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.

6 things social media marketers know

5

No-one knows what you do

  1. Most people have no idea what you do. ‘Oh so you do the Tweets and shit?’ is something I get almost every time I tell someone my job. Yeah, I do write Tweets and shit, but that is the most basic part of my job. A lot of my time is spent on creating a strategy, building relationships with influencers, curating and creating content in the form of video, imagery and blogs, graphic design and customer service. I also run adverts, reports and plan and execute creative campaigns and manage budgets. In my industry (travel) a lot of time is required training teams around the business, a strong link between product and marketing, and sales and marketing is key to being successful on social media.

You speak to customers every day

  1.  Service is key. As social media marketer, you spend a lot of your time communicating directly with clients, something very few others in the marketing team do. You regularly engage with clients who LOVE your brand, but you are also the person who has to diffuse situations where clients are very unhappy. A great thing about this is that you have access to insights about your customer that others don’t, you can see what they like to engage with and create content in line with this.

    People ask questions on social media because they want an immediate or at least quick response. You have to be able to respond as soon as possible, so you have to use your initiative. If the customer asks you something really in-depth about your product or service and you don’t know the answer, you need to be resourceful and ask the right people.

You overlap with PR

  1. Although social media is predominantly a (very powerful) marketing tool, it overlaps with PR a lot. A big part of being successful is building relationships with people. Your content will be reaching both potential customers and the press, and by sharing your company blogs and expertise on social media, you are opening up organic promotional opportunities. You must be able to network and build relationships with people within the industry. It is you who sits behind the company logo on Twitter, so it is you who needs to build the rapport.

    You need to keep up to date with big news and trends, both so that you can jump on them for brand exposure, but also so that you can avoid talking about topics which could cause negative engagement or show brand insensitivity. In travel, we need to be very aware of natural disasters etc. in destinations so that we can avoid promoting them when needed.

You understand your brand

  1. You must understand your brand. The intricacies of a brand can be one of the hardest things to get your head around in a new company. I find that treating the ‘brand’ as if it were an individual is a good place to start. When planning a campaign or advert ask yourself ‘would my key demographic understand this and want to be associated with it?’In social media, you will be finding out what the business focuses are and planning monthly or quarterly themes of content in line with this.

    On social media, images and video are the most powerful things, you need to make sure all your imagery and video content is ‘on brand’ and flows with your company’s website, emails, brochures, magazines etc. In many cases, you are the person telling people what imagery to create, because you are the person who is using it the most. If it stands out and is too different, it is not doing its job.

This is anything but a linear role

  1. You must be versatile. Many marketing departments outsource their campaigns to creative agencies. In social media, you have the power to create smaller scale (and large) campaigns in-house. This can be by gathering user-generated content to show how much your customers love your product/service or running a competition to gain sign-ups to your newsletter/magazine. The sphere of social media really is as big or as small as you want to make it.

Your audience doesn’t change

  1. The biggest myth is that your market is somehow different on social media: it isn’t. Your demographic and potential customer base doesn’t change, the things that do are the way you engage with them, and the way they use the platform. A customer reading a magazine will give your article more time because they have chosen to sit and read it, your beautiful Instagram post has popped up while they’re quickly scrolling on the train needs to grab their attention a lot faster.