Can manually managing your Twitter account get better results than using automation to handle it? Judging from the results of an NPR experiment, yes, Nieman Journalism Lab reports.
In May, the public radio station, which normally automates its Twitter feed with NPR stories, experimented by manually managing its account for a week. During that week, NPR’s website got 142,219 @nprnews-driven visits, up 45 percent from the average number of website visits spurred by tweets in the prior five weeks.
What’s more, URLs that @nprnews tweeted manually got clicked on almost 100,000 times more than links that were shared automatically. In addition, the NPR Twitter account got 14 percent more followers than its average.
That’s the good news. What’s the downside? The obvious one: The employee who manually updated the Twitter account (in addition to handling the rest of NPR’s social media) admits she basically didn’t leave her desk for five days, except to sleep (and not much of that). She was doing at least 100 tweets per day.
What can a busy small business owner learn from this story? Obviously, you don’t have time to spend every waking moment on Twitter (and neither does anyone else at your business). Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Automate, but verify. It’s OK to automate tweets to some degree by scheduling them to go out at a certain time, but don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Planning tweets two weeks ahead is how companies end up making major social media gaffes, like wishing it would rain on the day a hurricane touches down across the country. Do a quick check every morning to make sure that day’s planned tweets still make sense with the day’s news.
- Focus on quality, not quantity. If you’re putting valuable time into manual tweets, you want to make it matter. Focus these tweets on issues that can’t be automated, such as current news, industry issues or engaging with customers.
- Time it right. You don’t want to waste time manually tweeting at 2 a.m. (unless that’s when all your customers are active on Twitter). Use Twitter analytics to see when your tweets get the most engagement, retweeting and interaction, and manually tweet at those times.
- Don’t automate replies, direct messages or customer service issues. Basically, you never want to automate a conversation. Don’t automatically post your Tweets on Facebook or other social media platform.
- Do automate content curation and non-timely tweets.
- Use notifications, whether direct from Twitter or using third-party automation tools, to get alerted to tweets that you need to respond to. You can turn off unnecessary notifications like getting notified when you get a new follower, for instance.
Of course, since Twitter and its etiquette are constantly evolving, the best place to get a grip on Twitter automation best practices is straight from the source. Check out Twitter’s suggestions for best practices when it comes to Twitter automation.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.