Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

Automation is a powerful productivity concept that can free up time to perform additional tasks and saves on labor, materials, and cost.

For the most part, automation started in manufacturing, where processes were automated using a combination of machinery, hydraulics, feedback controllers, and eventually computers.

In marketing, software like Oracle Marketing Cloud (formerly Eloqua), Marketo, Hubspot and others help to automate the email marketing process.

These software packages can automatically fire off emails and other communications based on customer behaviors like joining a list, visiting a webpage, opening or clicking on an email, or not opening or clicking on an email.

Marketing automation saves marketers hundreds of hours of work and help engage customers and prospects at scale. But sometimes if it’s not set up right and delivers irrelevant messaging, it can hurt your brand.

Now that we’ve fully moved into the world of social, I’ve been experimenting with automation of engagement on Twitter.

Tools like StatusBrew and Crowdfire allow you to set up automated messages whenever someone new follows you. You can publicly send a mention to them or direct message them automatically (the latter being the more popular move).

I haven’t seen a big uptick in engagement for the auto-DMs that I’ve sent, which has me thinking that this isn’t really right for social.

But I have seen different types of automated messaging, a few of which really turn me off and hurt the brand of the user sending it. Here’s what I’ve seen and how they’ve made me feel.

The Auto DM with the name of the tool used

If you don’t pay for a tool like StatusBrew or Crowdfire, each of your automated messages will be tagged with something like “via Statusbrew.com” at the end.

This obviously tells the recipient the message was automated.

You’re trying to engage but you’re not trying to hide it. I won’t typically reply to these messages, but I’m pretty indifferent to them. No harm, no foul.

The obvious auto DM without the name of the tool used

When users pay for social automation tools, the “via Statusbrew.com” tag is not included. But many automated messages are written like they are obviously automated.

This turns me off a little bit.

If you have the ability to cover up the fact that you’re automating messages, you should at least put forth the effort to make it look like there is a real person sending the message, right?

Acknowledging the auto DM

Many people will acknowledge that they are sending an auto DM, with messages that say something like “Yeah, I know, this is an automated message, sorry! Automation is a necessary evil. But if you respond to this, I swear a real human will respond right back!”

I used this technique before I turned off social automation.

I’ve actually seen a slight uptick in engagement by sending these messages, and once in a while I would respond to the user who auto-sends me a message like this.

Being honest is an endearing quality that can help you better engage, and I think that’s at work here. It’s not ideal but it can work to a certain extent.

Saying “this isn’t an auto DM” when it really is

This is the absolute worst.

I’ve received messages from users who explicitly say that their DM isn’t automated.

How did I find out that it’s automated? Because if I follow this person with more than one social account, I receive the same message to all of those accounts.

And I’ve even been sent the same message multiple times to the same account.

Unfollow.

Conclusion

The best thing to do is to manually respond to each and everyone of your new Twitter followers. But we don’t always have time for that.

I think that automation can eventually work in social media but the context analysis just isn’t there yet.

If you use automation, there are ways that it can be implemented where you can increase engagement. But make sure you take time and effort to do it right or else you can do more harm than good.

What are your thoughts about social media automation and auto-DMing followers? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

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