Bad PR: Coming to a Twitter feed near you

Another day, another Twitter application springs up. And while Tweet Manager looks useful, it’s also a somewhat dangerous, especially if used by PR agencies or companies  who know nothing about the web and social media. Or, worse still, think they know about social media.

On one hand, Tweet Manager is useful for the prolific Twitterers to manage their accounts. You can auto-post a Tweet at a pre-set time, set up an autoreply (useful for holidays) and manage multiple accounts.

The latter is especially useful for people who handle several brands or feeds across Twitter – or want to perhaps split their personal and professional Tweeting, while the pre-set Tweeting could be very useful in certain circumstances.

But it’s some of the other services that are, as Steven Davies, who first flagged this up, just asking for it. Namely mass messaging.

This feature enables you to send a message to up to 1,000 users at any one time. Again, there are times when it could possibly be useful (a major announcement perhaps) but it’s essentially the Twitter equivalent of sending out a mass mail press release, and probably much more annoying.

Then there’s auto-follow, where the application will follow anybody who Tweets a specific word.

This is already a pet irritation of mine – I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve followed me (probably after a TweetBeep alert) on the basis that I’ve Tweeted a keyword.

Example in point. Not so long ago I Tweeted that I’d had so many emails in a day, my BlackBerry’s vibrate function had caused the device to throw itself off the table. Almost immediately somebody who offered ‘BlackBerry solutions and training’ started following me. Thanks for that.

So, put them all together and it’s now easier than ever for PR people to start spamming Twitter and giving the rest of us a bad name.

Imagine the pitch – a PR agencies pitches to a brand, with no real knowledge or experience of social media. They tell the brand they can set up an account on the hot new site that the whole media is talking about: Twitter.

Not only that, they can also make sure that they track everybody who talks about their product and then hit them all with targeted info (read: mass message).

Brand goes away convinced they’ve cracked the internet. PR then spams the hell out of people who just happen to have mentioned the word, regardless of it they have any interest in the brand or not. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Just *being* on Twitter is not social media. Autoposting and not engaging is not a social media strategy. They’re fine for news feeds (which in themselves are quite a useful thing to have on Twitter) but not for a genuine Web 2.0 strategy. And mass messaging definitely isn’t a social media strategy.

The sad thing is, there’ll probably be a few PR people and.or brands who genuinely think that they’ve now cracked Web 2.0 because they’re posting stuff on Twitter. And then there’ll be those who know they’re not but will do it anyway.

Ok, this isn’t a Demya-type service – and I’ve no doubt that Tweet Manager was built with the best intentions in mind (and they ask users to use the service responsibly), and it does have some useful features. But we’ve already got enough problems working out how to fix email and PR. Let’s not have to do the same with Twitter.


7 Responses to “Bad PR: Coming to a Twitter feed near you”

  1. 1 DonaldS December 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Indeed, good post, and because my Twitter profile contains not a few useful keywords, I get lots of PR follows.

    However, nobody can DM me unless I follow them back, IIRC. And I can block spambots and the like from even seeing my updates (which I do regularly). And there’s no need for me ever to follow anyone who’s simply broadcasting rather than engaging; I unfollow ‘real’ people for that reason regularly, too. So, all in all, I’m not sure this is likely to become a big problem if you know how to dodge it. It may all end up with thousands of spambots and PR agencies autofollowing each other’s boring tweets, while the rest of us get on with it. Whatever ‘it’ is.

  2. 2 Lolly December 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    I haven’t had time to check out this tool but I’ll definitely have a look at some point his week… The whole point of social media is human interactions and whilst tools such as TweetBeep can be useful to us PR folks, they can indeed be very dangerous…

  3. 3 Matt Churchill December 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Couldn’t agree more – I forsee Account Directors telling Acount Executives they all of a sudden know what to do for xxx client to get them on the social media map “I’ve just heard of this thing called Twitter and we can approach everyone on their with this thing called Tweet Manager” No no no!

    If anything, this is where the more in-tune PRs can show their worth in the social media sphere. It’s an opportunity to go “hold on, don’t you think that if we send 1,000 tweets out once a week someone might cotton on that we’re spamming them, just like it was insisted we did on e-mail? Let’s try actually talking to them…”

    Thankfully ym agency doesn’t believe in such practices but i bet there are a few who will eat this up gladly giving the rest of us a bad name.

  4. 4 Simon Kendrick December 30, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Very good point – being able to automate a laborious (for a good reason) process can be destructive. Not just in agency PR but anyone trying to game stats or spam a link.

    My experience: Mentioning Mad Men in a tweet and within a couple of hours having some of the fake profiles following me. I regrettably clicked on a profile and had spoilers to episodes I hadn’t seen revealed. D’oh.

  5. 5 Gary Andrews December 30, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Yeah, the DM function not being available unless there’s a follow back should, thankfully, make it less of a problem. But there you’ll always get people who’ll follow back not realising that it’s just an automated PR account (especially new and less-savvy users). And then you’ll get a few angry blog posts (possibly from journalists). And really, the last thing PR needs to do is scare journalists away from Twitter.

    As you’ve all said, this is a chance for good social media PR practice to show its worth here – there’s some great PR success stories built through basic interaction and relationship building via Twitter. Not setting up autofollows.

    The idea of Automatced PR feeds and spambots locked in a never-ending conversation is an amusing one though 🙂

  6. 6 darika December 30, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    I’d just hit the point where I’m finding it dull to check who’s following me as there’s so much nonsense. It essentially also reinforces that I am boring.

    But I will try not to lose site of the fact these services are intended to be helpful. A lot of us PRs have to manage work Twitter accounts and would still like to have a personal identity beyond “Evil PR Human Spambot”. This is the first feature I’ll try on it.

    Oh, then I’ll start actively spamming the masses in the hope it scares journos away. Can’t they just deal with it like the rest of us? 😉

  7. 7 Colin Campbell December 30, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    I am feeling a little sick after reading this. How much crap do we need to read. Twitter is mostly crap and the thought of being auto bombarded by twits sending tweets is beyond comprehension. Luckily I keep my follow list short. Merry Christmas.

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