There’s been a recent tale of social media woe making its way around – wait for it – social media recently involving comedian Kyle Kinane and Pace Picante salsa regarding an ill-fated attempt to automate retweets of any mentions of the salsa in order to boost its brand awareness/recognition.
Here I was, ready to talk about why trying to automate this is a bad idea, and then it turns out to be a huge prank by another comedian. I guess all the comedy clubs were closed last weekend. Apparently Pace Salsa hasn’t reached out to the prankster who created official-sounding Twitter accounts without them being, in actuality, official or verified … I’m pretty sure he’ll hear from the company’s lawyers soon.
Outside of it being important that your company monitors if there are rogue social media accounts using your name, your product’s name, or some derivative of the two - and working to have them deactivated if it’s controlled by someone outside your company (or transitioned to your Communications/Marketing team if it’s by an enthusiastic employee), the original premise for last weekend’s Twitter war is something worth talking about.
The issue was that it seemed Pace Salsa tried to implement some level of automation so that anytime anyone mentioned Pace Picante salsa, its “official” Twitter account would retweet it. Of course, there are benefits to highlighting when people are actually mentioning your product or service in a positive light. In the technology world (and probably some others) we like to call those customer references. It also helps amplify to others that people enjoy your product/service. Engagement and expansion of brand – never a bad thing, if it’s for something good. All press isn’t good press. With that said, what happens if it’s something negative? So #PacePicante is clutch for my chips before the football game … that would be worth retweeting. #PacePicante makes me sick … not so much.
At my current company, we’ve been asked by well-intentioned colleagues if there’s a way that they can automate any tweets that our company sends out. Heck, there are services like dlvr.it that help automate posting of updates from an RSS feed to your own social media accounts. Can’t we do this with company mentions on Twitter? We haven’t found a way yet, and we’ve found that Twitter doesn’t encourage that type of behavior. If you find a way to do it and you’re caught, you run the risk of losing your account.
Don’t get me wrong – I think that automation of certain aspects of processes is a great thing. Time is a finite resource. We’re all being asked to do more with less. If I can save 20 minutes a day retweeting stuff from my company, that’s 20 extra minutes I can check out Buzzfeed … rather … work on that high-priority project. But should we even try to automate that? I say no – because, as you’ve seen from this Pace spoof, automation leaves people’s brains and sense of context out of the equation. Computers aren’t always going to know what’s a good post to retweet and what isn’t – and even sentiment analysis tools need to be “trained” by whoever is the one in charge of using it to tell the tool if something marked “negative” is actually “positive”. Case in point - enter a tweet that says something “is sick” into your sentiment analysis tool, and see if it automatically knows that’s slang for “cool” rather than its literal definition. Or if it picks up that the “don’t” in “Don’t miss our next webinar on polar bear cub awareness!” isn’t actually a negative. It’s just a more imperative way to ask someone to “please join”. More often than not, the tool won’t pick those up as actually being positive. Yes, you can teach technology to do better – and sentiment analysis is no exception. With that said, especially in the fickle world of social media, one slip – whether it’s intentional, a prank, or purely accidental – can wreak havoc on your brand. All of this stuff with Pace? Sure, it was a spoof – but I’m sure it was still a nuisance for Pace’s PR people. Act accordingly.
That means making sure you have someone with a brain in charge of your social media. While you can schedule posts to go up at all hours of the day (and night) – and you should, as it’ll make your life easier – when it comes to the content of the posts themselves, take a few moments to actually curate those yourself. Only you can gauge if it’s best to just retweet someone who mentions you, reply, or do a mixture of the two. You will always know your brand better than a computer – don’t default to automation as an easy way out.