Saturday, November 26, 2011

Automating Tweets 101

This topic is not without controversy. But it's time we talk about it. I look at Twitter for TWO types of comunication: active and passive. Active is when Twitter works like an impromptu chat. You and someone else are tweeting back and forth by adding each other's twitter names, like @EAWwrites. This is handy and very valuable to make deeper connections with the people on your following list.


 Elizabeth Ann West 

 Great job!!! a Nanowrimo winner!

 Angie Richmond 


 YAY!! Thanks so excited!!

Here is where the line gets blurred. Twitter saves your mentions (@EAWwrites) into a separate stream, so you could stretch out a twitter conversation over hours or even days, like a correspondent chess game. :)

Passive communication is another key component of Twitter. People read your tweets and links you share and the only participation they give is maybe clicking on the link. If they don't like your tweet, they ignore it. There is really very little pain on the part of the follower because if they don't like too many of your tweets, they'll just stop following you. Another form of passive communication is the RT (retweet). Someone likes what you tweeted or liked the link so he or she clicks Retweet and the tweet now goes out to all of their followers with your name and RT in front. RT'ing requires 0 interaction with you.

Automating tweets requires you keep both of these concepts in mind.

  • Don't just automate tweets that require a link click. Tweet out quotes, ideas, comments, jokes, etc. Then go back during the day and RESPOND to any replies you get (they will be in your Mentions stream). 
  • Write tweets with space for a good RT. Aim for about 100 characters including the link.
  • Shorten your links manually so you can track how many clicks you get to judge tweet effectiveness.
  • Space out your automation. If you have 4 tweets go out at 7 AM, you have just spammed all of your followers' streams because a clump of nothing but your tweets just showed up. People ignore these. Only do this if the Tweets cleverly link to one another and are intended to be read together.
  • Use automation to reach audiences at times you aren't available. I use a timezone chart to make sure I advertise my UK book link at peak times in the UK (which is +5 hours for me, so Good Morning UK goes out at 2 AM my time). 
  • Consider a tweet series. I'm experimenting with a Tech Tips series, where one goes out each hour. If it proves popular, I might space it out throughout the week maybe one each 2 or 3 hour window. Others use quotes etc.
  • Start slowly. Test the waters. Try tweeting a book link once every few hours.
  • Remember, most people do not sit on Twitter all day, but only visit for 10-15 minutes at a time. They get a snapshot of their streams, so make sure you tweet often enough to get noticed once in awhile, but not so much they dislike you.
I use Hootsuite to automate my tweets. I pay $5 a month and can automate up to 200 tweets at a time. Once I make the spreadsheet, I save it as a simple CVS file, with quotation marks around cell data, and comma delimited. Then, using their bulk uploader, I upload the file, up to 50 tweets at a time.

I have a master spreadsheet that I use for my tweets, so I have three tabs that say Book1, Book2, Book 3.  In the first column of each sheet is the time formatted correctly: 26/11/2011 16:25. I have the entire column alternate days and times. I set aside the top of the hour :00 and :25 for links of my book to go out, but it's every other day. So, this is how it looks like:
27/11/2011 01:00
28/11/2011 01:25
27/11/2011 02:00
28/11/2011 02:25

This goes from 1 AM until 11:25 PM. Over two days, that's 46 tweets, or 23 per day of my book link going out. Since I began doing this about three weeks ago, I see 1-2 sales of my book per day. I also get RTs of these tweets and new followers. 

The second column on my spreadsheet is for the actual tweet. I used Data Validity to limit the column to 100 characters. If I go over, a popup let's me know it's invalid, too long. I try to keep it below 100 characters so there is room for the URL on the end. I use hashtags and a variety of ways to talk about my book. 
  • Some tweets are little synopses. "She returned his shirt and ruined his life." "He's becoming a dad, but his fiancee isn't pregnant!" 
  • Some include my selling point. "Romance from a male POV" "Chicklit from a male POV" "Guys fall in love, too! Read Johnathan's story." 
  • I quote my reviews. “A little soap opera drama mixed with a great chick lit story..." "Nerdy is hot. Science is fun. I'm so glad to read about intelligent, creative people in this novel!"
  • I make the ask (this is sales 101). "On lunch break? Why not read the sample of CANCELLED on Amazon on the Cloud? Romance from a guy's POV." "Nothing beats a good book in the afternoon. Try CANCELLED, a light romp with romance from the guy's POV. #Nook"
  • And some are just quirky: "Moms never get the remote!"
My third column is for my link. ABSOLUTELY put your link through or another link shortener BEFORE you let your tweet automater do what it's going to do to it. For example, the link to my book on Nook is  
Now hoot suite turns this link into a hoot shortened link, but still tracks the clicks. I can see exactly how many clicks this link gets every single day in the interface, where it's being referred from and what country the IP address is (this is VERY handy for my UK links). It will even show me what hour the link was clicked, so I can get an idea of which tweets are most effective (it's still a guess, a tweet from 3 hours ago could get a click). 

Automating tweets is a little like fishing, each tweet is a different lure/bait. You can set all the lines you want (well, as many as your tweet automater will allow) but you have to go back and check the lines. This means you analyze the data that the computer will track for you (using link shorteners) and you MUST go back and interact with the people who interacted with your tweet. If they replied, you reply back. Courteously. If they RT'd, don't just thank them, go to their profile and RT one of their tweets! It takes an extra 5 seconds, if that. 

You can't just be a robot on Twitter though. Every single day you have tweets automated you need to spend some time on there being a real person. Responding, replying, participating in fun hashtags, etc. If all you ever do is send out links and non-helpful tweets, you won't get the quality followers that will expand your reach even more with RT's and replies.

A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby. CANCELLED is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords WIP: SERVED Two never married parents fight over their toddler's upbringing and moving on with their lives, without each other;(status: outlining)


  1. Thanks for the info. You mentioned not sending out 4 tweets at a time and spamming people. That's annoying as can be, whether they are automating it or just tweeting over and over. I see it a lot in my Twitter stream.

  2. Me too Laura. I usually send a DM if I see someone doing it repeatedly, hoping maybe they just didn't realize what they were doing. It's worked about 50% of the time :)

  3. Ahhh spreadsheets... got to love them, but how do you get it from the spreadhseet into Hootsuite?

    :} Cathryn