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The Great Twitter Automation Debate

Oct 30, 2011 4 min readSocial Media Marketing

Two great Twitter heavyweights had a detailed conversation over Twitter a few hours ago about the purpose of Twitter, and where automation fits in.

The way Scott Stratten (@Unmarketing) sees Twitter is for real-time conversation:

However, for Michael Gray (@GrayWolf), Twitter can be more efficient:

By carrying on a live conversation, both showed they valued Twitter as a communication platform, but they differed over to what degree. And, boy, did they differ!

More Than One Way To Communicate

Of course, communication can take many forms. For example, you can reply to emails when you have time, rather than chain yourself to a device to reply to every one when it arrives.

In that vein, Gray compares Stratten’s insistence about using Twitter primarily for real-time communication to be “like saying all conversations should be on the phone.” He further points out that email or letters (what he calls asynchronous communication) are valid forms of communication.

Automated Tweets: Best For Sharing, Not For Talking

Stratten critiques automated tweets as follows: “Trying to have presence without being present [promotes laziness and] becomes a habit, and soon you’re barely here.”

This obviously makes the point that if you are using Twitter for real-time communication,  automated tweets are fine as long as they don’t interfere with that.

Stratten says he gets the greatest value from Twitter almost exclusively as a real-time communication platform, and feels strongly that other users badly miss out on that value. For example, he states:

“If you’re not here for replies, you lose the conversation potential.”

To which Gray replied,

“You can receive automated alerts when someone @’s u.”

So automation can also help you in some cases to be available for real-time communication when you need to.

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I think a fair summary would be that you don’t want to miss out on the value of real-time engagement on Twitter, and anything that gets in the way could be a bad thing.

Sharing Information Efficiently

Twitter, the company, emphasizes the value of sharing information in tweets. And if you’re tweeting when no one is listening, what’s the point? This is why free users of Buffer, for example, find their Klout scores increasing by nearly four points once they start buffering some tweets: more people see the tweets, so more people can engage with them.

For example, through my @TweetSmarter account my tweets get the greatest engagement during the hours I am usually asleep, because we are so popular in other parts of the world.

Gray emphasizes that using scheduled tweets allows you to

“…batch schedule during non peak times and stop attention shift loss…scheduling late at night/early morning saves maximum brain power times for “hard thinking” stuff.”

He also points out that “I love BufferApp and am a huge advocate of the product … I am a paying customer not compensated.”

Helping People By Sharing

I think they’re both right. (Full disclosure: Scott and I were recently in an interview together in Canada’s Sun Newspaper chain about minding your manners online.)

I would not want to stop sharing important Twitter news and tutorials just because I can’t be awake 24 hours every day. And I love catching up on conversations with people after I have to be away for awhile.

In particular, I try to answer all questions that come my way (but sometimes fail) as quickly as I can. However, I don’t let the lack of real-time engagement stop me from getting back to people whenever I can.

Twitter can be a filter for the internet, helping us find the best information and news. As important, Twitter is a great place for experts to share their expertise, both by scheduling content tweets at a time when most people can see them, as well by engaging in real-time conversation.

My opinion?

Twitter, like life, is what you make it. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is only one right way to use it.

Back To You

Do you use Twitter for real-time conversations when you can AND schedule tweets, as most of us do? Is that okay? What is your best advice for getting value from Twitter? Leave a comment in the box below. We’d love to hear from you!

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