Automating social media

Automation is great, but there are some things you should never automate. Expression of feelings like “thank you!”, “I like you” or “I’m sorry” is worth little when it’s not felt.

Today I read a list of advice on how organizations should handle their social media presence, or rather what they should avoid. It had some solid tips; Brian Solis is spot on most of the time and his tip to stop looking at social media as purely a marketing channel is perhaps the most profound of the ten tips. Shama Hyder thinks that you should make choices about which channels that suit your purposes rather than pushing your business onto every platform.

But one of those tips is fundamentally wrong: Kristi Hines says that you should automate everything: “There are lots of great tools that can automate a myriad of tasks for you including sending an alert to you when someone mentions a specific search term on Twitter, thanking people when they Tweet your content, adding Twitter accounts that meet a specific criteria to a Twitter list for close monitoring, and much more. The more you’re able to automate, the more time you will have for genuine relationship building and engagement.

Kristi is right that automation saves time, and therefore automation is a good thing because it allows you to allocate time to more important tasks. I use Buffer to make sure I don’t spam my followers with four tweets in a row. I have a bunch of IFTTT recipes that automate events (e.g. if I change my profile picture on Facebook, this also changes my profile picture on Twitter)

But there is one exception from the automation rule: never automate expressions of feelings. If you want to achieve “genuine relationship building” you cannot have an algorithm say things that you don’t feel. This is almost a philosphical discussion: if you send out a “thank you” message without being aware of it or the action that prompted it, are you really grateful?

The first time someone gets a well formulated “thank you” tweet for sharing your content they might feel special. But the second time they share your content and get the exact same tweet they will realize that it’s not a genuine expression, it’s an automated response.

If you don’t have time to express genuine feelings manually, you’re not saving time by faking them in an automated process. You’re just being dishonest.

(NB: There’s also a version of this in Swedish)

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