On the one hand, marketers are trying desperately to find shortcuts to spare up some of their valuable time. On the other hand, there are now thousands of social media platforms offering to help “automate” the social media interactions. It seems like a match made in heaven. Except, the result too often tends to be hell for the receiving party.

Efficient social media interactions

social media interactions

As much as one must look for efficiencies and be as productive as possible in business, the simple option of the single-to-many click that pushes out large batches of impersonal messages is a perilous route in terms of building long-term customer loyalty. These Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms are a necessary evil at large scale companies. However, the manner in which they are used leaves a gaping hole for smaller, more nimble companies and brands who are intent on capturing customers with a more engaged, customized and personalized approach.

The good news for big business is that not all people care about getting a personal email. In fact, many people would rather not have to interact with someone about many of their purchases, especially when it comes to the most banal items. The bad news is that, among those who seek engagement and social interactions, there are a host of valuable, value-added and socially active individuals.

Tune-Out Opt-Out

Companies that think that they can get away with social media automation are really going down the slippery slope of what I call the tune-out-opt-out approach. Click To Tweet There are MANY companies doing the same via email, whereby the answer to declining open rates and/or click through rates, is to add yet another email to the buffer. The key in automation is the mix and the frequency. A great rule of thumb for the marketer in charge is: would you like to be the recipient of the messages you are sending out? A large dose of empathy will come in handy for making your CRM a successful long-term relationship.

Conditions for automation

All the same, social media interactions may be automated under certain circumstances and conditions. As with the burgeoning use of artificial intelligence, it’s the mix between machine and human that will create the biggest impact.

Here are some examples of social media interactions that I feel warrant an automated approach:

  • First condition: The communications should be in phase with the codes of the platform. Put another way, if you send a SMS (aka text message) and don’t allow for REPLY via SMS, then you are failing the system and risk pissing off your customers. Similarly, if you tweet out on Twitter, but don’t reply quickly to questions or, better yet, acknowledge/like retweets, then you are failing the Twitter platform. For each platform and for each community, there are gentle rules of engagement. Nothing is hard and fast, but brands (and their agencies) would be well advised to take heed of the way each platform works.
  • Second condition: Frequency needs to be kept low. Not only do consecutive automated communications smack of impersonalization, the desire to opt out is quickly turned on. Automated messages are, for the grand majority, stripped of personality.
  • Third condition: Send out valuable content to the intended audience that is valuable in the eye of the recipient.
  • Fourth condition: Absolutely transparent and easy ways to opt out.
  • Fifth condition: From a business standpoint — and because the data is plainly available — it’s important to measure and monitor the results. If open rates are low and/or declining, the answer to the problem inevitably lies in the quality of the messaging.

Examples of when automation is a good idea

Here are a few examples of justified automation…

  • Text message to confirm a rendez-vous with advance notice; or perhaps to fill a vacancy.
  • Pre-loading messages to be sent out when your community is online (not when you are).
  • To acknowledge receipt of a request and to lay out the parameters for returning with a specific (personalized) response.
  • Updates via newsletter with exclusive content.

In all cases, automation cannot be the ONLY way to communicate. When using automation, I believe it’s important to allow for an interactive response — not just a click through. Having a frictionless way of replying and/or acting on the message is vital to making sure the recipient feels rewarded, valued and/or happy. Click To Tweet

Otherwise, I fear that automating your social media interactions will mean the demise of your online community. And we’re back to paying for everything.

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