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August 18, 2010

Twitternation and Automation — SES San Francisco

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Moderator:

Matt McGowan, Publisher and Head of U.S., Incisive Media

Speakers:

I’m back again for another social media session. You’d think I was a big fan of it myself, wouldn’t you?  Nope, I just figure that I, and so many others out there, need to know this info for yourselves or your clients.  I’ll take my mountains over Twitter any day… sorry, Twitter fans. :)

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I’m expecting this to be a popular session. As I was waiting to get in the door, a line had already formed about 20 minutes before the session was due to begin.  I personally don’t recognize any of the speakers but have no doubt they’ll have something valuable to offer us today. There is definitely some blogger coverage, so if I don’t do a good enough job, there are about 15-20 others who you can turn to.  If I was nice, I’d tell you who they all are, and give you links to their blogs… but remember, I’m not social.

Time to start. Looks like Jeff is going to talk about Twitternation, Tracy is going to talk about using tools and lastly Paul will cover Twitter automation (the dark side of Twitter, Matt says).

Jeff Pulver starts by polling the audience about how many are on Twitter. About half raise their hands [nope, I didn’t]. Then he asks how many think of themselves as a brand, and slightly less raise their hands.  Yes, if you’re on Twitter, you are a brand, especially if you have a following. [Well, I’m a brand because I have a following.  Maybe one day I’ll not ignore them so badly.]

Jeff is covering some of his history and how he studied ham radio. He says ICQ was created by some ham radio folks who were lonely. [Interesting random fact you can use to impress a girl at a party or something, right?]

Twitter attracted him because it was a place to have a conversation… away from his ham radio.  He has thousands of followers that he proudly says he didn’t spam to get.  Twitter brings folks together [aww, that’s sweet of them].

Jeff also talks about how he used to work at the World Trade Center but was fired before 9/11. He says that sometimes getting fired saves your life.  After 9/11, agencies spent tons of money to find a way to improve communications because of the chaos rescuers experienced during that event. Things were quite different with Haiti where everyone was on Twitter and found ways to help those people.  He also talks about how one of his tweets allowed Doctors Without Borders to land once when they were being prevented, which in turn got his Twitter account followed by the U.S. Air Force.  You just never know what your online voice will do or who it’ll reach.

If you spend the time to invest in yourself as a brand, it does matter, and not to just yourself.  There are some who spend energy to spam their follower numbers and that’s just BS. If none of those followers purchase your product or are in anyway valuable to your business, then they are worthless.

Jeff’s closing words are basically saying that Twitter is a platform for you to create your legacy and make your impact on the world. If you are serious enough to engage on it, then you need to be serious enough to make that engagement worth it.

Tracy is up next, but says that Jeff is a hard act to follow. [I’d almost agree. His talk was almost inspiring.]

She’s going to talk about the automation of Twitter for those big brands and business that maybe don’t have time or employees to dedicate to Twitter.  Tracy works with some large brands who don’t necessarily know how they can create and have a voice online. For example, banks or nuclear plants that also have a fear of doing something that will get them into trouble.

Some of the trouble with social media marketing is resources.  You have to hire someone, train someone or find someone who can do it for your company.  That’s where automation can come into play – for those companies that can’t do that.  Time and energy is put into content and engagement objects and some big companies have teams of people working on these things – so how can you get that out there without a team to push it?

[Uh oh… Jeff keeps interrupting Tracy’s presentation and almost attacking her.  Some uncomfortable wiggles and giggles in the audience. She’s handling it awesomely well! Go Tracy.]

She’s moving on now. CoTweet is a tool that allows her to automate Twitter.  It has many bells and whistles that allow you to manage the account.

The next tool that she loves is HootSuite. This tool can help you monitor the chatter your account is creating. She also uses it to keep an eye out on opportunities (competitors).

[Jeff interrupts again. He has some good questions, but it’s somewhat annoying for the audience. Again, Tracy recovers well.]

SocialOomph is the last tool which allows you segmentation. You can put your tweets in, define the time, channel and tweet in bulk. Look at Twitter trends to see when your audience is online and the best time to send your tweets. She says it allows you to autofollow friends also.

Tracy’s only rule of automation: be social. Be nice. Be polite. Be interested. Listen to other people. Don’t just push out content but be active with the account. You need to be careful, too.

A nice tip from Tracy: don’t do the “thank you for following me” message. You’re wasting space in the Twitter inbox that prevents people the opportunity for real interaction messages.

She goes on to discuss the don’ts of Twitter, like “bait and switch” links that you embed in your Twitter.  Don’t advertise products that are junky, get rich quick schemes.  Also, don’t set your automation tool and forget it.  This can cause huge issues.

[Oh boy. Answering Jeff’s questions may have put her over time and now she’s talking 100 words a minute and I can’t keep up.  Sorry, Tracy and readers! Check those other blogger’s sites for additional coverage of her presentation.]

Let’s see if I can do better with Paul Madden’s presentation. [Deep breath.]

He says the problem nowadays is that you need to be on twitter but you don’t have the people to do it. Automation is the solution.

He suggests that companies have supporting accounts for the automated account you have for the company.  This will make sure that the automated account isn’t the only voice for the company.

How do you make the automated account (bot) a person:

  • Have a clear, inviting, consistent avatar.
  • Give the account a bio – a life.
  • Then, build a following:
    • The follow unfollow game still works.
    • 50% of people will follow.
  • Next, do some general tweets.
  • Ask questions.
  • Do some tweets with some links.
  • Engage with others by asking questions and retweeting.
  • Do things to make them look real:
    • Foursquare
    • LinkedIn profile
    • Allow Facebook to post to profile

Paul goes more into the black hat arena to talk about how you can use other (real) accounts to help you build a list of tweets that will look unautomated-like.  He jokingly says that he doesn’t recommend it, while showing a slide of his tool that does just that.

Some tips to get away with automation:

  • Post direct via cURL + PHP
    • Appears as posted via “web”
  • Have multiple points of posting
    • Perhaps from your own http proxy or link network
  • Don’t leave footprints
  • Respect peoples time – it is social after all

Paul also says that the reality of automation is that you shouldn’t risk the main brand account. Twitter can’t enforce its own rules yet (but may be able to one day).

[Approach serious automation with caution. I’d even recommend getting a company to help you do so – one that has knowledge in this type of thing.  Personally, I don’t think I’ll be doing the automation thing anytime soon but hey, I know there are lots of companies who can benefit from it. Have at it!]

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