Lately, rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn and posting real-time tweets in reaction to what I’m hearing on cable TV talk shows has become a regular occurrence, and a couple of Fridays ago I found myself questioning the wisdom of this practice (while still enjoying my first cup of coffee.) I realize my decision to engage in this activity is a target rich can of worms in its own right, but on that morning it wasn’t the TV pundits that set me off, it was the auto-Tweeters.
For the novice, Twitter is an online engagement platform which enables users (called Tweeters) to communicate with each other in 140 character messages known as tweets. I follow Tweeters that reflect my personal interests; political pundits, journalists, sports bloggers, health care advocates and friends and colleagues from different aspects of my life. In turn, my followers are made up of people with similar interests, we talk to each other and share content through our tweets and re-tweets. The auto Tweeters upset the apple cart with their uninvited presence, not enough to flip the cart over but enough to be a real nuisance.
First, what’s an auto Tweeter?
The proliferation of relatively cheap automatic follow and re-tweet Twitter applications, commonly referred to as robots or bots, has enabled marketers to launch carpet bomb engagement efforts to raise awareness for what they are hawking. Many of these auto accounts are set up on they fly with little or no quality control. Most select a key word, or words, and set their bots to either follow people who use that word in a tweet or to re-tweet the original posting containing that word to their followers. This creates the undesired effect of bots artificially inflating lists of Twitter followers and infiltrating message streams with technology beings rather than human beings. I’m old school enough to still believe that people build the best customer relationships and deliver the most effective messages, not robots.
Back to that Friday morning and the bot attack
That morning I experienced an attack by bots in real life, in real-time, again! My TV was tuned into MSNBC’s Morning Joe and the panel of pundits discussing the impending Labor Department jobs report slated to be released later in the day. By all accounts the yet to be released report was going to paint a grim picture for the nation’s jobless and the on air discourse reflected the bleakness of this news. Being a political show it was natural that the discussion shifted to political winners and losers as the result of the report. I had a hard time getting beyond the thought that political pundits handicapping politicians and parties wasn’t going to create one additional job or buy one dinner for a struggling family, so I hit the send key on my first tweet of the day.
My first tweet at 7:08 AM:
Within seconds I received an email announcing my new auto bot follower at 7:08 AM:
I sent my first retaliatory bots can bite me tweet at 7:12 AM and it was auto re-tweeted at 7:17:
Auto Tweeter profile showing the bot follows nobody and my follow-up bots can bite me tweet at 7:26 AM:
You would think advertisers would think twice before empowering robots to litter the landscape with cyber-trash.