Twitterhawk – Is social media losing relevance and authenticy?

I recently learned about twitterhawk, a service that lets you “auto-tweet” based on certain characteristics.

How it Works

In check out their site (I haven’t used it yet) in their words:

“We’ll find people talking NOW about your topic, even in a given location, and send an @reply from you”.

They have some pretty cool targeting including tweets that contain only positive or negative sentiment and your keyword (I have no idea how they determine sentiment).

An Example

Let’s say you just opened a new coffee store in Queens and wanted to let people know about it. As part of your advertising efforts, you could setup TwitterHawk to search for things like “coffee near:Queens within:8mi” (of course you could simply search world wide if you are global).

We would then periodically (at a frequency determined by you) find twitter posts that mentioned coffee by users that are actually located within 8mi of Queens, and send them one of your pre-defined replies from you such as
@cracksh0t Have you seen our new Coffee Shop in Queens?’ or
@loxly What is your favourite blend? We’ve just opened a new store in Manhattan and would love to know what you think’

Problem 1 – Lack of Relevance

Initially, I thought this was kind of cool (in my marketing hat). I can automate some of the social media responses that I would typically send out. Seems cool. The issue is that you have no way of determining the real context of the tweet that you are replying to. Using the example above, what if I just tweeted “My doctor told me I have to stop drinking coffee” or “My boss has the worst coffee-breath. Gross.” or worse “Friend just died while drinking coffee”.

In all of these cases the responses above would be irrelevant and possibly offensive. Maybe they are extreme but are you willing to risk it?

Problem 2 – Lack of Authenticity

Automating messages creates inauthentic communications, which degrades the community and experience on twitter for all of us. For example there are a number of services that automatically send a Direct Message when someone new follows you – things like “Krista, you are awesome, thanks for following me, check out my blog” or “Thanks for the follow, lets stay connected”.

In my mind, these are clearly spam. No question. The problem is that I can’t tell between genuine messages (ie. people who really want to know how I found them or have a legitimate and real reason for directing me to their blog) vs. those who automatically send this.

It degrades the authenticity of the medium for everyone. I now ignore all of the Direct Messages that I get shortly after following someone.

At the same time Twitterhawk messages seem to be clearly identified (via twitterhawk at the end)… Does that resolve this problem?

Problem 3: Is it SPAM?

Twitterhawk has a posted policy on SPAM, explaining how their service is not spam.

With that said, we acknowledge that notifying someone of relevant information or services based on their tweet content may in fact add value to their twitter experience. We view this in the same way that Google Adwords provides non intrusive offers to users based on the keywords they told Google about – but without this being forced upon them or annoying them.”

I don’t think that this is the same as Google Adwords, which are not mixed with legitimate personal messages, and are clearly marked as ads. Also, it is forced upon me and annoying.

The folks at twitterhawk do seem to care about the twitter community and have reduced the frequency with which their service will tweet for you (from once per hour to once every 6 hours). They seem open to feedback and are adjusting the policy as they learn, which is great.

They also have a policy to report spam.  I’m curious to know how you would differentiate a non-spam vs. a spam use of this service….

According to Wikipedia:

“Spam is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages.”

I suppose that you could debate whether or not it is indiscriminate and/or bulk.


Twitterhawk should let users opt-out so that they will not receive any twitterhawk messages and can control the relevance and authenticity of their conversations.

I think that the concept is powerful, automating social media. Make it more efficient for marketers to talk at people.

Personally I wouldn’t risk my brand reputation with an auto-response. Maybe I’m over cautious?

Here is what some people on twitter are saying….

What do you think?

· jwpalmer Not sure how I feel about this. I mean, it’s less powerful than facebook’s targeting, but still enabling another form of spam

· bettyhakes i agree w/you re: twitterhawk… did u find out cost (if any)? i like using tweetdeck – I can control reply, more targeted

· vaportrails very powerful, but it almost seems to abuse the use of twitter. I honestly don’t post here to be advertised to… i can see how it would be nice for some people to find out about new places and services, though

· life_enthusiast I just took a look at that today too. It would have to be really well placed to be genuine….Not sure if that’s achievable.

· guykawasaki Check out In the right hands and used wisely, this is an amazing marketing tool

· editweapon: looks pretty awesome, but waaaaay too close to being like SPAM. Agree/Disagree? I’m thinking of testing it.


