The Perils of Social Media Automation

CB037965For those that spend a lot of time on social media sites, you probably already know about the mass suspension of many innocent Twitter accounts on Sunday.  People who are HUGE in social media circles, such as Mari Smith, suddenly found that their Twitter accounts had been suspended through no fault of their own.  Twitter stated it was the result of a “spam cloud” which is being conjectured to mean a big old spam attack on Twitter.  The common denominator for accounts that were suspended appears to be the use of 3rd party sites to automate Twitter functions, such as TweetLater.

What some of these 3rd party sites do is allow you to auto follow/unfollow people, send scheduled tweets, etc.  And while Twitter may have overreacted in shutting down so many accounts, it does bring up an interesting point.  Do we really NEED to automate our Twitter functions?  Now I understand that there are the rock stars of Twitter with tens of thousands of followers who may truly need to automate certain functions.  But for the vast majority of us, is it entirely necessary?

Twitter is about relationship building.  If you’re using a 3rd party app to approve new followers, how do you know if the person you’ve followed is someone you can build a relationship with?  How do you know who’s a spammer?  I take a few minutes each time I log into the web interface of Twitter to see who has started following me.  If they seem like a real person, I follow.  But if they are clearly a spammer, I block them.  Why would I want someone like that to have access to the information I share, or give them a way to contact me?

As a reader of this blog, you are most likely using tools such as Twitter to build relationships that may lead to future business.  It seems to me that investing some time into who it is exactly that you’re building relationships WITH would be a valuable exercise.

So next time you’re tempted to automate a social media process, ask yourself: do you really NEED to do it?  What benefit would you gain from keeping it manual, and engaging with people?  The more information that you have, the more relationships you can build.  And in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

4 Responses to The Perils of Social Media Automation
  1. Linda Stacy
    July 9, 2009 | 12:38 pm

    It’s a shame that the spammers, hackers, and uninformed have to spoil so many things that could otherwise be useful, legitimate tools. As Lisa and funfelt said, automation can be a huge time saver, but when the tools are abused by some, the rest of us shy away for fear of being lumped in with the abusers.

  2. funfelt
    July 6, 2009 | 7:56 pm

    I use(d) TweetLater to help find users to follow in very targeted niches. I know I could type in the search terms and scroll through posts and follow them manually, but since I am running a busy direct sales business, my goal was to save time! I found that by having TL find me people who have a common interest and who could teach me something and I them (such as “story time library” for example) I would have some great information and updates in my stream when I logged on. I only do twitter about 10 minutes a day in the evening (other than moments of inspiration when I simply must tweet something!), so being efficient about it is important. I do in general agree that automation is not a good thing when it comes to connecting on social networks. I can’t stand automated welcome DMs for example, or scheduled posts around the clock where it’s obviously done by a computer and nobody’s home to interact with etc. So I think you’re on the right track, however I was grateful for the time-saver while it lasted (I quit TL).

  3. Dhea
    July 6, 2009 | 10:20 am

    Great tips Jennifer… Once again a worthy read. I still trying to understand the benefit of Twitter… but that’s ok… Very busy doing lots of other things so but I will eventually… use it

  4. Lisa Robbin Young
    July 6, 2009 | 9:44 am

    I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to auto follow or auto unfollow – and to be clear, I DO use tweetlater from time to time, and was not suspended by twitter. There are appropriate ways to use automation type programs and there are inappropriate ways.

    Jen and I will probably part company on this. So I’ll post a reply on my blog.

    -Lisa

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