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Automating Twitter: Is It A Crime? [Poll]

This debate continues to rage and will continue for a while yet.Automating Twitter Is It A Crime

Do you automate some of your messages on Twitter or not? How much automation should you be using, if any at all?

There are essentially three camps.

  1. Yes, Why Not
  2. Absolutely Not
  3. Sometimes

Twitter is great for promotion, whether it be of your own posts,other bloggers content, or information at other websites whether that be a post, video or a link to content in all its different mediums.

Twitter runs on several channels such as:

  • The general stream or public stream for all to see
  • The DM (Direct Message) channel  – only between 2 people on the private channel
  • The @stream or RT that still is public but is collected in that persons feed
  • # for aggregating Twitter updates at one location whether it be for an event or a hot topic or a sector

I use the public stream of  Twitter for a broadcasting marketing tool for my blog posts both current and past as well as other bloggers posts that I think are worth Tweeting. I also use it for communicating in public where appropriate.

The tool I use to automate the distribution of my posts is socialoomph.com (previously known as tweetlater.com) which allows me to automate two functions.

  1. Auto follow – where I just say “Thanks for following me, I look forward to following your tweets” which appears in the DM of the follower.
  2. Auto scheduling –  for distributing my blog posts headlines and links so that it can be seen in the public Twitter stream while I work and sleep

Another tool I use is twitterfeed.com where I can automate sending out other bloggers new posts that I know always deliver top content in the social media space whenever they post a new blog post.

So what are the views of some other top bloggers?

Guy Kawasaki’s take on this topic is essentially that Twitter is a great marketing tool and should be used as such. In a post “What Do You Use Twitter For? New Twitter Power Poll Survey” I quoted  a recent interview of  Guy’s comments (who is one of the top “Non Celebrity” users of Twitter).

Question: ”You currently have over 160,000 followers on Twitter (@guykawasaki) and are one of the top 5 users according to Twitter Grader (wow!). In what ways do you use and derive the most value from Twitter? What advice can you give marketers starting out on Twitter to inspire them that it’s worth investing their time?”

Answer: “Not everyone agrees with my use of Twitter. I approach it as a broadcast marketing tool to help me make Alltop successful. There is no right or wrong with Twitter. Like other large platforms, it’s a tool.”

Rober Scobelizer has another view in a recent post titled “Yo @chrisbrogan you’re doing Twitter wrong” where he discusses Chris Brogans use of Twitter and says

“So, Brogan, can you do the same thing? Give me JUST YOU in one feed and all your conversations in another (I do like that too).”

John Haydon put out a video post post titled “Twitter Techniques I Shouldn’t Be Showing You” that offers another aspect on this topic.

So what is your view?  “Vote Now” Have your say.

[polldaddy poll=2769626]

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • When I see a Twitter post from you, I know it must be automated since I know you don’t stay up all night. : )

    For me, there is an uneasiness knowing that you’re not there behind the tweet and that engagement isn’t possible. I recognize the “broadcast” benefits of Twitter but I think the real power is the engagement, and I am probably a poster child for that with the number of business connections I’ve been fortunate to make this way. I think you’re a smart and interesting guy and it would be fun to engage more deeply with you too through this channel. You never know where it will lead.

    • Martin Graeser

      I do so agree with You, Mark. I quit following @guykawasaki because there was no engament in his tweets.

      Social Media is about engament and dialog – if you automate all your tweets, there will be no engaement or dialouge – and that´s a real shame!

  • Sometimes, I use Twitter to interact with others.

    Sometimes, I use Twitter as a news feed.

    Sometimes, I use Twitter as a broadcast tool.

    Different goals, different techniques.

    I automate some of the messages I send, especially when I want to say something at a time when I know people are likely to be reading but when I won’t be online directly. I also try to avoid overtweeting when possible, so if that means I automatedly stagger five tweets instead of blasting them all at once, so be it.

    How people choose to use the tool is less relevant than whether their use is achieving their goals. And if someone is using a tool in a way that devalues your own experience, just unfollow.

  • The crux of Social Media lies in the ability to connect and engage with one another on an authentic level. If you automate, you miss that opportunity altogether.

    BUT! If you choose to automate, do it sparingly and with respect to your followers. Twitter is not an RSS feed. There is a way to semi-automate, but if you skip over actually being present and engaging, you won’t get the desired results.

  • The advice I give is simple: Automate your tasks, not your conversations.

    • Tom

      Liz’s advice is a good one. You can automate replies to people who follow you. Like a “thank you for following me”. What people do not like, I think, are regular auto-tweets by people/companies. Especially the ones when you suddenly see 10 tweets appear in your feed from one person or company. Very bad. If they’d automate it in a way that you wouldn’t see 10 tweets in a row, it would be much better.

