The amount of time it takes to manage an active Twitter account is one of the major hurdles in getting clients to use Twitter effectively. The best approach is to create an automated tweeting system to ensure a steady flow of product and corporate messages, and then supplement these tweets with hand written ones.
Automated tweeting code is easy to write. I create a MySQL table that contains the automated tweets, and a matching data entry page so that the client can add and edit these tweets on their own. Then I write a script that retrieves a single tweet from the database and posts it to the client’s account. Each tweet has a field for the last date and time it was posted which is filled in by the autotweeting script. The code that does the tweeting retrieves tweets from the database in reverse order by the last time it was tweeted, so the tweets will be cycled through from first to last. Eventually the system will work its way back to the first item in the list and repeat the tweets again, but if you have a hundred or more tweets in the table, and only autotweet five or six times a day, nobody will notice when you finally repeat the same tweets.
This autotweeting creates a baseline for an active account, and once the tweets are entered in the database there is no work for the client. But this isn’t enough. No matter how well the autotweets are written they will have an impersonal feel, because they can’t be addressed to a specific user. Even if they aren’t written as pure ad copy, they still read like broadcasting.
The next step is adding tweets that clearly come from a human. To do this I have the client read their Twitter stream every few hours and reply to one of the tweets that seem interesting. This reply should be directed to the @user who made the original tweet. Since this type of tweet couldn’t be done by a robot, at least not in a convincing way, anyone reading the client’s Twitter stream will see that they are actively engaged with their followers. Five or six of these human tweets every day in combination with the autotweets is enough to create an active account.
The goal is to create an interesting stream of tweets that not only will be followed back in response to a follow, but will be read by the followers when they appear. At the same time you need to reduce the amount of time the client needs to work at tweeting, since they have other business tasks. By automating the product messages, it lets the client craft these messages carefully, and replace them over time as their marketing approach changes.
All this sounds very premeditated. Shouldn’t Twitter just be about one human really engaging with another human on a deeply personal level? Sure. But in practice companies use Twitter to promote their business, and anyone who denies that is living in a fantasy world. Twitter sells promoted tweets, which are nothing by ads, so the idea of commercial messages on Twitter is nothing new. If I can help a client create an active account that gets followed with much less work on their part, that is a useful service.