I, Robot: (Not)!
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Strategic Issues

I, Robot: (Not)!

June 17, 2013

by Tony Vidler

Am I a Robot if I automate my business?

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In financial services we generally accept that it is a wise move to automate as much as possible in our processes.

The arguments for doing so largely revolve around efficiency, reliability, and risk management.  That is, automating simply makes good business sense as it frees up time, it makes sure that the right things get done when they need to, and it minimises the possibility of mistakes.

Does the same rationale apply when considering automation of your marketing?

During the last 2 years I have used, observed and learned many things about social media use. What seems an overwhelming thing at first is in reality no more overwhelming than the internet itself.  Or email.

Email can be overwhelming if you allow it to be.  So too can social media channels.  So can pretty much everything else in the information or communications world.

Gradually I have learned some techniques and tools for managing my digital marketing, though not without a lot of mistakes and wasted hours along the way.

This line of thinking was triggered by an excellent article that caught my eye, and then generated some discussion with others, about “automation” of social media.  (Should you Tweet while you sleep?)   In the article Lilach Bullock made a superbly valid point in her article on the difference between scheduling and automation, and the two are often confused or used interchangeably.  I love one….and loathe the other when it comes to social media and digital marketing.

I love to schedule.  I loathe automation.

Scheduling allows me to be organised and reliably delivering the bulk of my social media posts.  It enables me to write three blog posts in a couple of hours when I have the time and creativity…but not have to post them immediately.  It enables me to scan Twitter feeds in 20 minutes to save a lot of useful material that is worth sharing, and then drip that out over the next 24 hours.  It enables me to maintain a continual presence on LinkedIn and Facebook without actually having to be there all the time.

Scheduling works for me as a one-man business. It provides an efficient use of my time, ensures reliable delivery and initial engagement points, and minimises the risk of me losing touch with my market place.  (By the way…free plug for Hootsuite and Bundlepost: check them out if you want some efficiency tools! By the way guys, you should now be paying ME, instead of me pay you!)

It is important for me to say that scheduling of content and shared stories is fabulous, but it does NOT replace the need to personally engage with folk who do repspond or interact.  Heck, I actually get a lot of that one-on-one interaction done on my mobile phone while waiting in traffic, or filling in the 3 minutes before a meeting starts – that is the easiest part of using social media.

social media requires engagement

Social media cannot be fully scheduled though.  To use social media well you must be interacting with your potential customers or fans, and that requires some one to one engagement with other human beings. That engagement just cannot be scheduled.

Automation on the other hand….well, that sucks.

Pet social media peeves for me include pretty much all the automated things…like getting impersonal direct messages beseeching me to follow someone everywhere just because I took an interest in something on one channel.    Or suddenly receiving a continuous daily (or worse, multiple times daily) email message referring to the same article ad nauseum.  That is just Groundhog Day,and it will drive most people suicidal if they are on the receiving end.  I really hate those  automated messages telling me I need to use something as ridiculous as TrueTwit in order to validate that I am a real human being before somebody else will follow me back.

Why would anyone put up a security screen and ask you to verify that you are not a Russian mobster before they will deign to follow you?  Here’s a thought: I don’t need Twitter followers enough that I’ll go jumping through silly hoops for you….that type of thing is just a barrier to engaging with your market place in my view.

Scheduling is about efficient delivery of content to your constituents.

Automation is just an impersonal method of trying to appear personal.

One is smart business.  The other is cynical engagement at best, or deceitful behavior at worst.

© 2013 Tony Vidler.  All rights reserved. All materials contained on this web site not otherwise subject to copyright of other parties are subject to the ownership rights of Tony Vidler.  Tony Vidler authorises you to make a single copy of the content herein for your own personal, non-commercial, use while visiting the site. You agree that any copy made must include the Tony Vidler copyright notice in full. No other permission is granted to you to print, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, upload, download, store, display in public, alter, or modify the content contained on this web site.

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Comments (5)

  • Interesting post Tony. I largely agree with you, and also loathe those automated messages.

    However I think you can also over-schedule. When someone tweets links many many times an hour 24 hours/day, it clogs up the feed, I start to distrust them and question their motivation. They surely haven’t read all those articles, so why are they sharing them? It becomes more about them (being in someone’s feed), rather than being motivated by sharing interesting and useful things.

    Interestingly, I actually unfollowed the author you mentioned above some time ago, for the very reason above.

    Just my two cents.

    Susie Munro
    • That’s interesting Susie…and I too have followed some folk for a while and then un-followed because I found stuff repetitive or just too much of it. it is a difficult balancing act, and one that I am not content I have right personally. But the experiment continues!

  • I agree with being against automation. It would be interesting to hear the argument of someone who is for automated tweets and posts on social media. I think laziness is the key drive for automated messages. Giving personality to your business takes effort, time, and attention. i think social media is one of the best opportunities to give your business personality. But ya, hootsuite really comes in handy for scheduling pre-written tweets. Good topic!

  • thanks Trevor, I quite agree with you obviously – but well said on the “laziness” angle.

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