      • I agree with Liz and Tom but you know what I hate? I hate auto replies thanking me for the follow. I use DM to communicate with followers on a personal, one on one basis and I hate having to open a bunch of DMs every morning only to find an automated thanks for the follow. I think we all know that everyone is grateful for those who choose to follow. I tweet both personally, as you see here, and professionally as the professional Twit for a major company 🙂 I use personal tweets and automated no matter which hat I happen to be wearing at the time.

  • Automate your tasks, not your conversations. Thank you Liz Cable!

    I agree with Mark. I think you are a bot 🙂 with amazing empowering information. Keep sharing!!

    I would love to see the distribution or the “degree” among those who responded “sometimes”. Is it a 90 10 or 50 50 or some other mix of (automate : personal)? I have had the same issue with at least one poll I did. When you offer the most logical response option of “sometimes”, it unfortunately dilutes broad intensity measurements. I am not using “sometimes” as a response option in single question polls any more 🙂

    Always enjoy your posts.


  • Great article (as usual!) and great comments.

    I think scheduling/repeating tweets is needed but is something you need to do carefully.

    One aspect with scheduling tweets which is not mentioned often is that sometimes scheduled tweets come out at the same time as a major news event (eg the Chilean earthquake)…such tweets can look a little insensitive then.


    • This is my issue with automation. Tweets about business during the holidays or during major news stories. Seems that the “Automator” should remember they engaged a tool and shut it off when appropriate. I am naive enough to think tweets are genuine – not only about pushing promotional spam. Using a automation tool for Twitter posts is the same as setting up your broadcast email tool. As the recipient – I can opt out of both and do when there is no value.

      I realize I was brought this post by an automation – but I do see value to Jeff Bullas.

  • I am ok with tweet automation as long as it is not used as a mechanism to serve the same tweets over and over again. That said, I always have the option of ‘unfollowing’ an individual or organization so I feel I have some control if there is abuse.
    I also agree with Mark Schaefer with the fact that automation diminishes the opportunity of having an instantaneous engagement. Perhaps in the future, we will have the ability to identify automated tweets and follow/unfollow that type of tweets.

  • I’m not a fan of auto DMs from people when I start following them as it’s slightly pointless in my eyes and always obvious it’s automated.

    Auto posting I don’t mind so much if it’s for the right reasons. If it’s content from your own blog which you would want to share anyway then it’s just common sense to make the process as efficient as possible.

    From a scheduling perspective, this can be great if you find a few useful posts you want to share but don’t want to bombard people.

    Automation/ scheduling is does not have to mean your posts are not personal.

  • In my opinion, in general:

    AutoDM is worthless and fake, cluttering the DM box and doing absolutely nothing to further the relationship. Even worse is when people respond to AutoDMs and get nothing back, solidifying the useless/fake aspect. Might as well unfollow the person, right? Clearly they don’t give a shit.

    AutoFollow is fake and makes your stream less relevant. You’ll eventually need to unfollow fake/spammers/non-engaging people, and it will be annoying. There is value in following someone back to indicate a reciprocal interest, but the truth is when you automate, you dilute that value.

    Hand-selecting and scheduling tweets is fine, and can help even the flow of information coming from your stream. It’s more about the intent behind the tweet/care in spreading the information, rather than whether it’s been scheduled or not. Which brings us to…

    …Twitterfeed and similar services that pull other people’s blog posts sight unseen, to your stream. These lack authenticity and clutter your follower’s streams. Repetition is only valuable if there is some weight being given to the posts. In the case of an unread, automatically published post from someone else, there is no added value.

    When you choose to tweet a link from someone else’s blog, you’re adding your opinion or influence to it. Conversely, you can gain relevance and influence by consistently providing people with top quality, relevant content (from others).

    Using Twitterfeed to pull Mashable, etc all day long just makes it easier for me to know you’re not genuine…and that most likely leads to an unfollow.

    In your case specifically, you’re automatically sending out Mashable posts, but starting with @mashable…which means ONLY people who also follow @mashable will see the tweet. Pointless, no?

    • “Hand-selecting and scheduling tweets is fine, and can help even the flow of information coming from your stream. It’s more about the intent behind the tweet/care in spreading the information, rather than whether it’s been scheduled or not. Which brings us to…”

      This I do. Oftentimes I will RT in the future and to do that, I will schedule the tweet. I feel like it will reach a broader audience that way. Total spewing of tweets with no interaction is the worst form of tweeter I know.

  • Interesting post once again. I enjoyed the comments just as much and agree with much of what has been said. Like anything there is for and against. Personally I do both….automate and communicate. I love having conversations on twitter and enjoy retweeting quotes and interesting links. So for me automating works well & I understand if someone else does the same, after all it is as Guy Kwasaki says….a tool, as are all the other means of social media. However, I do love the fun and quick pace of twitter and it is by far my most favourite place to be….ergo why I am still up at 11pm 🙂
    Thanks again for helpful and interesting posts.

