automatically tweets every article that goes up on the newspaper's website. Instead, New York Times content will be curated by a team of social media editors who are much more interactive and collaborative online, @replying users and retweeting interesting non-New York Times content.The New York Times is breaking up with the bot that
An interesting question emerges on how people, companies and publishers should be using the social space to build their brands, especially those focused on content. A Twitter bot is simple and it gets all the links to your content into the open, more or less like a 140-character RSS reader. Mobile applications like Flipboard and Zite use those Twitter streams to populate their feeds so there is incentive to just let a bot get all of the content out in one place. Is there a perfect mix between bot and human that works best in social media?
This is not just a discussion about Twitter but about resources that a company puts in to social media and the return it can expect. Social media done right, the way all the pundits say it should be done - interaction, attentive and responsive - takes time and work. It is easy to set up a content management system to send a headline and a short URL to Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter.
"I'm not sure there's ever going to be a day when your newsroom budget has a 'revenue' line for social media that balances out the 'expenses' line," said Jeff Sonderman, digital media fellow at the Poynter Institute who specializes in mobile and social media. "But the question a smart manager has to ask is, can I afford not to do this? Can I really afford not to engage with my readers? Am I willing to let the news conversation happen without my newsroom involved in it?"
Sonderman focuses on the news industry but the question of engaging with customers cuts across all businesses.
A Bot For Your Niche
There are benefits to bots. People come to social platforms, especially Twitter and Tumblr, as a way to stay up to date with things they are interested in. The online world is fragmented and people gravitate toward their particular niche. In that regard, having a bot that fulfills their craving for a particular kind of news can be beneficial.
"Something that is pre-defined as only fitting a certain niche can maybe be automated, because you've at least made a valuable decision to focus it," Sonderman said. "Auto-tweeting a bunch of unrelated stuff on one account is more of a problem."
Curated Feeds For Apps
When it comes to mobile applications that use social media to draw in content, there are arguments for both sides. Some of the best feeds on Flipboard are from individual users that curate content through retweets, share pictures through TwitPic (or like service), express personal opinions and create original content. For instance, set up a Flipboard feed for someone like tech blogger Robert Scoble. The result is a mix of articles and tweets that reads like a magazine, up to date with everything he has been working on and the conversation he is having.
A bot will create the same type of magazine on Flipboard with all of your content and news, but without the extra layer of pictures and conversational context that turn it from a glorified RSS reader into a dynamic content experience.