Twitter robots are not worth the risk

6-things

I don’t like to tell people not to do anything on social media, as it is a great tool for experimenting and different methods suit different industries. However, I have had a bad experience with a tool which could have had a terrible impact, so I thought I would stop others making the same mistake.

What is a Twitter robot?

A Twitter robot can work in a number of different ways to increase your engagement levels or following on your channel, it does this by engaging with accounts based on keywords you type in. So for example if you are a travel company you might put in ‘Safari’, ‘Kenya safari’, ‘Cruise’, you can also put in hashtags of popular Twitter chats that your page would engage with naturally, such as #TravChats. The robot will then ‘like’ tweets which contain these keywords and follow accounts which use them or list them in their bio.

A good thing about this is the robot then unfollows these accounts after a few days, so you don’t end up following thousands of people. You can also ‘mute’ these accounts so that you don’t suddenly get loads of random content in your newsfeed.

The benefits

The benefit of using a Twitter robot is that supposedly engages with content your page would engage with anyway, taking out the manual need to go and do this yourself. When done well, this results in an increase in follower numbers, and an increase of engagement to your channel.

The risks

  1. Unfortunately, there are a LOT of spam, pornographic and politically charged accounts on Twitter, and by allowing a robot to have access to your channel you risk engaging with these accounts.
  2. There is a lot of extreme adult content on Twitter, more than I expected, and lots of the accounts use general terms on their posts so that they reach more people, they often use popular hashtags and sometimes general words like ‘travel’.
  3. During the Trump and Hilary debacle, there was a lot of political content on Twitter, even people who aren’t usually so controversial were sharing their opinions, that means someone who tweets about their plans for a luxury safari in Botswana, might also be tweeting some questionable content about Donald Trump, and your brand page is now following and engaging with them.
  4. Terms like ‘African Safari’ might seem safe, but there are many accounts endorsing hunting safaris, and poaching or preaching about animal welfare in an extreme way, which you could accidently engage with, sadly that goes for so many generic terms not just relevant to travel.
  5. The robot doesn’t pick up what is shown in images, there might be a harmless tweet saying something like ‘So many travel plans for 2017, safari, beach and my honeymoon’. But the image could be an adult model on holiday, or the profile photo and banner could be something very controversial.

Sadly, although it seems a good concept, there are far too many risks associated, and allowing a robot to have free-reign of your brand page is not a good idea. It would only take someone to look at your brands ‘liked tweets’ to see a stream of ‘Make America Great Again’ could ruin your reputation.

My experience

Sorry to name and shame, but I did give this company many opportunities to assist me and help sort out the issues we had, and they either ignored me or said ‘don’t use broad keywords’.

I used Narrow.io which is very cheap ($19 USD per month for one account). I set this up with the advice from their team with lots of keywords, and didn’t see many issues to start with, if the account did engage with anything inappropriate I would just ‘unlike’ or ‘unfollow’.

I went on annual leave for a couple of weeks and came back to some questions from my manager about why our account had engaged with some pornographic accounts, and we could see why this had happened with some of the words they were using in their posts. I immediately disconnected Narrow and asked for assistance. The customer service people were very unhelpful and just said to less vague search terms or target specific websites, which we tried – to no avail.

In the end, I cancelled it and connected it to my personal account for a test– as it doesn’t matter as much – I did find that I grew followers – around 150 in two weeks. Although I have seen some embarrassing profiles come up within that time.

Conclusion
Use on a personal profile which you can use to share the brand content, therefore you can still extend the reach of the brand content and introduce it to a bigger audience without the risk.

Don’t use it on a brand page if your business reputation could be damaged by pornographic, political or other questionable content.