  • Auto DMs are annoying and impersonal.

    Automated Tweets are sometimes necessary. There are peak times when the most Tweeps are on and listening. If you have some good tweets to share, it is nice to be able to automate tweeting them during those times.

    Otherwise it is good to stay away from Automated tweets. It is more personal to get real-time tweets engaging in conversation.

  • I think it’s up to each company to decide for themselves how to utilize Twitter. Twitter is a noisy place and it’s hard to keep up with all of the activity. Social media experts and those with social media in their titles can spend more time on Twitter because that’s how they get paid. But for many companies, it’s just another marketing channel.

    I think there’s a place for automation on Twitter depending upon a company’s social media strategy and resources.

  • Automation is turning twitter into a noisy news feed. I tend to ignore those who post for the sake of posting. They cannot possibly be paying attention to everything they post about. The reason I follow people is because I’m interested in what they are interested in. To me, that means they actually read the stuff they post and think it has value to their community. That’s why they are sharing it. Anyone posting as frequently as Guy as an example, is not paying attention to what he’s sending, therefore I’ve lost interest.
    And more importantly, any direct automated message I get, makes me think the sender is a spammer……
    If Twitter becomes “just another marketing channel” it will soon be on the tech junk pile of other big ticket failures. I hate to rant, but why are the Twitters, Facebooks, Googles of the world so intent on eyeball advertising? Hasn’t social media taught them that advertising for advertsing sake doesn’t really work? If they really want to grab a bigger share of eyeballs, come up with something innovative. Trying to build a better mousetrap has never proven to be a sustainable business model.

  • Just adding my voice to the “some kinds of automation are ok” camp.

    Twitter is great because of personal contact with interesting people, so anything to reduce that personal feeling reduces what I like about Twitter.

    I schedule my tweets, and don’t see anything wrong with that because it’s still my voice. The fact is that I’m saying something that I think my followers want to hear, so I say it at a time when they’re listening. I’m thinking about THEM.

    Automated DMs are worse than useless. It’s kind of like answering the phone to hear an automated message telling you that you’re answering the phone. I still get just a teeny bit excited when I get a DM, only to find out that no one’s on the other end of the line.

    It’s a waste of my time, and gives me a slight sense of disappointment. Is that what the person is going for?

    More so to automatically send someone else’s tweets without even reading them. If someone thinks that a person ALWAYS tweets good stuff, they should tell their followers to follow that person.

    Would you automatically email those third-party tweets to your friends? If not, then maybe you don’t think they’re really that interesting.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post and all the great comments!

  • Yes, I can understand big names automating their tweets. Interacting with 10,000+ followers is improbable. If their tweets stand up to their reputation fair enough.

    Retweeting interesting other posts? Ok too, at least you are reading your feed and applying consideration.

    Automated retweeting of other’s posts with no comments or your own past blog articles? Just devalues the value of having that person on my feed, and they’ll eventually go. After all, after a week or month I’ve seen all they’ve got to offer. I would rather follow their sources if they have value.

    Anyways, finding broadcast sources is not hard, finding a tweeter who you will always read their tweets with attention is much harder. They do get my attention even if they never interact and only post once in a while, as they are sharing consciously. The rest is just a feed filler which will be unfollowed.

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest 😉

  • There’s a big disconnect here with the anti-automation folks. Twitter isn’t a conversation.

    It is possible to have limited discussions with people on it, but that’s about it. It’s a channel that’s best for broadcast and for pointing people to interesting content. It’s also an excellent place to connect.

    But for robust conversations? Not really.

    This authentic argument also crops up all the time. Brands aren’t authentic. They aren’t people. They aren’t twittering from the heart. They are tweeting from guidelines and policies put in place by their marketing and communications departments.

    Automated tweets can be effective for brands and people that want to broadcast specific content at specific times. That doesn’t mean it should be automated all the time. It’s a tool that used correctly can be effective for managing the account. There should also be a mix of interaction and information exchange.

    But this isn’t an either or proposition. You can use the online channels with what fits and works best for you or your brand.

  • I’m thankful that people automate their tweets. If I miss one, I’m liable to see it again soon as it gets re-scheduled. Sure, there is some duplication, but I appreciate the information conveyed in a lot of those tweets and don’t want to wade through hours of previous tweets.

  • I think it all depends. I use automated tweets sometimes when I’m tweeting for a cause. Nobody can be online 24/7. I use Twaitter for some of my tweets I want repeated, whether it’s helping a dog in need or important information I want everybody to notice.