  1. Twitterhawk is definitely bad news for the community. Twitter is all about authenticity, relevant or not. An automated answering service is a quick road to increasing your “quitter” rate and has spam written all over it.

    Social media works as a two way conversation, the second you take out that variable…you get traditional one-way media.

  2. Chris

    Thanks for visiting 🙂 Interesting point re: one way vs. two way media.

    – Krista

  3. Sure seems like spam to me Krista. It would appear this can not only be abused by spammers and confuse the heck out of people who are new to Twitter but also mushroom into a system that clogs up an already often over-burdened system (with Twitter going down on a regular basis).

    Just as with spam or legitimate commercial emails maybe if the messages were clearly labeled as automated or “sent by Twitterhawk” that would help. I think your analogy with Google AdWords is a good one.

  4. Yes. Authenticity is the big problem here. Whenever I talk with someone interested in making better use of social media I always say, “be authentic!”

    I understand the desire for something like this. There’s a lot of chatter out there and it’s hard to find the time/resources to monitor and respond in person. But if you want to be authentic, that’s what’s required.

  5. Hey All,

    Cheers for the comments and feedback, as you’re all aware we’re trying to be pretty hard on spammers and have already canceled a few such accounts to reflect this, but are aware this is something that is a touchy and ongoing topic.
    We are currently looking into a few ways to improve the product and will soon be announcing it’s future plans which will include a few matters to make it a lot more personal and (as the keyword repeated here) authentic.

    At Rob Hunting: All messages sent via twitterhawk do contain the footer text ‘via TwitterHawk’ (granted this isn’t viewable using some 3rd party apps).

    We’ll be revealing more over the coming days on the site, and via our twitter account @twithawk, but I guess the main thing we’d like to leave you all with is that we are listening to you all, and working towards a solution that will not dilute, but enhance twitter users experiences.

    All the best,

    Chris – TwitterHawk

  6. Chris –

    Thanks for stopping by and joining in the conversation 🙂 I appreciate you’re desire to listen to feedback and build a model that works for the community. I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys have in store. I think that you could have a very powerful tool if it can be managed correctly.

    – Krista

  7. Krista,

    First of all GREAT post. I didn’t know that a tool such as TwitterHawk was available. I tend to come down on the side of saying that its SPAM. The whole purpose of twitter is to make people quickly accessible and to enable us to have quick conversation. Once you inject automated response tools and crawlers into the mix, I think it only has a negative impact.

    At the crux of it, what so many of these automation tools are trying to provide are SHORTCUTS to growing your followers, or marketing your business / blog. Twitter has become a tool that rewards autheticity, participation, and good ideas.

    Its like when TIDE Detergent wants to ‘Friend’ you on Myspace. No you don’t. You want to sell me Tide, not participate in my space. Its this influx of shortcuts that have made a lot of people jump ship on the platform and move to something else. Hope that doesn’t happen with Twitter.

    Thanks for another very insightful post!


  8. Ryan – thanks for sharing your insights…

    Your Myspace example made me think of Tide on Facebook (a brand that I used to work on). TideTotalCare has a facebook fanpage that has over 3,000 participants (although they are actively promoting it with ads on facebook). At least it is clearly marked as an AD and a FANPAGE so I know what I’m getting into if I choose to participate.

    Thanks for joining the discussion – you are a smart guy 🙂

    – Krista

  9. Hi All,

    We’d just like to let you all know that due to the overwhelming support for the ability to confirm replies before they are sent out (i.e., not automatically sent as soon as they are found), we’ve built this functionality into the site and launched it in the public beta.

    Users can now see a queue of matches recently found, and can confirm / delete / edit the response to create a more personalised experience for the recipient.
    This should alleviate a lot of the concern people had about replies being sent out to people that might not be the right match for them, even though they met the search criteria.

    Thanks for all your support and suggestions, keep them coming 🙂


    Chris – TwitterHawk

  10. I am not opposed to ads on Twitter but they should be clearly marked as advertising.

  11. i have tried social media marketing for getting our new products to be known on the market. it seems to work well specially if the audience is targeted “


  1. […] | Miller Read a great post from Krista Neher today about a tool called ‘Twitterhawk‘ (read full post here).  This is a tool that crawls Twitter looking for tweets about a topic of your choice then will […]

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