Why You Should Never Automate Your Social Media

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When we’re searching for a social media manager, it can be difficult to tell what’s useful, what’s necessary, and what’s good for our business. It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at the range of services that are offered and the prices being asked for what seems really simple: engaging with users on social media networks and promoting our brand. We want a social media manager who is going to act like a person online, someone who will really make your brand a priority through careful stewardship and community building. So what does that really mean?

What some companies offer, for prices as low as $9.00 a month to as high as $1000, is to make the process as simple as possible by automating all of our social media interactions. The pitch is that automated social media management is quick and easy for everyone involved: we just provide a brief list of keywords, and they create our social media presence targeted towards those keywords. If a post includes a word from our list, a bot associated with our account will find it, fave it, retweet it, and follow the user on the assumption that they’re someone who would be interested in our brand. After all, that user once wrote something vaguely related to soap, or cheese, or accounting consultancy services.

Except words don’t tell us much without context, and that’s something bots aren’t good at discerning. We definitely don’t want to fave the tweet by a mom talking about washing her kid’s mouth out with soap. We don’t want to retweet the lactose intolerant guy bemoaning how much he misses cheese with a link to our new triple cream brie featuring extra milkfat. We don’t want to follow someone who usually tweets about kicking puppies just because they’re also in the market for an accountant. Luckily, we don’t have to, because the bot will do it for us.

The incidental mention of a keyword associated with our business might be something we want to address or endorse, or it might not. There’s no way to tell without human oversight, and when we’re paying $9.00 a month to a company whose selling point is automation, it’s unlikely they’re devoting a lot of time to providing that.

What automated social media management services are offering isn’t real, personal engagement with us or our community. They’re giving us a set-it-and-forget-it system with a broad, scattershot approach. They aren’t interested in learning our brand or our values, or in really engaging with our customers or our market. They generate faves for things they don’t actually fave, retweets for messages they don’t actually endorse, follows for accounts they will never read.

In a venue like the Internet that’s already crowded with voices, they’re creating static. It’s just more trash for our potential clients and members to wade through in an effort to get to a real conversation, real engagement, and real people. A bot is, by definition, impersonal. It’s not a person. It’s an algorithm, and nobody wants to talk to an algorithm. Nobody is happy or flattered when an algorithm likes their post or retweets them. Nobody wants to donate to an algorithm’s foundation or read a newsletter promoted by a bot.

When you’re looking to hire a social media manager, make sure that automation is not a part of their services. Simplicity is tempting, but our businesses and our customers aren’t simple, and the social media manager who’s working for you shouldn’t be looking to make it easy for themselves. If you’re considering hiring someone who wants to automate your brand, rather than understand and interact with your community, it’s better not to have social media at all at that point, and I say this as a professional with years of experience in this field. Bad, tone-deaf social media says a lot about your brand, but none of it is good.

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