Kekkou Desu Mr. Roboto - The Perils Of Content Automation

An image of the robot face from Styx's Mr. Roboto video, in support of a blog post on the dangers of relying on automation.

One of the goals of any social media/communications strategy is to actively and rapidly engage with your customer base when they reach out to you. But the metrics you need to focus on should lean towards measuring the qualitative aspects of that interaction, as opposed to the quantitative.

In short, I place more value on the quality of your business’ interaction with the client than the speed in which it occurs. And that’s an equation that requires more humans and fewer “bots.” Like Rick Springfield so prophetically sang, we all need the human touch.

It can be a challenge for businesses that have a vested interest in maximizing productivity: automatic phone systems attempt to funnel customers to appropriate employees all in the name of efficiency; auto-responders send direct messages to people who interact on social media or e-mail. And it’s all done in the name of showing your customer you care.

A strong social strategy should focus on meaningful engagement. Realistically your social goals should be part of a broader marketing effort designed to improve sales – after all, you’re in business to expose your product to a larger market and make money. You’re not just in it to make people feel good.

That’s not meant to be snide, it’s meant to be realistic. You wouldn’t continue to dump money into an ad campaign that delivers negligible (or, worse, negative) results, so why throw money at a social strategy that’s devoid of actual strategy. And it’s not meant to enforce an expectation of a direct correlation between social media and sales – selling X number of widgets per Y number of Tweets isn’t the way to go either.

Your social strategy doesn’t exist in isolation of your business. It is part and parcel of your marketing efforts and, like all marketing efforts, it must focus on your customers’ needs.

To start, I’m a big proponent of benchmarking customer attitudes through usage and satisfaction surveys. From there, you can target your social efforts to increase engagement, information, and brand fidelity – and hopefully see those reflected in follow-up survey results.

From there you need to focusing on people and meeting their needs. And that’s not something that’s successfully done through automation. No one gets the warm-and-fuzzies from an instant-but-generic, “Thanks for following!” Tweet. But what they will remember is a personalized response, even if it comes hours, or even a day later.

Automating your social strategy to reply to any mention with a generic reply (even if it’s craftily designed to look like it’s personalized) can have disastrous results. Thanks to Eksith Rodrigo, who captured the Twitter discussion and posted it on his blog. It’s an example of auto-replying gone wrong.

Successfully humanizing your social strategy is an investment. You have to determine your strategy and the amount of time, money, people, and effort you can put into it. Do you reply to each and every Tweet that someone sends to your account? Maybe. It would be nice for you to provide personal replies, but is that realistic? Is it scalable as your Twitter following grows? Is there a value to your business or your customers in thanking for every follow? Personally, I don’t need that validation, nor do I feel obligate to reply to every comment that includes my Twitter handle, but maybe you do.

Instead, I prefer to focus on meaningful interaction. From a business perspective, I believe in providing value to the customer with every tweet: added information, answering a question, sharing a story, injecting a bit of humour. I think it’s more effective of an engagement strategy to actually care about what you’re writing than to simply pump out a generic, “Thanks for the follow!”

Go back to the Bank of America example and tell me how much value those commenters got for the BOA’s auto-tweets? Would the damage have been worse if it took a little while longer for an actual human to formulate a proper and targetted response?

You need to be honest up front with your customers and yourself. If you’re a mom-and-pop shop on Twitter, let people know that it may take some time to get back to any Tweets. We’ve moved past the days where we expect instant responses – the Blackberry Generation is willing to have a life. If you’re a multi-national like a BOA you can likely afford to have round-the-clock monitoring and staff on hand to reply.

Leave the automated responses for holiday notifications. Focus on providing the quality, not meeting some artificially determined quantity of interaction and your customers will think better of you for it.

After all, we're all only human!

Your thoughts? We’d love to read them. What do you think about auto-responses? What’s your opinion? 

*And for those who don't get this blog title's reference point, it translates to "No thanks, Mr. Roboto." If you need a better frame of reference, may I point you in the direction of Styx's Mr. Roboto video.


Questions Answered

Should I automate my Tweets?

Do I need to respond to every Tweet I receive?



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