How to Automate a Twitter Feed with Hootsuite and Bufferapp

The following is part of a series on automation. In this post we will be looking at using two tools, Hootsuite and Bufferapp to complement each other. If you haven’t read my Hootsuite review and Bufferapp review already, it’s probably a good idea to read them first because I will be building on those two posts. It’s also probably a good idea if you read how to use the Hootsuite bulk scheduling tool as well.

One of the hallmarks of creating a good Twitter feed is being a good content curator. It’s not just about pushing out your content or having social media conversations, but it’s about pushing out good content/links that are interesting to your audience and relevant to your niche. If you are a running a BBQ blog and Twitter account, you probably don’t want to be tweeting about PETA and vegan information–unless, of course, you want to have a non engaged account.

My first recommendation is to build up a list of “classic” evergreen content in your space. For the best results, try to get 100-200 different tweets and links (you should constantly be growing and adding to this list). Depending on how active your audience is you can tweet out 1-3 curated links per day. If you have 200 of them and you tweet out 3 per day, you will go at least two months before you repeat. I like to keep these in a spreadsheet and use the Hootsuite bulk scheduler to make sure I have at least 2-3 tweets per day.

Next, hopefully you are keeping on top of what’s going on in your sector from a current events perspective. When you come across something newsworthy, send it to bufferapp. It will auto schedule through bufferapp and fill up your tweet queue. By using these two products in conjunction with each other, you take advantage of their strengths, make sure you are tweeting regularly, and keep your tweet stream fresh and up to date.

You will have to take some care in making sure your scheduled tweets don’t bunch up with your bufferapp tweets. If you are using archived tweets (see How to Tweet From Your Archives), that’s another variable in the mix that you have to work with. Lastly, you will need to take care and make sure your new posts don’t bunch up or step on any of the others posts. If you are having a conversation or Twitter rant, burst tweeting works. For content promotion, especially evergreen content,  spread your tweets out over the day for maximum effectiveness. It sounds complicated but it’s really not. A sheet of paper and pen should do the trick. Mix up the evergreen, news, and new content posts. Look at your analytics to see which gets you the most response and test and adapt.

Content promotion is a cornerstone aspect of social media. As long as you aren’t pushing only your content, people respond to you much more positively. I would go so far as to say keep the self serving tweets to 20-30 % of your total activity. If people see you posting good stuff from others regularly and once a week you promote yourself and ask nicely for a retweet, you will get a better response.

Some people take offense to this approach, thinking that automated or semi-automated publishing is bad. They believe that Twitter should be just about real time conversations and engagement. Conversations are important, but they are time investments without much ROI, so look at them carefully. Are you on Twitter to connect with real friends or are you on Twitter to ultimately do business? Problem solving and customer service tweets are your most effective ROI. Chances are you can come up with 20-50 common questions/problems people have. Set up a text document or spreadsheet for these cases with pre-programmed answers. Using saved searches or rss searches, look for questions or issues. See if you have a standard answer or one that can be easily adapted. Sometimes you aren’t the best source for the answer; in that case, refer them to a government or educational resource. Sometimes a competing or complimentary business is a better source, and that’s ok.  Your main concern should be to solve the problem for the consumer. People remember you for being helpful. The last thing you want to do is come across as self serving social media guru who only links to themselves and talks about themselves. It’s a sure fire way to guarantee you’ll come off as a stuck-up, ego centric jerk. Trust me. If you are a huge brand and deal only in information, you might be able to get away with being broadcast only but, for most, a semi-automated solution with scripted responses to common problems works much better.

Unless you have a large company and customer service plays a big role, having one or more people working solely on Twitter/Facebook etc. is a waste of time. During the day, 20-30 minutes / 2-3 times a day should be enough. When you have big push, yes, you will need to spend more time, but by and large it’s overkill. Not to take dig at the purely social media consultants, but they spend all day promoting themselves on Twitter. In an attention-based economy, they are trying to get more clients and billable hours, but that probably isn’t your goal. Your goal is to extract as much profit and sales with the smallest investment of time and resources. The only reasonable way to do that is with some form of automation.

So what are the takeaways from this posts:

  • Automated or semi automated tweet streams aren’t evil. If a human wrote them and scheduled it, there nothing deceptive about it. Scraping and robo-tweeting without any human input is much more problematic.
  • Use the tools to their strengths. Plugins that auto-publish blog posts free you from being tied to your blog.
  • Build a body of work of ever expanding evergreen tweets. Use a schedule tool with them, trying to not repeat individual posts too often.
  • Use auto scheduling tools for news and current events.
  • Mix in archive tweets from your evergreen posts. Try to not overwhelm people with self serving content.
  • Be on the lookout for big players in your space to retweet. Nothing gets someone as excited as a natural unsolicited tweet from a friend, colleague, or similar service.
  • Conversations and customer service are a necessary evil in social media. Look for ways to minimize the time you spend there with a library of answers to common questions. Customer service is hard. Your people need to know when to color outside the lines. Give them the authority to solve problems on the spot. Letting customer problems fester is hardly ever the best solution.
  • The key is finding a balance between human interaction and automation is knowing that sometimes you need to adapt. At the end of the day, social media is about being social. The key is finding tools and workflows that minimize your time investment without losing that human touch.

photo credit:  Photospin

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