If you don’t follow Baratunde Thurston (@Baratunde) on Twitter then you should. Really. Former Director of Digital at The Onion (Pulitzer please), author of the brilliant How to Be Black, and inventor of my favorite day of the week: #WhiskeyFriday. Thurston seems to be everywhere at once these days and his 100K+ Twitter following is testament to the fact that the man has his pulse on a certain something. His active social interactions, sense of humor, political edge, and reciprocity have all contributed to his popularity. Which he almost killed. With a TweetBot. At The Onion.
Thurston’s article in Fast Company details the train wreck that he created when he attempted to rely on Tweetlater, an automated Twitter feed program, to “manage” The Onion’s Twitter stream. If you’ve never used one of these programs then allow me to clarify: You pre-schedule/time your tweets, fill the auto-hopper, and away they go. Boom. BoomBoomBoom. But here’s the catch: The Twitter community is very smart and hyper-engaged. That’s whey they’re there. We are all in love with the fact that Twitter’s texture feels like a digital heartbeat. You can tell when it’s racing and when it’s on life support. And the Twitter community doesn’t suffer the fool when it comes to auto-Tweets and auto-DMs.
Bombarded with hate-texts and tweets, Thurston recalls: ” I raced home, a 45-minute journey, to unplug the brand-destroying doomsday device, but I was too late. For a day at least, I turned The Onion into a social media joke akin to its own headline “New Social Networking Site Changing the Way Oh, Christ, Forget It.”
Anything that constricts Twitter’s rampant vitality is poison to it’s purpose and is usually met with vitriol.
It’s a simple and important lesson for the time-strapped social participant. Even more so for the business owner who is suddenly challenged to fit yet another task into her day. The temptation to mechanize your social sharing is legitimate and there are a bevvy of resources out there to accommodate. But you can’t ignore the dynamism happening in the social communities. Thurston notes that ” Today, the platforms you “need to be on” change every few weeks.” The days of plug-and-play marketing campaigns are gone. The days of a 12 month marketing plan are gone. Everything is happening right now, in real time, in real time conversations. It’s the power of the medium. It’s also the risk. If the Twitter-verse or anywhere else perceives your sharing to be disengaged then it, too, will respond in like. You have to keep it real, now more than ever.