In April, Twitter made headlines for trying to address the growing spam problem on its platform by filing suit against companies utilizing the Twitter API to automate following and tweeting based on keywords.
Questions have arisen surrounding automation tools that allow users to manage their Twitter account and what qualifies as spam.
The process employed by the tools Twitter is targeting are similar to those used by many social media marketers. For example, some send automatic direct messages (Auto-DMs) to new followers. The question is is this a useful way to foster engagement or is it just another form of spam.
Some may argue that Auto-DMing shows interest in one’s followers and a source for increasing engagement. However, the actual goal appears to be focused on increasing click-through rates or increasing one’s followers.
An informal experiment using a dummy account to follow individuals interested in social media found that after following 938 different accounts, 68 direct messages were received from 54 different accounts with duplicate messages sent from some accounts.
Some of the more common exampled received from these accounts were:
At times it was difficult to tell the difference between the actual spam attempting to phish account data and those that were not. The account used in the study replied to every message possible with a question or witty response aimed to prompt another reply. Of the 32 responses sent, only two replied.
Kate Gardiner, head of freelance web strategy firm Distill used to emply the practice of Auto-DMing as a strategy for acknowledging her audience. She found that it helped to increase follower retention but had little affect on click-through rates. “We found we did better putting our great content for people to engage with consistently. While it took a lot more time and effort it seems to be worth it,” said Kate.
Leah Jones, a Vice President at Olson PR, found similar results as Kate but made a point that any one who employed Auto-DMing as part of their strategy didn’t do so under her direction. “Spam outside of email is in the eye of the beholder. If all of your users feel it’s spam, then it’s spam. I don’t see anyone on the receiving end of Auto-DMs who want to receive it. It offers very little value if any,” said Leah.
Based on their experience, Kate and Leah found that using Auto-DMs was not a viable strategy for engaging followers on Twitter.
However, at times, automation of social media can sometimes be helpful. For example, pre-writing and scheduling tweets can help to optimize the dissemination of your content and create consistency that followers can rely on.
One of the most valuable aspects of social media is the ability to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. This benefit can be lost all together by using too much automation and lead to frustration among followers if they reach out and never receive a response. Social media marketers will benefit more from publishing and sharing great content and being more human than they will by sending Auto-DMs.