Check it Out: Have You Ever Faked a Tweet?
That comes from Paul Madden, a presenter on the "Automating Twitter" panel at Search Engine Strategies New York, held last month, and owner of Crea8 New Media. Madden "specializes in the darker arts of black hat SEO," and "actively explores as many methods for automating and benefiting from social media as possible," according to his speaker bio.
Madden makes fake Twitter posters — commenting robots who tweet like everyone else on Twitter, but also happen to be fans of his clients' brands and sometimes give them promotion.
Twitter doesn't like that. "Black hat" basically refers to "hackers" who break the rules, and Madden's techniques do. They violate a whole sheet of Twitter's policies against impersonation and spamming that he held up for the audience. However, "so long as you don't risk [your] main brand Twitter account," he says, "Twitter can't enforce its own rules yet."
From retweet bots to false personalities, creative ways to automate microblogging abound. Hollis Thomases, founder of WebAdvantage.net, and Tracy Falke, social media specialist for Freestyle Interactive, also spoke on the panel. Their methods were decidedly "white hat" — the term for "hackers" who stay mostly within the rules. Their presentation included long lists of Twitter apps that do things like allow multiple people to manage your company Twitter feed or easily find content to retweet (which is the best way to attract subscribers). They also offered advice on how to help your customer service reps find and interact with people already talking about your brand on Twitter.
Madden's strategy was more ... aggressive:
1. Using a server-based app coded in PHP [PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor is a popular general-purpose scripting language], one can, Madden suggests, set up an account that automatically tweets from a database of messages filled beforehand.
2. To make those tweets believable, Madden advises creating the fake person's "style sheet." I.e., "Katie is a student at Bristol Uni[versity] who likes (brand's product) and enjoys X and Y," according to the example Madden gave.