Twitter Mass Suspensions & Direct Sales Implications

In a recent post by Jennifer Fong about Social Media Automation the case was made that automation negates the relationship building experience. This is one time when Jen and I disagree.

Jen's article highlights the recent mass suspension of thousands of twitter accounts - including some of the very big name twitter users (like @marismith). The claim was that a spam cloud struck twitter (a spam attack on the servers), and twitter took swift, albeit overzealous action to quell the onslaught. users were quick to point to automation tools and sites like TweetLater as the source of the problem. TweetLater was quick to deny any wrongdoing.

Whatever the case, it appears that Twitter set up a few security screens that these suspended users found themselves trapped in. Perhaps the most likely culprit (and we may never know for sure) is the dreaded "autofollow". This automation tool allows you to automatically follow back anyone that is following you. Designed as a time saver for people that were collecting and manually approving hundreds of new followers each day, autofollow has essentially degenerated into a weapon of mass destruction for twitter spammers.

I firmly believe that autofollow should be banned - likewise autoDM (automatically sending private messages when a person starts following you). I've said before this is the equivalent of leaving voicemails - or worse - the pre-recorded messages that telemarketers play when they call YOU! Argh!

Can you tell it drives me nuts?

That said, I think there are plenty of times when it is completely acceptable to use an automated method of posting to your twitter account - most of which have to do with extended absences from the computer:

Your followers aren't all in the same time zone. If you have followers all over the globe, and you're only online from 1-2 in the afternoon, it's harder to connect with them. A scheduled tweet gives you the ability to appear in their tweetstream and stay "top of mind" when they are more likely to be on twitter.

You've got an event coming up. Daily reminders of upcoming events are totally appropriate. Scheduled tweets allow you to broadcast a quick reminder at a designated time of day, so that you don't have to be sittin right in front of your computer when you should be getting ready for your event. When I am prepping for a teleclass (for example), I will post 3-4 tweets in the 2 hours before the call to build excitement, generate interest and get those last minute sign ups.

You're creating a series of helpful tips. When I launched #dstips a couple of months ago, I scheduled each tip to go out once per day. Over the course of a moth I was able to provide valueable strategies and ideas that were re-tweeted across not only twitter, but facebook as well. I simply don't have time to sit down every single day to do that kind of thing. The result? ot only did I get more followers, but I created a movement of direct sales trainers on twitter sharing ideas on a regular basis. #dstips now has daily posts from about a dozen different trainers and thought leaders in the direct sales industry.

I'm a big fan of batching my time, and it makes more sense for me to do all of those posts at one time, scheduling them to go out over a period of months, than it does to disrupt my daily routine to sit down and type out one tweet. It may seem trivial, but those minutes add up.

The key is discretion. Jen and I have both mentioned before that the power of social media lies in the relationships you build and the abilty to spread your message quickly. But you also have to remember that social media isn't jsut about relationships,there has to be a payoff in the end to make it profitable for the direct seller - and that means being frugal with your time on sites like twitter and facebook.

The big misnomer in these arenas is the number of "friends" or "followers" you have. You don't want followers, you want relationships. People that have 50,000 or 2 Million followers can't possibly be connected to all of them - probably not even a tenth of them.

So what's the point?

For direct sellers, the value in social media isn't how quickly you can add followers, it's how well you build solid relationships that translate into income. Otherwise, why are we using it in the first place? It's still marketing, and the ultimate point of marketing is to generate income.

Automation done apropriately, streamlines your process, enhances your strategy, and makes you more effective.

And you don't need thousands of "fans" to do it.