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Jul 08 2015

Be authentic, not automated, on Twitter

A UK consulting engineering firm has a fatally flawed Twitter strategy: tweeting 246 times a day but engaging with hardly anyone.

Regular twitter followers will know that I tweet prodigiously from some construction industry events. Yesterday was no exception. Between two other events, I tweeted from an education and skills event (Alison Watson’s #5050London; see Storify) at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in London; some of my output was retweeted and favourited, and I had one or two Twitter conversations about it too. At the same event, however, #UKBIMcrew friend Casey Rutland alerted me to a retweet by a UK firm of consulting mechanical and electrical engineers (“seems a bit spammy” was his view). I had a closer look….

Quantity over quality?

To any even moderately experienced Twitter user, it is clear the Stafford and London-based firm of consulting mechanical and electrical engineers, BCA Consulting (@BCAtweets), believes in quantity rather than quality in its social media.

BCAtweets statsThe company’s account was set up on 7 January 2015, and, in just six months, it has tweeted 13,524 times – averaging around 75 times a day. Even at my most prodigious levels, I struggle to tweet that frequently, let alone every hour, round the clock, seven days a week (my current average is 19.75 tweets/day). But the current BCA rate is actually even higher; as BCA told me the account “hasn’t been used until within the last month” – analysis of its last 3200 tweets (I used Twitonomy for this) shows it is now tweeting over 246 times a day!

IFTTT at first you don’t succeed….

BCAtweets statsBCA is hugely reliant upon automated tools to tweet. I really like IFTTT, but I use it sparingly (and not for Twitter). BCA, however, uses it almost exclusively – over 99% of its tweets are automatically generated by IFTTT recipes, harvesting content from other sources, churning it out incessantly and inserting key phrases and hashtags such as “Construction news”, “#Conservation news” or “#Restoration #heritage news” at the front.

As anyone who has seen me talk about social media may recall, I define it as “people having conversations online“. BCA rarely engages in conversations – in fact, my six exchanges with the company yesterday immediately made me the person most often replied to and most mentioned (and these exchanges were among the 0.625% of BCA tweets not generated by IFTTT); among its last 3200 tweets, the company has replied to just five people via Twitter.

Twitter for interaction

My Twitter conversation with BCA started with me asking if anyone human tweeted or was it all automated. To their credit, they replied promptly: “We’ve automated some of them especially the construction related ones but we’re here too”. I observed that “the automated stream isn’t particularly engaging. Hardly surprising BCA only has 117 followers,” to which they responded: “We seem to be on a par with you for followers per month if that’s a representative statistic.” Well, “I didn’t have to tweet 13,000 times to grow my Twitter following to 117” (the number later dropped to 114).

Perhaps that conversation (or this blog post) will prompt a rethink at BCA about its Twitter strategy. It is clearly not earning many useful followers – recent ones include Homer Simpson Quotes, Gametime Milwaukee, Celebrity Gossip and Divine Promo Kings – and many are not even in the UK. Casey quickly unfollowed BCA due to the deluge of content that was irrelevant to him, and I believe other potential followers of BCA will have done the same, finding their Twitter stream cluttered with its automated tweets.

My Twitter workshops with businesses starting out on Twitter tell them, to quote Euan Semple, “Organizations don’t tweet, people do” and that, as we have two ears and one mouth, we should use them in roughly that proportion, listening and adapting our twitter strategies as we get feedback on what resonates with those we tweet to. BCA’s twitter account:

  • tells us nothing about what people at the company think or do
  • fails to provide many users with information of interest and value
  • fails abysmally as a channel for two-way communication with potential customers or other stakeholders, and
  • generates time-wasting “noise” on Twitter while delivering little or no value to the business.

Automating a Twitter account is lazy and misguided, removing the vital human touch from what should be a channel for two-way communication. Time for a rethink at BCA, I think.

Update (8 July 2015, 6pm) – An apparently human-powered BCA tweet sent at 12.04pm said:

We’ve drastically reduced our automated content let’s see how we get on from here

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