perhaps to make people think that you just don't "get" Twitter as they unfollow your bot.

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