Social Media Automation – How Much Is Too Much?


I get a lot of crap for being a social media purist. People like Michael Gray and others joke that I would never send out an automated tweet or schedule any of my social media activity like some social media pros. And for the most part, they’re right. It’s not my style.

I believe in the human side of social media. I think social media is most effective when it’s centered around creating lasting relationships with people. And I’m sorry if that sounds honky dory and simply adorable, but it’s what’s worked for me and it’s what continues to work, every day, for our clients. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t use some automation in my day-to-day social media life, because I do. I have to if I want to function.

Here are a few social media tasks that I automate and a few that I promise I never will. I’d be curious to see what your own list looks like, if you’re willing to share it.

Tasks I Automate

Email: I tried to find a more tactful way of saying it but – email sucks. Or at least, it’s a time suck. I automate my email by setting up strong filters to bucket emails based on presumed intent (Google has trained me so well) and by creating canned responses to emails I received frequently. I’ll never auto-reply to an email that is sent my way, but I’ll often have 90 percent of my response already written to the questions I get a lot (Can I get a quote? Can we talk? You spelled that wrong! Why do people follow you on Twitter when you’re so useless?). Email is one of those repetitive tasks I try and take charge of as best I can and that means automating it as much as possible.

Keyword tracking via RSS: It probably won’t surprise most of you to know that I track a whole lot of keywords to stay abreast of the conversation around Outspoken Media. And it can get a little time consuming when conversations span different platforms. I automate the process as much as I can by using RSS to track brand mentions. Because I spend so much time in RSS anyway, it’s a lot more efficient for me to build my listening station there than to create a separate dashboard. That’s a huge time-saver for me.

Tasks I’d Never Automate

Twitter DMs: OMG, STOP! I mean, do you ever have a positive reaction when someone sends you an auto-DM after you were conned into following them? No, you don’t. The whole process makes you want to disinfect yourself. So why would you do that to another person? If you feel the need to WELCOME! someone into your Twitter network (perhaps see a doctor about this), then you can take three seconds to write them a personal message. You only have 140 characters. It’s not like you’re being asked to craft a novel. If it’s important enough to do, it’s important enough to do well.

Cross-Posting Between Social Profiles: All of the auto- and cross-posting people do on their accounts is a huge pet peeve of mine. And it’s not because I enjoy posting the same piece of content to multiple networks manually, it’s because I think those little human touches matter. As a social media consultant, I spend a lot of time help clients make their social presences more human. We work to create content together and to create a satellite community that people want to engage with. Every time you place an automated piece of content into that community you make it harder for people to trust it. Think about it, when you go to someone’s Facebook page and all you see are automated postings in the form of blog posts, FourSquare checkins, whatever, it tells you that person isn’t really there. It makes you less inclined to interact with anything on that page because there’s no sign of life. If you’re trying to create pages or accounts that your customers will feel comfortable interacting with, then I don’t think you can automate major parts of your presence. If you do, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Twitter conversations: Michael Gray often tells me that it’s his job to make it look like he spends his whole day in social media, not to actually be there. And I get that. I understand why people schedule their blog posts (old and archived) to auto-tweet, why they sync their Facebook and Twitter updates, and why they pre-write a tweet to go live at 6pm that tells the world they’re hungry for dinner. However, if your goal in social media is to be a part of conversations, then I think you’re doing a disservice to yourself and to your community when you automate a conversation. Yeah, you can schedule a tweet to go live about your dinner plans, but what do you do when people respond to and you’re not really there? You’re setting them up to be ignored. You’re setting your stream up to look unauthentic and like you’re not really part of it. Again, the more artificial elements you put into your stream, the harder it is for others to trust it.

So, when is automation too much?

For me, automation stops being okay when it stands out and when it detracts from the humanness of your account. And as a business owner or a marketer, I think you know it when you see it. When it comes to my own personal preferences, I choose to automate tasks, not interactions. That’s my line. But that doesn’t mean that’s what’s right for you (even if I personally think it is ;) ).

What are your thoughts on social media automation? Where do you draw the line for your personal and/or business accounts?

Your Comments

  • Sage Lewis

    I’m really glad you brought this up.

    I was at Michale Gray’s Twitter Automation session at SES in Chicago.

    I just kept thinking, “why spend all this time building these really complicated systems when you could just send out a tweet.”

    I follow Michael on Twitter and dig his stuff. But I’m not really into all the automation either.

    I do one thing that I’m not totally comfortable with. I post most of my random thoughts on Twitter and then have them automatically sent to Facebook. I do that primarily for my wife. Sometimes she’s on Twitter and sometimes she’s on Facebook. I like to catch her at whatever social space she happens to be on.

