Technology should make our lives easier, and the internet, in part, should bring us information faster and allow us to communicate better. Many of these benefits result due to automation of previously manual tasks. For example, do you remember AIM’s news ticker? Who needed to check news websites when you could just have that open and click on the headlines you liked?

Okay, maybe that’s a bit old for some of us. How about RSS feeds for news sites? Who needs to check CNN.com when you can just grab the RSS feed and be alerted about new stories?

One of the nice things about RSS is that it automatically brings news to me. New post on your blog? I don’t have to remember to check every day. RSS tells me when there’s something new.

Similar to this, we’ve seen the emergence of auto-tweeting in the last year. For those of you who don’t know, services like Twitterfeed allow twitterers to auto-tweet any RSS feed. Mostly, that takes the form of, for example, “New blog post: Day 46 of the Mayonnaise Diet http://nondescriptURL.com.”

Social TooAs well, services like Tweetlater and SocialToo allow twitterers to automatically direct message or @ reply new followers. Sometimes, that takes the form of, “Just wanted to say hi and thanks for following. Looking forward to tweeting with you.”

These are great tools when used politely, but too many people have gotten lazy with these things and are obnoxiously taking advantage of them.

The problem that many of us have is the blatant, over-the-top advertising that is done. Personally, I think Twitterfeed is really useful. I like knowing when my tweeple post something new. I won’t always read their stuff, but at least, I have the option. The problem comes when you auto-tweet things like, “If I suggested you read one thing today, it’d be this http://URLshorteningservice.com.” To me, that sounds like you found something interesting, and you’re not just shamelessly promoting yourself.

Have a new blog post? Think it’s spectacular? Set your auto-tweet to begin with something like, “My new blog post,” not, “Let me mislead you just to increase my pageviews.”

Now, a lot of so called Twitter experts will complain about auto-tweets for hellos. Truth be told, I think they’re great. I simply cannot send a personal hello to everyone that follows me within a short time of them doing so. Sometimes, I’m too busy. Other times, I’m just not on Twitter. So, what do I do? I auto-direct message a polite hello and then follow up later with a personal hello to anyone that has responded.

twitterfeed

This has two benefits. One, it’s simple for me to welcome people, and two, it cuts down the number of people I have to say hi to because there are so many twitterers that follow just to see if you will follow back, but they have no genuine interest in you. So, I figure that, if they message me back with a hello, I should take the time to check out their profiles, maybe their blogs too, and then tweet them a genuine greeting.

The followers that I ignore are the ones that direct message me something like, “Your the coolest person ever! So, I’m giving you access to my new top-secret post on making money the easy way http://ShameShameShame.com.” Notice the confusion between your and you’re, as well as the person just assuming I’m interested in that sort of post, and saying I’m the coolest person ever when s/he likely has never met, or even heard about, me? That’s just poor and annoying salesmanship there.

Chris Brogan would say, “I offered to shake your hand, and you stuck your tongue down my throat. Yuck.” Wait until you’ve built a relationship with me before you assume I’m even interested in your moneymaking tips. If I am, you’ll get lots of pageviews from me instead of just an immediate unfollow due to the uncouth hello you just sent.

What does this all mean? Automation services are great when used correctly. When they’re used incorrectly, they burn bridges that you’ve barely begun to build. Go ahead and auto direct message me a hello and maybe even your URL. Go ahead and auto-tweet your new blog post. Just don’t make any assumptions about what your new followers are interested in, and definitely, do not mislead them. This way, you can join the ranks of Twitter for Smart People and not Twitter for the Socially Inept.

Written by Eric Pratum