3 Reasons Why Automating Your Social Media Is A Bad Idea

I’m a strong proponent of taking it easy, and slowing down with social media.

Especially with the advent of tools and technologies that lend to – and facilitate – automation of social media, I’m very skeptical of their value.

Don’t let the terminology confuse you – I am not talking about going slow. You should definitely go slow, if you’re just starting out in this world.

But if you’re already knee deep in these water, going slow doesn’t mean much to you, short of early retirement, does it? I’m really talking about slowing down here!

Search for the term “automate twitter” on Google, and you’ll be thrown a list of over 2 million web resources – some legit, some bots – and almost all of them unconvincing.

Now before you close this post and go elsewhere, let me explain what I mean in some more detail.

Let’s rewind by about 10 years, when social media was quite unheard of. Emails, instant messengers, applet chat rooms and discussion forums were about as social as you and I would get back then. Imagine calling up a customer support number of any big corporation in those years. After pounding through a maze of touch tone sequences, we hated it to be put on hold for what seemed like ages, before talking to a real person. And we especially hated it when all we got was automated playbacks of recorded messages.

Fast forward 10 years, and the telephone scenario still applies even today! Apparently, nothing has changed in that world – and we hate automated playbacks even today. Probably a wee bit more, given that there are a few stellar examples of a real person talking to us within minutes.

How do you like it when you shoot off an email to someone, and get a canned reply in return? Do you ever get that creepy feeling of being given the cold shoulder? I certainly do – and I don’t appreciate it.

Not only do all of us not like automation in touch areas like customer support, we almost always get irritated by automation when it comes to conversing and communicating in the real world. The same feelings carry over into the world of social media.

You’re on social media channels to engage with your flock. True engagement that transcends tweets, scraps and wall scribbles – and moves into the realm of authentic communication, genuine empathy and real commitments.

Automation in social media can very easily be mistaken for dishonesty – and could potentially dampen credibility. Especially if the perception that your automation creates has even a tint of gray in it.

As Professor Anthony J. Rotolo of Syracuse University rightly says:

A true social media strategy means talking with people instead of just broadcasting at them. Automated posts can’t answer questions or respond when spoken to. And what are you really getting out of it anyway?

Why pay an unrealistic price for your social media success – and potentially lose out in the long run – all for a short term spark that quickly dies out? Is it even worth it? Put the numbers together, and you’ll have an answer for yourself.

Tamar Weinberg shares a similar point of view in her blog post, No You Can’t Automate Social Media!

Here’s my list of three reasons why automating your social media interactions is a bad idea:

  1. Perception – Automation deceives my real connections in social media, both in context and in meaning. If all they get in return is an automated tweet, they might as well leave me a voice message. It creates a perception that I am trying to put on a mask, and hiding my real self behind a fort.
  2. Reality – Automation breaks down at times, and when it breaks down, it gets downright ugly. I don’t look good, neither do my connections. When automation breaks down, my auto-conversations spread false impressions, damaging reputations (and potentially Klout too) which takes years to fix.
  3. Stereotypes – When automation kicks in, I lose the ability to be my true, original, genuine self. I bring in a stereotype that is almost as good as me, but not really as good as me!

Scott Stratten was bang on when he said this on Twitter last morning:

unmarketing: Using automation to try to have presence on Twitter without being present is a recipe for disaster. Be here

about 15 hours ago via UberTwitter · Reply · View Tweet

Be present when you’re on your social media channels – or be absent with a sense of pride in it. There’s a reason why you’re present – and when you are, give it your one hundred percent. There’s also a reason when you’re absent, and by all means stay disconnected. You’ll stand out as far more credible and authentic without an element of gimmickry.

Savor the journey – you’ll eventually get there. Make sure you stop by and smell the roses – for in all likely hood, we’ll all pass this way just once.

What do you think? Have you used automation in your social media efforts before with either stellar or disastrous results? I’d sure love to hear your story.

(Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nhoulihan/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/nhoulihan/)

One Response to 3 Reasons Why Automating Your Social Media Is A Bad Idea
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