Nobody Likes a Twitter Bot

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“Engagement!” is what social media marketing experts preach to brands when they first hop on sites like Facebook and Twitter. If a company isn’t engaging with its followers, then it really is wasting its time. For the first time in history, companies have a chance to talk directly to customers from all over the world and are eager to cash in on this opportunity. However, engagement can seriously backfire when a company doesn’t actually care about engaging with followers and instead relies on robotic arbitrary messages. Just ask Bank of America.

The much-criticized Bank of America certainly didn’t make things easier for itself this week when a series of tweets  with a Twitter user named @darkmarkh went from bad to worse. After being chased away from police for making a chalk drawing in front of a Bank of America, @darkmarkh hopped on Twitter to vent about the company. The official Bank of America Twitter account quickly responded… by asking if @darkmarkh needed help with his account. The BoA Twitter account went on to ask other tweeters who hopped on the “bash the bank bandwagon” if they, too, needed assistance. “We’d be happy to review your account with us” and “I work for bank of America. Anything I can do to help?” were the sort of “responses” the series of extremely critical tweets received, clearly proving no human being was behind Bank of America’s Twitter account. Yikes.

While the series of tweets between robot bank and angry tweeters is comical (the whole thread can be seen here), there are some incredibly valuable lessons here for Twitter-for-business novices. First off, engagement on social media only works when both sides are actually human and really involved in the conversation. (Side note: You don’t have to be on auto-pilot to be robotically engaged. Live humans with lame responses to tweets are almost worse.) Also, knowing when to respond and engage is Twitter 101 but something even the big dudes screw up. Obviously, @darkmarkh was looking for a fight with BoA. By properly gauging what kind of conversation your followers are looking for, you can then choose whether to engage — again, a task made easier when you’re human. Lastly, figure out why you’re tweeting. If your brand is just on Twitter to be adorable and make hilarious remarks, fine. Many do it and are successful. But if your brand is really going to take and respond to customer complaints on Twitter, then you have to be prepared to answer questions in real-time with real people.

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