Long Form, Tech

What’s a Twitter Bot For Anyhow?

Not a twitter bot

In two blog posts (here and here) I explained how easy it is to create a Twitter bot (with no programming at all) that would automatically post links (with hashtags) and images. As I wrote the posts, I created a Fake Kayne West bot during the process who has been up and running now for about a week, mostly tweeting about himself.

He’s not the most exciting bot in the whole world, but, hey it was just an example.

Gain Followers

It wasn’t explicitly stated in the past few posts, but one of the objectives is for your new bot to gather a following. And it can be done! Most of my bots have more followers than I do.

A few weeks ago, I was excited that my Twitter follower count finally eclipsed that of my bot Aristotele Onagio. But then due to his aggressive use of photos in his Twitter stream, he shot way ahead of me.

CRM hourly news

My most successful bot to date, CRMHourlyNews, has just about 2,300 followers. The average number of followers that a Twitter account has is supposedly 200, so I figure, that 2,000+ is pretty good.

There are some uses for Twitter bots with few followers, but it’s a a lot less fun.

Increase Your Tweet Counts

Let’s say you’re a blogger, toiling away writing blog posts about CRM. It can be gratifying and motivating to see the number of tweets (and +1’s, Likes, etc.) growing on your work.

honig blog

What you might not know is that if you (or your WordPress administrator) changes the URL structure in any way, all those counters reset to zero! Now, that’s really uncool.

So, one thing you can use your bot for is to raise those tweet counters.

Sure, you can log in as Fake Kayne West and hit the “tweet” button like 1,000 times, but what’s the fun in that.  (Twitter, by the way, won’t let you do that either.) And if you’re bot is trying to build a following, sending out 1,000 tweets about “Dark Cockpit CRM” is likely to scare most of your followers away.

But if you had an army of bots — or perhaps just a division or two of them — you could use the same techniques that we described to auto-tweet about Kanye to auto-tweet about these blog posts that have lost their counters.

By following Amit Agarwal’s very well done example, you can create RSS feeds from any of your Twitter Bots. Using this newly generated RSS feed, you can then link your bots together, using this technique:

  1. Create the RSS feed for Bot 1
  2. Create the RSS feed for Bot 2
  3. Log into Bot 1’s Twitterfeed account and have Bot 1 autotweet Bot 2’s feed. (For more on using RSS feeds to generate posts, this see my first post on creating a Twitter bot.)
  4. Now do the same for Bot 2.

You need to be a bit careful with this, depending on your RSS feed. You want your Twitter bot to post a link to the source material, not the link to the re-posted tweet itself.  I don’t recommend Twitterfeed for this activity; use IFTTT, and make sure your bots are posting only the {{EntryContent}}.

And you must turn it off manually – don’t forget about it, otherwise the eye in the sky might have something to say.

Will This Help the SEO Rankings of My Posts?

Frankly, I’m not really sure. I’ve done a bit of looking around, and no-one can really say if having a lot of tweets associated with a blog post in any way makes it rank higher in Google’s search algorithm.

The links in Twitter are of the “nofollow” type which is supposed to mean that they don’t carry any weight for Google, but this guy thinks that they might.

Besides the importance to Google of these tweet counts, how will it impact reader behavior? Is a reader more inclined to read an article because it has 5,000 tweets? I’m not sure, but if I was forced to guess, I’d sure say “yes”.

Find Followers and Prospects

Perhaps more interestingly, if you build your Twitter bot properly, it can be used to help you and your business, school, band, team, etc., attract more high quality followers.

Let’s pretend for a minute that we’re a food store that sells high quality cheese, like Formaggio Kitchen in Boston and Cambridge. Here is how using a twitter bot like Aristotele Onagio could help them.

First of all, Aristotele tweets about cheese and Italian food, but also tweets enough about Italian politics, football and random stuff.  He looks enough like a real person that the BBC contacted him on Twitter to ask him to do a radio interview!

Odds are that the people who follow Aristotele are also into cheese and food. If Formaggio Kitchen’s Twitter account were to follow Aristotele’s followers, odds are that they will follow back… and they would be good prospects for the fine goods sold at Formaggio.

(Just to be clear, Formaggio Kitchen looks to be doing an excellent job on Twitter and certainly doesn’t need my or Aristotele’s help, but I’m just using this as an example.)

Using the above mentioned approach, the CRM consulting firm I started and ran for many years doubled our follower count on Twitter in about three months.

And That’s Not All

There are also a whole host of jokes and really annoying things you can also use your bots to do, especially if the people that you’re interested in engaging with don’t know that you’re a bot master.

But I’ll leave that for another post.

Meanwhile, go and create some bots, and see how many followers you can get.


Long Form, Tech

Confessions of an Organic Twitter Bot Maker

Valaria Onagio

You’ve probably read the articles about how many ‘bots there are on Twitter, right? Researchers have recently claimed that it could even be 1 in 10 accounts.

