As with any form of social networking, Twitter works best when used on a personal level; however, they may be times when using a Twitter automation tool is desirable. The most popular and successful Twitter accounts work so well because they act and react with other users in mind, they don’t simply push out self-serving links when it suits them. Few companies making use of the service keep their tweets completely link-free, but the ones that post nothing but directions back to their sites are the ones that will be ignored, blocked and often banned.
A busy account can, however, streamline its actions with a few automated tweets. If you know you have a sale coming up, it’s easy to set up a service that will post your message at a designated time. This alarm clock style service means you’re sure not to mistime (or forget!) any important tweets, you won’t be sitting online with your finger hovering above your enter key waiting to share your news and you won’t need to pay anyone to stay late or work overtime just to get your message out. Pre-writing certain messages, for example, if you have a weekly preview tweet to tell followers of things to look out for, can be an efficient way of managing your Twitter time.
The most common way to use this tool is to update a Twitter account every time a site or blog is updated. Many blogs allow plugins to do this work, while other services take the information they need from an RSS feed. The obvious advantage is that this saves you time. If you’re going to tweet every update, or at least every update that you put into a certain category, it means you can do something else productive with your time. The downside is that this, like many other forms of automation, can quickly make an account look spammy, so it’s vital that if you use this sort of service you continue to give Twitter automation a personal touch, sending out your own messages, retweeting and replying to your followers more often than your account distributes automated messages.
People with personal accounts can use this service as well, particularly to send messages to people in other time zones – be the first to wish someone a happy birthday – or to announce something that you may have to hold back for a certain period of time. Perfect for the user too busy to be on at certain times, or who likes to stick to a certain sleep pattern.
Automated tools come in many forms. Twuffer starts at the most basic end – a simple calendar system that places scheduled tweets in a queue, ready to go when you decide they should be published. Twaitter takes things up a level, allowing you to repeat messages every day/week/month (to be used sparingly) and links up with Ping.fm to allow you to send messages to other platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. If you control more than one Twitter account, you may want to make use of CoTweet which allows you to send out the same message to many places.
No matter what level of automation you use, you need to be sure to check in to your account regularly to check on @replies and direct messages – unanswered messages is a sure way to annoy or lose followers.
So while Twitter automation can be a useful tool for saving time, if you make use of any of these services it’s vital that you don’t use them to take control of the running of your account. Every successful account has a personal touch and joins in conversations, makes comments outside its own personal interests and makes posts that are more for its followers rather than itself. If you’re using Twitter merely to tell people about yourself or you’re company, you’re doing it wrong.