    When I’m thinking of my social media audience I usually use my wife as the person I have in my mind. Plus, I like telling her what I’m doing during the day :)

    I’ve been playing around with ending that automatic connection. We’ll see.

    But I feel the manual love, Lisa. Keep on keepin’ on. I think you are right.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks for the comment, Sage. I’m right there with you when you said why build these complicated systems for doing things, when you could just send a simple tweet. Does it really take that much time out of your day to check in with your audience? It wouldn’t if you’d build these social activities in your day. People are going to have a hard time convincing me that my accounts don’t lose something when I turn my relationship-building over to a program. People don’t form bonds with robots.

    • graywolf

      Hi Sage,

      The answer is once you’ve built an effective way to automate a twitter account you can be more than one person. If 50 obvious spam account tweet out a link no one will click it. But if 50 semi-automated accounts tweet out a link with different text and at different times during the day you’re more likely too click the link, especially if they have tweeted out interesting content before.

      • Lisa Barone

        That sound you hear? That’s the sound of my WEEPING at your massacre of social media and relationship-building.

        • graywolf

          Wasn’t it you who recently posted twitter will eventually die and all those followers that you really didn’t have relationships with will disappear? I’m a big fan of Dunbar’s number that most people can manage about 150 connections in their lives of all the things they care about. The more autobots I have more likely I am to be in that 150 number. Lest anyone think these are spam account I have several with over 20K followers and one with 60k so I’m doing something right.

      • Sage Lewis

        You can’t automate all that Google stuff, can you? Those are my favorite posts by you.

  • Phil Buckley

    Thank God I don’t have to track as much info as you, but I’m with you that an RSS feed is the easiest way to track a social campaign.

    I’m somewhere between you and graywolf, I think responding, even if it’s an hour or two later is better than not responding at all.

    • Lisa Barone

      Obviously, there will be times when you won’t be able to immediately respond to someone, but I think that’s different than sending out a tweet when you’re not really there. That’s like inviting people over and then being home when they come knocking expecting you to open the door.

  • Todd Mintz

    I do send my Tweets to Facebook. I found that a decent number of people that I communicate with only use one of the platforms so I don’t feel the cross-posting is depersonalizing in any way.

    BTW, if I can’t express my thought in 140 characters, it becomes a blog post.

    Besides this one point, I agree with you 100%.

    • Lisa Barone

      The syncing updates thing really only bothers me when it’s ALL your doing. if you’re doing that but then interacting with the page on a regular basis, it dilutes the automation and helps it feel natural. It’s when you see nothing but constant updates that you know are automated that I think you get in trouble with people.

      • April

        Thanks for clarifying. I feel like using all of the difference social media platforms as channels for broadcasting blog posts is key, and that automation is oftentimes necessary – I just wouldn’t use that as my only means of utilizing the platform. Thanks for the great post!

  • Olivier Amar

    I agree with Todd here. having my Tweets go to Facebook saves me time. If I don’t think something is appropriate for FB then I’ll run over and delete it… Also all comments to my Tweets on Facebook get an answer. That’s how I keep it human.

  • Rob Woods

    I knew Michael was going to be mentioned in this post as soon as I saw the headline :)

    For me the worst offenders are the tweet streams that are 100% (or close to it) RTs of other posts or clearly automated tweets promoting your content. Those get an automatic unfollow from me. If I want that, I’ll subscribe to your feed. Automated “thanks for following” DMs are a close second though. I understand the intention behind them and many people that use them are actually just trying to be polite, albeit in an automated way, which kind of defeats the purpose. I take issue with the whole concept of thanking me for following you. I’m not doing you a favor. You get no benefit from me following you. I’m in it for myself. Have a conversation with me; tweet something interesting or entertaining. That’s how you can thank me for following you, provide me with something of value.

    OK, after my mini rant on DMs… I believe there is some room for automation like timing tweets promoting a new post to coincide with the post being published. Really anything that has a defined start time like an event, the start or end of a sale, announcing a business change, etc. can and I think should be scheduled. I feel that you shouldn’t schedule more than about a quarter of your overall volume and that you still need to be aware of when those updates are going live to be able to react and engage with people responding to the update.

    With cross-posting, again, I think it should be limited on an update by update basis, not every single update you do. On one hand, you’re likely to have very different audiences on different social sites. My friends and family on Facebook don’t need to see my tweet about a new SEO article. On the other hand, if I follow you on Twitter, there’s a good chance I have a connection to you on Linkedin and/or Facebook and I really don’t need to see the same update three times.

