This is why automated Twitter promotions are (always) a bad idea

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Ah, Twitter. Where would our culture be without you? After all, Twitter is one of, if not the best place in the world for people to gather and discuss the events of the day while using names other than their own. You can choose to use your actual name of course, but most people prefer for a humorous or clever nickname instead, and therein lies the problem with any automated Twitter promotion. 

You would be hard pressed to find a single artist, brand, or company that doesn’t rely on Twitter every single day for their marketing efforts. The approaches these entities use to engage their audience varies drastically, but they all aim to accomplish the same goal of keeping people interested in whatever product, song, movie, or related offering the account has to promote. In theory, those that feel connected to a brand are more likely to support it, and if they have fun engaging with a brand they’re likely to share their enjoyment with others who in turn may start following the brand as well. This is the entire concept behind social media marketing: Make something people want to click and share, make it easy for them to do those things, then create more content with the same goal in mind and repeat. It has been this way since the dawn of the digital age and it will likely remain as such for the foreseeable future.

Automated promotions, in theory, make it possible to engage more people without doing more work. The idea is that these campaigns, which usually offer followers the ability to create shareable gifs or images, is that brands are giving fans something they will want to share with others that reflects positively on the brand. The most popular approach to this idea so far has been custom jerseys using followers’ Twitter handles, which is an approach that has been disastrously utilized by both the New England Patriots and, more recently, the Montreal Canadiens. Both teams didn’t see the harm in making it possible for any fan to create a jersey with their name on it, but neither team could have imagined the type of ridiculous handles some fans would use to align themselves with their organization(s). Here are a few examples of what happened next…

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The above images are all incredibly offensive, but truth be told they are not even the worst examples of automated promotions we’ve seen. Some tweets we discovered were too offensive to even post on the blog! 

Both the Patriots and the Canadiens were quick to apologize for any offensive tweet that may have been seen, but the damage to their brands was already done. There are literally hundreds of screenshots from these campaigns circulating online, and they will more than likely continue to appear in searches for custom jerseys for the foreseeable future. Like everything else, once these images were available online they were part of the internet forever, and there is no way any organization will be able to fully erase them for the digital landscape.

while we have yet to see any record labels just on the automated promotion bandwagon, it’s not hard to imagine a point in the near future when some type of similar campaign is mounted by one of the majors or an independent artist who is trying to further utilize their strong online following. If and when that time comes I promise there will be more disastrous results, and there is really no way that can be stopped. As it stands now, there are no tools available for filtering automated promotions, and because of that anyone who chooses to use such marketing techniques is making themselves and their brand incredibly vulnerable. 

Learn from those who have tried and failed to make these promotions work in the past. Automated Twitter promotions are simply a bad idea.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.