Too Plugged in, Too Tuned Out: Social Media and Automation

We’re all crunched for time. Sometimes our real lives are stressful enough that our blogging and social media obligations become overwhelming. As a business grows, the time crunch grows along with it. A bigger, more profitable requires demands more efficiency, but questions and customer demands increase along with the cash flow.

Automation seems like a natural solution to the time vs. money problem. It starts with formulaic email responses, it moves on to templates, and then becomes full-on automated replies. Regularly scheduled tweets, blogs and Facebook updates come next.

But where does it end? Where does the person stop and the robot begin?

Automation is unquestionably useful and social media platforms are necessary for positive interaction with customers and readers.

Time is Money by Mark Morgan Trinidad B

Blogging and social media are vital parts of our business strategies but when we leave them completely or mostly up to automation, we risk losing money and customers. We’re tuning actual people out because the universal, obvious solution to the stress vs. social media problem seems to an automated one.

Time is money after all, and time spent tweeting and answering Facebook comments is wasted money… right? Not necessarily.

In fact, I’d like to propose that we, as web professionals and small business owners, rely too much on automation. And that automation, in many cases, is carving a trench in between us and our customers. Automated content is necessary as businesses grow, but where should we draw the line?

Automatons in Business Suits

Robots are awesome– in movies and in comic books, that is. Unfortunately, there are no C-3P0s, H.E.R.B.I.E.s or Benders in the real world—which means the robots that we do have are completely practical and lacking in personality. Your readers and customers don’t want to see you as a mechanical assembly line arm in a polo shirt, pushing the enter key every day at an appointed time. Your personality is a huge part of your brand, and you’re at risk of losing a large portion of it if you rely too heavily upon automation.

I understand that you still need to save time, which means at least some amount of your blog posts and tweets will continue to be automated. I can’t do enough to properly stress how important your personality is to your brand.

Make sure you inject at least some of yourself into all of your social media posts, even if they’re just scheduled reminders. Sometimes it’s a good idea to include the date and time of scheduling a post or tweet along with the reason why you scheduled it.

Beyond that, you can eliminate some automated tweets and posts just by spreading the work load around a little bit. You can answer questions and write a blog post on Monday, have your graphic designer do it on Tuesday, have your receptionist do it on Wednesday or just do whatever works for you. You work with talented, intelligent people—make use of their abilities.

Isolation Chamber

There’s a difference between productivity and isolation. Sure, Darth Vader needed some time in his weird space meditation chamber to get away from the Imperial Bureaucracy, but it’s a safe bet that he didn’t automate the Death Star’s laser from the safety of that space chair. Some things, like destroying a planet, just don’t work well when they’re automated. Okay, that’s not a great example, but the point is that you become totally disconnected from your readers and customers when you’re almost fully automated.

  • You’re missing out on their opinions, thoughts and ideas—all of which might pertain to your blog or business.
  • There’s also the danger of forgetting what you said in a blog post or what you tweeted because you wrote it weeks or months ago. A barrier already exists between you and your audience, and that time lapse between writing and posting just makes you more out of touch.

Successful bloggers and small business owners are always pressed for time, but I think it’s important to set a few minutes aside to poke your head out the door and see what’s going on. It’s tempting to just look at what our peers and colleagues are saying on the internet, since that’s often profitable in terms of networking and ideas, but there’s value to be had outside of that realm.

  • Concentrate on what your customers are asking and what they’re talking about. Is it positive or negative? Can you contribute to the conversation?
  • Take some time to make your customers or readers feel like they matter to you. If you can’t get to all of their comments or questions, just do your best and try to delegate some of the work. If your audience feels engaged, they’re much more likely to view more of your content or buy more of your product.
  • Don’t just make them feel like they matter, take a few minutes out of the day to remind yourself of why they matter.

Digital Balancing Act

I’ve talked a lot about the trouble that automation can bring your way, so I’ll allow myself some positivity for the next few sentences.

  • Automating blog and social media posts allows you to plan for the future and keep yourself a few steps ahead of the game. It also allows you to concentrate on making money and spending time in the real world.
  • Even the greatest internet marketers, social networkers and bloggers need to spend some time away from the computer, and automation can be valuable in that pursuit.

I’m not writing any of this to say that you shouldn’t use automation in your day to day life; I’m just proposing that you should think about it a little more and balance the real with the robotic. For example, an airplane’s autopilot allows the pilot to multitask and accomplish other tasks, but it requires constant human supervision and interaction. The same is true with automated blog and social media posts.

  • Only automate the things you have to automate, and be sure to schedule those automated posts for the most effective times.
  • Use automated email replies to let your customer or reader know you’ll get back to them, but then make sure that you or someone else actually gets back to them.
  • Scheduling some time to answer emails, comments or tweets can be a great, but still fairly productive, break from your daily business tasks.
  • Give your brain a rest and give back to the public.
  • People like your blog or business for a reason– and that reason is most likely you. Share some with them.

Though we operate through computers, we’re still human beings. Technology can save us loads of time and frustration, but we have to moderate the amount of work that automation does for us.

Losing out on that vital personal connections, losing our personalities in a mass of robotic responses and becoming detached from what’s happening around us are all very real dangers of relying too much on automated posting. Automation is a useful tool to bolster efficiency and productivity, but it’s not a replacement for human interaction.

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Dustin Verburg is a writer and musician based in Boise, ID. He writes about good blogging practices, white hat SEO and internet ethics. Dustin writes for Page One Power, a relevancy first link building service.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Cottrell says:

    Terrific food for thought, Dustin. As a student of all things about Connection (we are, after all, in the “Age of Connection”), I have come to agree with your idea of balance being so critical. Genuine connection can’t be automated, but smart use of technology tools can create and nurture touch points on which to build that genuine connection. Good job.

    • Dustin Verburg says:

      Hey, Elizabeth. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it.

      Balance and a genuine connection are super important. I’d almost take no connection over a fake connection with a business (or other brand/entity), if that makes sense.