Automation Sucks: A Warning for those Tempted to Automate Social Media

By October 7, 2010Social Media


  • Phil Woods says:

    Agreed!! (sort of) I think automation is good, or can be good, when used in conjunction with real, human social media engagement and interaction. For example, go ahead and auto-post your blog entries to twitter, but be present on twitter afterwards to facilitate additional discussion about the blog post. Its the being present part, and having conversations part that gets lost with the inappropriate use of automation.

  • Honestly, I wear myself out some weeks trying to be real and I agree one hundred percent! I do have facebook posts that auto-post to Twitter but only in that it has a value – e.g. our fare sales. Real posts are written separately for each venue as they should be.

    This reminds me of when I watched a few episodes of “Operation Repo” and then found out it was a fake reality show. Good grief! I should have known those people were too out there to be real.

    Oops, I don’t need to agree with you-you are my social media teacher so you already know I do!

  • Automation sucks! “You wouldn’t send a robot on a first date, would you?” I love it!

    I’m with Phil…in the middle. I automate my tweets, from the perspective that I set them up the day before they actually go out. So, for instance, I will tweet this video on Monday. Let’s go ahead and say at 10 a.m. I’m going to go ahead and set it up now because on Monday at 10 a.m., I’ll be in a staff meeting and won’t be able to send it. I do this so, when I am on Twitter, I can have conversations and I’m not so worried about getting the content out. The content is going out automatically, it’s creating DMs, RTs, and @ replies. And then I spend my time talking to those people.

    So…automation sucks if you’re not having real conversations at all or don’t know how to use automation correctly, but it’s helpful in some instances.

  • Marijean says:

    Gini and Phil, I really do agree with both of you and do use some of the scheduling tools and do not even have an issue with cross posting when it is done thoughtfully. Gini, scheduling or setting up tweets to go out at specific times doesn’t fit my personal definition of automation. Automation to me is the auto-DMs and @replies that are triggered to show up based on certain keywords. Automation is the lazy, thoughtless approach that – granted – is so tempting to take because it saves so much time – of using tools to auto-post a new blog across all of your platforms. It’s being overdone and I’m concerned about the growing number of SM consultants recommending that clients, especially small businesses automate rather than remaining real, human, authentic and genuinely responsive.

  • Alice R says:


    This is brilliant! I can give you an excellent real-world example of why automation stinks. Shall I? Yes? OK. Here goes.

    I live in central New Hampshire and work for an institution that focuses on central and northern New Hampshire, and the Northern Forest region (upstate NY, Vermont, NH, Maine, and adjacent portions of Canada). Here’s the thing: almost NONE of our intended audience members have high speed connections and mobile phone coverage is spotty. I know it’s difficult for more urban counterparts to imagine, but the vast majority of our target population has dial-up service, or uses something hideously over-priced and under-delivered like Wild Blue. So, imagine the warm good feelings we would engender if every single one of our social media activities automatically updated every social media channel with which we are affiliated! YIKES!

    I can think of few things more irritating than having an already slow connection bogged down with a half dozen notices about ever post, Tweet, reply, etc. Furthermore, it’s easy to drink that Kool-Aid and forget that there are other viable ways to share information with people. There’s public radio, Saturday morning at the transfer station (the name for the places where most of us up here take our trash and recycling), in-person events, newsletters, print advertisements, and more.

    The same thing from another angle–Yankees are independent folk. They don’t like being driven toward someone else’s idea of an inevitable outcome. So, just because the recently departed (for another job, than all that is holy) web wizard at our place was addicted to his iPhone, he projected non-stop logged in status as part of what “everyone” does. When I told him that many of our audience don’t even have computers, he scoffed, sure I was dabbling in hyperbole. So sure was he, of the ubiquity of internet connectivity, he REMOVED the “printer-friendly” option for white papers, forms, articles, and other relevant items on our website. He also took away the ability to post .pdfs and other content files.

    I talked with him for an hour one day, saying things like, “You know, Jason, the thing is, not everyone enjoys reading lots of text on a computer screen. And lots of people like to print things out and mark them up–and before you say that there are electronic mark-up tools, I’ll tell you that I am a person who needs a very manual experience in order to do good critical or proof reading. Furthermore, many of the things we publish are things that someone might take into a meeting as a handout. I mean this gently, brother, but as someone who was a business analyst for quite some time, I can tell you that I learned long ago that technology is only useful in SERVICE of business rules; it never works to have technology DRIVE business rules. It just doesn’t.” No dice.

    Finally, in general, I think it’s worth considering how we might alienate constituencies that are not particularly invested in technology as a central relationship or activity. It’s good to stay flexible and agile. Yes, we use social media, because some of our audience is wedded to that. Fine. But we employ it in ways that take all of our audiences into account, don’t tax any of them with too big a burden of compromise, and we are dedicated to being accessible, live, humans who respond, generate content, and interact with folks across media of all sorts.

    Here endeth the sermon. Thanks be do dogs (snoring on the couch next to me).

    Gratitude to you for always making me think a little more consciously about what I do and how.