Automation isn’t necessarily a four letter word, but when it come to social media, it’s close.
Using automation can certainly make your Twitter life easier, and there are situations where it is highly effective. However, automating an entire marketing campaign? It’s probably not a great idea.
If you’re already sending out robotic, automated interactions on Twitter, you’re probably too far gone for any help. But if you’ve flirted with the idea of automating a campaign — not interactions — maybe this will deter you: Coca Cola was recently “tricked” into tweeting quotes from Mein Kampf, all because they automated their marketing efforts.
The campaign itself was quite cute: The goal was to make Twitter a happier place by asking people to reply to negative tweet with the hashtag #MakeItHappy, and Coca Cola would respond by turning the negative tweet into a happy little ASCII picture. Pretty harmless stuff, right?
Well, Gawker’s editorial labs director, Adam Pash ended up creating a bot that tweeted quotes from Mein Kampf, then retweeted them with the hashtag #MakeItHappy. For several hours last week, the @CocaCola account (which has 2.85 million followers) tweeted several passages from Mein Kampf in the shape of cutesy bananas and mice, before the automation was shut down and the campaign pulled.
So what went wrong here?
The campaign started off simple enough, but the lack of human oversight made it easy to exploit by the folks at Gawker. Because it was automated, there was no one behind the wheel to steer away from the cliff the second they saw the suspicious tweets appear in the queue.
Automating a campaign leaves you open to vulnerabilities like this. For Coca Cola, this will likely be a bit of an embarrassment before another major campaign takes its place. But for a local mom and pop? A similar gaffe could seriously hurt their public perception and their bottom line.
Of course, businesses should never automate interactions on Twitter. That’s a big no-no, since interaction implies that you’re actually “there” sending the tweet. If found out (and it’s pretty easy to tell when a bot is doing the talking most of the time), customers will probably write off that account as fake, untrustworthy, and dishonest.
Coca Cola’s campaign was not necessarily sending out personalized interactions, but the entire campaign was left up to automation — a big no-no.
There are times when automation on social media can be helpful. Scheduling pre-written tweets (as long as they are evergreen in nature and useful to your audience), can save time. And programs that build automated lists based on who you interact with most, or which suggest who to interact with based on influence, can nurture relationships.
However, automating an entire marketing campaign can result in embarrassment, ridicule and lost business. So learn from Coca Cola and stay attentive during your next Twitter marketing campaign.
(Robotic arms image via Shutterstock)