  • @JacekStr

    I thought I participate in a fresh subejct but it had almost a year. I know it was still actual, but repeating messages misleades readers – I like people who express themselves using Twitter and do not spam me

  • I do not like autodms that say “Thanks for following me, I look forward to following your tweets.”  I find the to be very disingenious.  In other words, you will send this out to everybody, with no regard to who they are.  So, Charles Manson (he could be on Twitter) would get the same response as me.  I find that no answer is better than a fake autodm.

  • I do not like autodms that say “Thanks for following me, I look forward to following your tweets.”  I find the to be very disingenious.  In other words, you will send this out to everybody, with no regard to who they are.  So, Charles Manson (he could be on Twitter) would get the same response as me.  I find that no answer is better than a fake autodm.

  • I have only just started using automation, mainly due to spending so much time on Twitter and Facebook that I haven’t been getting much work done!  I only automate a few tweets a day, and then when I’m around I tweet as normal… 

  • I think that occasionally automated tweets etc are appropriate, especially if you have a lot of content to tweet about and you want to get the timing right so that you get the maximum audience. However, I think one of the advantages to Twitter is that is a real time application and that Tweeters are reacting to stories and events whilst they are happening. Automated tweets can spam your feed while there are more interesting relevant things to read about.

    I am also not a fan of ‘Thank you for following..’ etc because it is not personable,which again bypasses an advantage of Twitter and interacting with individual people rather than websites/brands.

  • It’s almost a necessary evil for the effective marketer.  Because of it’s sheer nature, and abundance of content, strategic placement of Twitter postings is critical to getting “seen.”  In managing this, automatic feeders are quite instrumental.

  • Debhughes

    I attempted to follow Guy becausebof his reputation, but 26+ tweets in a day wasbtoo much!

  • I think it is OK in the case that you clearly articulate that you are automating.  People feel betrayed when they reach out and respond to something only to find out that the individual is offline and not “listening.” This can be a self-deflating thing IMO.

  • Andy Watts

    I don’t at the moment but will start soon. I think automated tweets can be great if you’re trying to promote in a different time zone. I live in Salisbury,UK and will be asleep when some of you are up and about. Auto DMs ? No, that’s wrong, people want a personal touch.

  • Auto DMs are terrible.  In terms of auto-updating, I don’t think it’s always bad.  If you’re still monitoring those updates, the replies, the retweets, etc. (in other words, if you’re still being social about it), then it’s not bad.  I don’t care for linking across social media channels, at least not on every single update.

  • I agree with “sometimes”. I schedule stuff through hootsuite all the time, it’s because

    1. I want to spread out the stuff I find during the day
    2. I can post at 3am while I’m sleeping but other parts of the world people are awake
    3. I can have my free time to myself instead of posting on twitter every hour or two.

    So almost every morning I load up some automated tweets and then go on my way, and use twitter interactively as I usually would. I’m not spamming anything, just posting info for people.

    I know there are a lot of folks like me who do this, and that’s great. if you’re doing auto follows and posting spam links, then it’s pretty likely you’ll be banned anyway. And there really is no excuse for auto DMs in my opinion.

  • I don’t like automated “Thanks for following messages.” Nor do I appreciate DM’s automated to direct me to a product or service except as an answer to something I asked. If you are going to DM, make it personal. I only automate to schedule posts in case I can’t do spontaneous tweets.

  • SEO Steer

    I think that automated a tweets should be marked as such

  • Chris

    Said sometimes because it can be really annoying to readers if they’re getting bombarded with messages.

  • Thanks for your feedback and I think it is better to at least say thank you for following even if it is automated because there is no way I can say thanks to the 3,000 to 4,000 people a month. We all have our own views and that is what I love about being human, diversity! 🙂

  • Automate = PEDs (Cheating)

  • JayGilmore

    I opted for yes, but I use it more than “sometimes” and use a lot of real-time content in both my business tweets and some personal ones. @JeremyMorgan:disqus has got my reasons down. Some of the other reasons to schedule tweets are for campaigns where you have 100 other things to do. Holiday Greetings are a good reason to do scheduled tweets. And yes, push marketing message, while not engaging, do have a measurable positive impact on conversions. Auto DMs are a no-no in 2013.

    I think you can carefully build regular campaigns with unique posts and content through smart scheduling.

  • Even for personal tweets, auto-scheduling may be appropriate in doses. If you have a personal brand built around sharing certain kinds of information and also have an audience that is time-shifted from your location, then it makes a lot of sense to auto-schedule some of those tweets. That’s no good if you use it simply to push content while ignoring all remarks or conversation. But it you are good about replying to subsequent tweets, then you minimize the impersonality. To me, it’s not about whether you save some content for prime viewing hours, but whether you also allow yourself to be interactive.