    • Lisa Barone

      How could you ever talk about Twitter bots withOUT talking about Michael Gray. Some people think I’m the smartest bot he’s ever created. ;)

      The streams that are nothing but automated RTs, link drops and messages are definitely annoying. It makes you wonder why the person is there to begin with. Obviously they have no interest in actually engaging…so why pick Twitter as your platform? Go broadcast somewhere else. Also yeah, I don’t understand why people feel the need to thank people for following them. It would be like thanking person for saying something that MAKES you follow them. I don’t get it.

      I don’t schedule any of my tweets, so I’m probably a rarity in that (am I? I don’t know). I manually tweet each time I want to mention a new post. I think it makes the tweet sound more human and, really, it doesn’t take any time for me to be able to do that. Even if it’s a post I’ve scheduled, I can still remind myself to tweet it during the day from my Blackberry if I’m not in the office.

  • Rob Jones

    Thanks for this post, Lisa. If there is any one takeaway that people get from this, I hope the one about auto-DMs on Twitter is first in line, particularly the DMs which also invite me to ‘friend’ them on Facebook, FriendFeed, blah, blah. That kind of thing makes me feel cheap, and (of course) full of regret that I followed in the first place.

    I think you got to the heart of this when you talked about keeping the human element to social. In some respects, social platforms is kind of a game to play just as traditional marketing is. But, what makes social a paradigm shift is how more well-rounded it is, or should be. For once, you can present yourself in a multifaceted way directly to an audience. Sure, you’re still trying to get a point across, but you’re not doing it as a faceless entity. Social interaction is always person to person. That’s the whole point.

    Thanks again for the post!

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks for the comment! Also:

      That kind of thing makes me feel cheap, and (of course) full of regret that I followed in the first place.

      Exactly. If I follow you and I get a DM “thanking” me for doing so and, oh, by the way, here’s my eBook — UNFOLLOW!

  • Kristi

    I send my personal tweets to Facebook because I have different friends on both. Although, personally, I only write about my kids on Facebook so Facebook gets more of my ramblings. :)

    For WORK, I don’t automate the Twitter to Facebook and back. That would piss off all the people who ‘like’ the page. I try and post there 3 times a week.

    For Twitter, I know I’m going to want to talk about sales, daily postings, and other things regularly. So when a post goes out pre-scheduled in the morning, I will go to HootSuite and schedule two more tweets to go out about it. One in the afternoon and one the next day. Not on ALL posts but the ones I think are worth it. I’m not going to remember to do it at a particular time.

    I mean, I automate my work blog posts, why wouldn’t I go back do the same for the tweets. That is my thinking. Since I do it the day of, it’s not horribly automated though.

    Since we also have monthly sales, I pre-schedule the tweets to go out randomly throughout the month.

    Automated DM’s suck. Completely.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks for sharing how/why you automate your tweets. I take it much more to heart when it comes from someone like you (ie a non-spamming voice) than when I hear it from well, *other* people. :) I see the benefit of scheduling tweets, but do you really feel it saves you time/makes you more efficient than to have to manually come up with something when you know the post is going to be published? For me, I think i’d get overwhelmed trying to schedule out my tweets in advanced. It’s earlier just to spit them out when the nonsense comes to me. :)

      • Kristi

        I honestly think it saves me time. I have a horrible attention span problem (I need an egg timer!) and with 40+ browser windows, Photoshop, Skype, Excel, Word, and other crazy things open I want to pay attention to what I am doing NOW. When I’m in HootSuite checking to see if anyone talked to me yet (hehe), I grab my small URL and schedule the tweets right then. Plus, I have my work and personal that I can sometimes ‘double up’ and do one tweet from one browser window.

        I don’t want to be editing my next blog post, look at the time and think, gee I should RT that blog post again from this morning. Let me wander over to Twitter and see what’s up. Yes, I go on Twitter all the time but I don’t want to have any excuses to pull me away from what I’m doing.

        I think you probably manage your time better than I do though…

      • Kristi

        Gah, I put the wrong email in :) Whoops! Oh well, it let me see your awesome comment page!

      • Dawn Wentzell

        It’s not necessarily about saving time. Social media is incredibly distracting. You think you’re just going to tweet one message about your blog post, but then you get sucked into your replies and the next thing you know you’ve spent an hour looking at pictures of cats. By scheduling a few tweets here and there, you get can your message out at a time that works for your followers, but doing so at a time that works for you to still get stuff done.

  • Kristin

    I agree, the twitter auto setups are okay for somethings… but for the most part, its annoying to carry on a convo with someone who just isn’t there… by the time they respond, i probably won’t be there.

