Is it still fun if it's automated?

Running an effective social media campaign can be very time-consuming... unless you have some help!

Gravatar for
Jim Morrison

24th March 2017

State of the union 

How is 2017's event shaping up?

We feel so privileged to be running Bath Digital Festival 2017.  In only few months, we have been inundated by offers of sponsorship, content and support and this year's festival is already shaping up to be an amazing event.

We have a small team working tirelessly to gather up these offers of support; discussing, persuading, curating, and understanding the breadth of inspiring tech companies and individuals we have here in the South West.

But as a small community interest organisation, with a small team and an even smaller starting budget, how have we managed to generate so much interest so quickly and from such a wide audience?

Amplify your message

You are one voice.  Let your audience speak for you.

The truth is; we're not acting alone.  Most of the interest in this year's festival has been generated either by our simple little Twitter robot or by you guys, the followers, re-tweeters and community for whom the festival is being created.

This article is a little insight into how that process works and why we think it's a valid way to manage your social media activity.

Bleep.. bleep.. blip.. 

What does a robot sound like?

Although there are a few of us humans behind the @bathdigital festival Twitter account, most of the tweets we send out on the account are generated by a little automaton.  This is the basic principal of how it works...

Every minute our robot wakes up and has a think.  Most of the time she'll just update the countdown clock on our profile page and go back to sleep but once or twice a day she'll send a tweet.

When she decides to send a tweet she starts to have some choices to make.

First, she might tweet a message or she might tweet a blog article... like this one.  If she tweets a blog article then she's more likely to tweet a recent one than and older one to keep the blog content fresh but ensure that older articles aren't forgotten entirely.

If she's going to tweet a message then she builds a message from a library of components; topics, our needs (volunteers, sponsors, speakers etc), different phrasings etc.  Do we want Re-Tweets, is there a link?

Everything's carefully compiled and out goes the tweet.  And when I say 'carefully compiled' what I mean is - we need to learn what works - so every message carries markers that allows us to track any resulting traffic to the website or sign-ups to the festival back to the phrasing of the tweet itself... allowing us to improve our message as time goes by.

Keeping it fresh

Playing some tricks with OpenGraph

And really it's that simple.  The timing is semi-random, the message is semi-random... and the type of content is semi-random.  

What's not so random is the destination of the links - bathdigitalfestival.co.uk - and this presented us with one further little problem to overcome; the OpenGraph image used by Twitter for the Twitter "Card" that you see in your Twitter feed.

So there's one last trick.  Do you remember I said we're tracking every different compilation of message and phrasing?... Well that means that all of the links are almost unique.  So our last trick is to make sure that the homepage of bathdigitalfestival.co.uk will serve up OpenGraph meta tags that tie back to the specific link; delivering a both a consistent and random image to go with the tweet.

Let's try that again.

Which image gets served up for a specific tweet is basically random.  But if that exact tweet, with exactly the same statement and link appears again tomorrow or the next day it would always have the same image...

We do this by salting a hash with the link and using the hash to cherry-pick the image from an array... if you're interested in that sort of thing.  (Which you should be if you're interested in a digital festival!)

Does it work?.. Yes!

The outcome is solid, consistent engagement from you guys - for now.

Let's not ignore the huge human effort going on at the same time but by employing our little robot we've reached hundreds of speakers, event organisers, volunteers and sponsors that we probably never would have reached if we'd just been posting when we have the time to do so.

What's next?

Teaching an old robot new tricks

As an agency, Deep Blue Sky is fascinated by this type of automation.  We first tried it with twiDAQ - which is still merrily re-tweeting highly-trending stories - and we're now starting to role similar systems out for some of our clients where they generate more content than they have time to broadcast.

Over the course of the next six months we're going to teach our own BDF robot some new tricks too.  We want to ensure that our sponsors get the coverage they deserve as a thanks for their support and we need to make sure that those of you who are putting on events get the biggest, broadest audience you could hope.

If you've any thoughts on whether you think all of this is a good idea - or not - let us know.  We're all conscious that our lives are becoming more and more automated and that will be a big theme, no doubt, for this years festival so don't be shy; post your views below.

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