ARTICLE

Don’t Use Bots to Engage With People on Social Media

by | Fri 16 Jun 2017

I am going to be honest with you, I am writing this post out of one part frustration and one part guidance to people who I think may be inadvertently making a mistake. I wanted to write this up as a blog post so I can send it to people when I see this happening.

It goes like this: when I follow someone on Twitter, I often get an automated Direct Message which looks something along these lines:

These messages invariably are either trying to (a) get me to look at a product they have created, (b) trying to get me to go to their website, or (c) trying to get me to follow them somewhere else such as LinkedIn.

Unfortunately, there are two similar approaches which I think are also problematic.

Firstly, some people will have an automated tweet go out (publicly) that “thanks” me for following them (as best an automated bot who doesn’t know me can thank me).

Secondly, some people will even go so far as to record a little video that personally welcomes me to their Twitter account. This is usually less than a minute long and again is published as an integrated video in a public tweet.

Why you shouldn’t do this

There are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider this:

Firstly, automated Direct Messages come across as spammy. Sure, I chose to follow you, but if my first interaction with you is advertising, it doesn’t leave a great taste in my mouth. If you are going to DM me, send me a personal message from you, not a bot (or not at all). Definitely don’t try to make that bot seem like a human: much like someone trying to suppress a yawn, we can all see it, and it looks weird.

Pictured: Not hiding a yawn.

Secondly, don’t send out the automated thank-you tweets to your public Twitter feed. This is just noise that everyone other than the people you tagged won’t care about. If you generate too much noise, people will stop following you.

Thirdly, in terms of the personal video messages (and in a similar way to the automated public thank-you messages), in addition to the noise it all seems a little…well, desperate. People can sniff desperation a mile off: if someone follows you, be confident in your value to them. Wow them with great content and interesting ideas, not fabricated personal thank-you messages delivered by a bot.

What underlies all of this is that most people want authentic human engagement. While it is perfectly fine to pre-schedule content for publication (e.g. lots of people use Buffer to have a regular drip-feed of content), automating human engagement just doesn’t hit the mark with authenticity. There is an uncanny valley that people can almost always sniff out when you try to make an automated message seem like a personal interaction.

Of course, many of the folks who do these things are perfectly well intentioned and are just trying to optimize their social media presence. Instead of doing the above things, see my 10 recommendations for social media as a starting point, and explore some other ways to engage your audience well and build growth.

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