Most of the time, based on my own personal experience creating ‘bots, I suspect it’s more like 9 out of 10 accounts.

As you’ll see, my approach to creating bots is hand-crafted. There are Twitter bot factories out there (really!) that churn out the tweets and bots by the thousands or millions. That’s not me.

The Beginnings of My Botishness

Anyhow, my entry into Twitter ‘bot creation started when we needed an account for an April Fool’s Day blog post we were creating. Hence the Twitter account of Aristotele Onagio was born.

Using nothing more than Twitterfeed and the Google News RSS feed, this slightly more polished doppelganger spewed news of Berlusconi, Milan and Italian cheese. In no time, he had more twitter followers than me, and became somewhat of an authority on the changing Italian political scene:

bbc and onagio

With Aristotele going strong, I created the above pictured Valeria Onagio ‘bot whose profile description Amante del cibo, la cucina, i gatti e tutte le cose che indossano calze translates roughly into “a lover of food, cooking, cats and all things that are wearing stockings”.

Listed as the CFO of Onagio Software — no relation to Aristotele — her follower count quickly zoomed over 1,000.

Industry Specific Twitter Bots

CRM HourlyNews

Emboldened by my success, I created industry specific ‘bots, CRM Hourly News (“Every hour, almost on the hour bringing you the top stories from the world of Customer Relationship Management”) which has 2,200+ followers and Social Business Today (500+ followers).

CRM Hourly News seems to compete with ‘bots like Daryl Shaber (mostly RT’s about Salesforce.com) and BlissLogix (who also does mostly the same thing).

Hard to tell who is winning, but it’s amusing to watch the bots tweet at each other.

Slower Burns

Now, not all my bots have gone on to fame and fortune. My No Jerks twitter bot never really took off, despite interesting content.

I created a bot for my wife’s law firm, White & Associates, which only recently cracked 100 followers, which is quite low for 11,000 tweets!

Creating a bot seems to be more than generating tweets and hashtags.

What Next for the Bot Maker?

With the recent changes in Twitter, my bots have been trying to post more pictures, which seems to be a bit more complicated:

I’ve been using tools like IFTTT to help with this, along with Tumblr specific photo blogs, but what I’d really like to do is start writing some simple programs that talk directly to the Twitter API as described here in The New Yorker.

Unfortunately traveling around and my day job have been keeping me from taking this move. Perhaps I should just take a few days off to focus on this? Valeria would be pleased.

Learn More

Don’t just take my word for it, it’s easy to create bots. I wrote a few blogs describing how. Give it a try. Or instead you can also follow my Twitter list of my bots here: https://twitter.com/adamhonig/lists/social-friends, but watch out for Valeria’s images — she seems to be posting often inappropriate (and NSFW) pictures of people wearing stockings.

Joke, Tech

15 Signs You’re Too Into Salesforce

I’m a big fan of salesforce.com.  My company, Cloud Sherpas, is one of its biggest partners, sporting over 260 Salesforce-certified consultants (and we’re looking for many, many more — see our job listings). Plus we’re tops in customer satisfaction and a salesforce.com platinum-level partner on three continents.

But we’ve noticed a few signs that some of our friends, colleagues and associates in the greater “Salesforce ecosystem” might be a bit too into salesforce.com.

How can you tell? With help from my colleagues at Cloud Sherpas — and a nod to BuzzFeed — here are 15 top warning signs:

1. Your Facebook picture is you and SaaSy or Chatty

J Nicole Alford

(Looking good, J Nicole Alford!)

2. You name your new child Summer 13

summer 13

3. You complain about “how they’ve made the DEV401 exam too easy”

(OR you complain that “the dev exam has too many questions the same as admin” and you really wish they had made it harder)


dev 401 questions

4. You only communicate with your family on Chatter

mom looking at opportunities

5. You insist that all meetings start with an intro from will.i.am

lets get this forecast meeting started right

6. Speaking of will.i.am, you’re still raving about Salesforce’s Super Bowl ad from 2011

7. Your friends are tired of hearing how many tequila shots you did with “Frank”


8. You’ve DVR’d all of Marc’s appearances on Mad Moneythis is going to be amazing jim

9. You’ve been overheard at a bar arguing about governor limits or the benefits of multi-tenancy

private cloud

10. You plan your vacation each year in San Francisco just in time for Dreamforce

dreamforce vacation

11. “Amazing” is your favorite word


12. You hang out at One Market hoping to run into Salesforce execs

salesfoce executives

13. You haven’t been grocery shopping for a month because you have eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner on customer tour

eat at customer tour

14. Everything, everything seems to be about Salesforce or their products

wiped data from data dot com

15. You write a blog post about being too into Salesforce

write a blog post about being too into Salesforce

and a late breaking sign via Steven Herod:

16. You create memes like this

doesnt run unit tests

(Many thanks to Mary Youngs, Misty Sutton, Michael Thomas, Rob Morris and Minesh Patel for their help on this.)

If you have more “signs” please let me know!