Twittering For Fame and Fortune

Here at Boston Logic, we’ve been talking a lot lately about how to find new customers.  We’ve redesigned the website, stepped up our Blogging, continue to do SEO, and have continued to leverage AdWords as sources for building traffic numbers.  We’ve also been suing Twitter for 2 years now, and to build our base of followers every month.  One of the challenges has been combing through the Twittersphere for people we’re interesting in connecting with.  After seeing Dominiek ter Heide’s post on building a one line Twitter bot, I was inspired to build something to keep an eye on Tweets relevant to our Boston Logic, specifically Real Estate brokers and agents. For those so inclined, I’ve included the code at the end of this post.

What we’re doing is looking for through tweets with the words ‘real estate’ in either the tweet or the user’s description.  If we find that term, we add them as a friend (or follow them).  I’ve been running this for just over 24 hours on a test account (so as not to taint our existing Twitter account), and already have some interesting observations:

1) There is a lot of spam type tweets out there.  It makes sense.  It’s easy to automate the process of both tweeting and following.  Just like email, there is virtually no additional cost of an additional recipient, and even if you’re response rate is quite small, as your pool of followers is large enough, you’re likely to get a few responses.  I think to really effectively leverage a bot, we’ll need use it simply as a tool for finding people to follow, keeping a human in charge of determining whether someone is worth following or not.

2) People want to network.  Yes, I know that sounds quite obvious, that’s why we use Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin; to grow our pool of people we are connected with.  Our bot has found and followed about 100 people at this point, and about a third of them have started to follow us.  This is a bit surprising to me because we’ve given nothing in terms of relevant or useful information.  Remember, we’re just doing this on a test account. My one and only tweet is ‘First Post!’.  I would assume that if we provided value through our tweets, we’d see a much higher rate of people following us after we follow them.  We’d also keep followers, instead of seeing them drop off after time.

I’m personally a bit nervous that Twitter will turn into a place dominated by bots and spam.  I’m sure the folks at Twitter share similar concerns.  I also am not sold on the value it brings.  Call me old fashioned, but I like my blogs.  I like that a good blog is a means through which to transfer knowledge. Twitter is much more of a notification tool. For me, the number of notifications quickly surpass my desire to monitor those notifications for for personal value.

Given its ‘Right now’ nature, I’m interested to see if we can convert some of our Twitter audience into customers.  I suspect like most forms of online-marketing, it’s going to be dependent on our ability to provide value to our base.  If we can effectively do that, we’ll be successful in converting some of our followers into paying customers.

For those interested, here’s the code.  I leveraged John Nunemaker’s fantastic Twitter gem:

require 'rubygems'
gem 'twitter'
require 'twitter'

terms = ['real estate', 'Real Estate']

httpauth = Twitter::HTTPAuth.new('username', 'password')
client = Twitter::Base.new(httpauth)
friends = client.friends.map{|i| i.screen_name}

while true
stream = Twitter.firehose
stream.each do |tweet|
str_tweet = tweet.text
str_tweet += ' - ' + tweet.user.description unless tweet.user.description.nil?
terms.each do |term|
if str_tweet.include?(term)
puts "tweet: #{str_tweet}"
begin
unless friends.include?(tweet.user.screen_name)
client.friendship_create(tweet.user.screen_name)
friends << tweet.user.screen_name
puts "added: #{tweet.user.screen_name}"
end
rescue Twitter::NotFound
puts "error: #{$!}"
puts tweet.to_yaml
rescue Twitter::General
puts "already a contact: #{tweet.user.screen_name}"
rescue
puts "error: Malformed JSON"
end
end
end
end
sleep(30)
end

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