Published on 29th Dec, 2008 in Online Marketing

Auto Responding on Twitter: A Do or Don’t?

Spam Owl
Image by Life in LDN via Flickr
There is a hot discussion going on down at Chris Brogan’s blog. Chris argues that social media is no place for robotic behavior. I agree. Being a valuable human being is important in life and social media…go figure. Specifically, he expresses his loathing for auto responders like Tweet Later which allow one to automate messages to their followers. And looking at his comments, it seems like many agree with him. Lots of Amens. While I deeply respect Chris and 99.9% of the time agree (vigorous head nodding and all) with him. This time, I disagree. Like all tools, I think auto responders have a place. They can be used intelligently and with good intentions OR they can be used as tools to spam people. It’s about the choice isn’t it? Auto responders are akin to wearing bright colors in fashion. Done right, it is a definite do. Done wrong and it’s a major fashion disaster. I use Tweet Later to do a few things… 1) Automatically follow anyone who follows me. Why not? If you can take the time to follow my tweets, why can’t I do the same? By following me, you show me a sense of trust and respect. I appreciate it that, which is why I use it to… 2) Thank you. Yes, I do automate my gratitude. What’s wrong with that? I am GENUINELY grateful when someone decides to follow me. They have chosen to give me the time of their day. Whether it’s a second, a minute, or an hour. I am honored. When my entire family calls me at midnight on my birthday, I email them ALL in the morning thanking them for their love and thoughtfulness. No one minds. I am sincerely grateful. 3) Provide a link to my about Shama page. NOT a sales page. The most COMMON direct message I get from new followers is: So, what do you do? Or, tell me about yourself. Can I do this in 140 characters? Ummm..I can try. But, a link is more efficient and a fairer answer. I don’t make money when people click. This is also a sincere form of sharing. My feeling is that when someone says they HATE receiving automated messages, they are really saying they hate not being acknowledged as an individual. And I think, herein lies the culprit. We judge intentions.

Automated Message (same content) = You don’t care about me! You are only trying to spam me!

Personal Message (same content) = Ah, you do see me as a person!

So, is TIME how we measure intentions now? If I take the time to personally write out the same message I could have automated, it some how becomes more valuable? And valuable ENOUGH to you to justify hours of my time? Because, if I reply to you, I want to make sure I reply to all.

I don’t get offended when someone I follow says thank you. Perhaps I am too optimistic in my approach to life, but I like to believe in people’s innocence and good intentions until proven guilty. Spam me, and you WILL irk me. I think there is a fine line between disrespecting someone (spamming them with innane links or continuous irrelevant questions) and using auto responders to share something worthwhile.

And with that ladies and gentlemen, I must conclude that auto responders are indeed a DO. But you must be careful not to abuse the tools.

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