In the social media Advent calendar yesterday, I featured Twitcleaner, a tool which goes through the people you follow on Twitter and suggests people who might have traits which might make you think twice about following them again.
One category of account which stood out to me at the time was the section called ‘not much interaction.’ Within that section were sub categories, including one marked ‘bots.’ In other words, the brand was on there, but not doing anything other than pumping out headlines or links via an automated service.
I asked the question: “Is there any greater failure for a brand online than being mistaken for a bot?”
Si Dawson, creator of Twitcleaner, left a comment on the post explaining the thinking behind the ‘bot’ category:
The bots category could also be described as “rss feeds” (although it’s not purely limited to that). It refers to people who use applications to simply pump their blog posts etc into Twitter, so, things like twitterfeed, RSS2Twitter, dlvr.it etc.
Now, using those by themselves isn’t a problem. You still won’t appear on the report unless 90% or more of your tweets are from one of these rss bots.
Put in English – if more than 90% of your tweets are auto-tweets by an application? Well, yes, your account is being run by a bot.
I’ve never subscribed to the belief that an account which just pushes out links is an account which doesn’t care for its followers. Why? Because for many people, Twitter is a way of keeping on top of information about things which interest them – and that can include receiving updates from a news organisation which covers something you are interested in.
But Twitcleaner’s criteria of what constitutes a bot has made me think a little more deeply about this. Using a service like dlvr.it to auto send tweets from an RSS feed is fine – but if it’s all you do, aren’t you shortchanging yourself as much as your followers?
For example, if a story on your patch breaks, you might get it online straight away, but your RSS service might not push it out on Twitter for another, say, 20 minutes – by which time your big story could quite easily have gone on to become everyone else’s news.
People follow largely link-only accounts for a reason – because they want to be kept informed. Relying on an automated service alone can surely only, in the long term, result in your service becoming less useful?
In other words, the act of sharing your headlines can put the social into social network, but then relying purely on an automated service to do all the work actually does the opposite. Littered with good intentions, and all that?
Proof, maybe, that automation isn’t always the best way?