A glance over the top Twitter users reveals an interesting pattern. Most of them are celebrities, well known media outlets, or sports teams. Every single account in the top few hundred most followed Twitter users is famous outside of Twitter. They didn’t get into the top lists because of their Twitter behavior; they got there because they’re famous.
But a handful of accounts break this rule. For example, @OMGFacts has 5.3 million followers, @BreakingNews has 5.2 million, @NoteBook has 4.1 million, @CarrollTrust has 3.8 million, and @WhatTheFFacts has 3.2 million. They don’t belong to previously famous entities, so how did they get so many followers? The answer is automation of high quality content. (Yes, the content still has to be high quality!)
All of the non-famous accounts in the first few hundred of the top Twitter users are essentially automated, robotic content distribution services.
The Role of Automation in Twitter Marketing Success
To understand the role marketing automation can play in your Twitter success, let’s look at some data drawn from research I conducted for my upcoming webinar, TheScience of Marketing Automation. First up is an analysis of tweets-per-day of millions of accounts compared to the number of followers those accounts have. You'll notice that followers peaks at around 22 tweets-per-day. That’s a whole lot of tweeting and hard (or at the very least, annoying) to do completely manually.
Next, let’s look at the effect of specific kinds of tweets, namely links. When you break Twitter users into two buckets, those with more than 1,000 followers (the orange bar) and those with fewer than 1,000 followers (the black bar), and analyze the percentage of their tweets that do not start with an "@" sign but contain a link, you find that highly followed accounts tweet more links.
Lastly, let’s perform a similar analysis of link percentages and retweets (whereas the above graph looked at links and followers). Here we find that accounts that tweet between 60% and 80% links tend to get the most retweets.
This may come as a surprise to some readers, but there is a very strong case to be made in favor of automating your Twitter presence, especially by scheduling as much interesting, relevant content as you can. There are a variety of tools you can use to accomplish this (including my obvious favorite, HubSpot).
Remember not to simply accept the superstition that says automating your social media efforts is bad. At least do some of your own experimentation and see if it works for you. The data suggests that it just might.
If you do decide to automate your Twitter marketing, you need to mix up your messaging. Don’t just spit out blog title after blog title -- use some quotes from the content you’re tweeting, or ask followers questions about it. In fact, you can tweet the same link a few times, as long as the text that surrounds the link is unique. So pull out some data, or a sub-headline from the content, and vary your tweets up a bit.
And just because you're automating the publishing of some of your Twitter content, doesn't mean you're off the hook for monitoring and engagement. At HubSpot, we schedule a link-based tweet once an hour, every hour, but we also monitor and reply to @-messages directed our way. I’m personally not a big fan of “conversation” for the purposes of building reach -- though it's great for engagement and presumably follower churn -- but it can be very helpful for customer service and influencer relations. Supplementing automated messages with personal, hand-crafted replies will prevent your automated Twitter account from looking like spam.
And finally, there are some areas of social media automation that should be avoided like the plague. Namely, the practice of automatically following and unfollowing large swaths of people. I mean, I think we all know that's in poor taste, not to mention against the "Twitter laws." But you also have to be careful with how you use automation to target people on Twitter. If you're unaware of the dangers of poorly automated content targeting (or poorly targeted automated content, for that matter) on Twitter, just check out this case study of when AT&T turned their Twitter over to an agency that didn't take proper precautions around automation. I don't think you want to suffer similar backlash. If you're concerned about avoiding social media automation mistakes, reference this post for some more guidance.