    As for the carrying cross networks… spot on!! I hate that… I finally blocked all posts sent from twitter to facebook because it was nothing but annoying to catch up on all of the tweets and then read the same thing over again on facebook. Both networks serve their own purpose and sometimes a tweet doesn’t need to be on a facebook wall and sometimes a facebook wall post doesn’t need to be on twitter.

    Thanks Lisa!

  • Ricardo Bueno

    Re: “I choose to automate tasks, not interactions.”

    I like the way you’ve phrased that and it makes sense (a lot of sense). I will admit however that I do schedule some Tweets – links to articles that I find useful and that I think my community might find useful. I get back-lash from a few people who know I do this (the purists) and that’s fine. Ultimately, I know that people click on the links, read the article and retweet it. I respond when someone asks a question, comments about it and decides to share it as well. It’s because people share it that I continue to do it.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen people who auto-tweet everything and then, LITERALLY Retweet themselves. Now that’s just…well, it’s DUMB. That I can’t comprehend and that’s what I call “lazy work”. When you cross-post the same message everywhere, when you auto-dm, etc. You’re doing “lazy work” and that does nothing to build/strengthen your relationships.

    • Lisa Barone

      I will admit, the people that RT themselves because no one cared about their tweet the first time are often my favorite. :) It’s kind of like having an imaginary friend.

  • Davina K. Brewer

    Lisa, Agree with the Eewwww! on the auto “thanks .. here’s my free e-crap” DMs.

    One thing about cross posting, some of these are almost setup as redundant, like FriendFeed which I seldom use. I limit what I post per relevant network, makes a difference as they have different audiences. Facebook is personal, and I don’t update it that often. I will on occasion, cross post from LinkedIn to Twitter, that’s about it.

    Like you my big thing is when it’s ALL automated, ALL about you and that’s the ONLY info you’re posting. You tweet, update and “share” 50-100 things a day, spontaneous random RTs from your faves, no real engagement. Blogged about this myself, and ITA with you on the conversation, about being there to reply (otherwise you’re just broadcasting IMO). If that’s works for you, fine.. I know where the unfollow button is. FWIW.

    • Sabre

      You touched on what I was going to say, these platforms have difference audiences! It doesn’t make sense from a marketing perspective to treat them the same. I admire Lisa applying these standards to all of her accounts because it shows that she believes in her approaches and practices what she preaches to her clients.

      Would you recommend to someone to place the same exact ad on TV and on radio? Definitely not. That would be marketing suicide and you’d look like an amateur. On another point, one of the things people complain the most about when it comes to customer service is when it’s all automated. “Can I talk to a warm body please?” as my aunt always says.

      If social is part of your profession/business not understanding the concept that each platform is different and needs separate handling is doing a disservice to your own reputation. Because when it boils down to it, it’s all about being natural. Feeling unnatural in relationships (personal or business) and working that way may get you somewhere, but never as far as you could be.

  • Buddy Hodges

    Can your autoresponder really fall in love with my autoresponder? Has social networking changed from “belly-to-belly” into Bot-to-Bot? It makes me want to shout, “Hellooo! Anybody home?” It is probably a good idea to ask ourselves why we are on social networks and what result we want to achieve.

    It seems to me that there is an inherent conflict between quantity and quality when it comes to forming and maintaining real relationships on social networks. The more Facebook friends we have, the more traffic we have to sort through in order to authentically participate in online conversations.

    Even if one’s purpose is to generate business, it is real relationships that give social media greater influence than traditional advertising. Referrals from friends that we trust carry much more weight in buying decisions than ads from strangers.

    • Lisa Barone

      Okay, so I’ve never heard the term belly-to-belly before and I love it!

      I love the last part of your comment. Business owners come into social media to generate business and for lead generation…and then they forget all about the activities that spur those two things. You’re not going to attract anyone by having your bots talking to one another. Invest that time in actually talking to other people. The ROI is going to be way better.

  • Melissa Fach

    I hate automated tweets and I will stop following people that do them. I am there to find important information and maintain (or create) relationships. I understand that people are busy and I understand that they are trying to market themselves, but when you are fake you lose trust. If you lose trust you lose me and I am sure many others.

    What makes social media great is the individualism. Without it what do you have?

    • Lisa Barone

      Totally agree with you. I can’t stand the fake tweets, especially when I KNOW they’re fake because I know the person who just sent it out. I just don’t understand the point of it. I can maybe see scheduling to RT a post (though I don’t even do that), but why tweet what you’re having for dinner if you’re not actually having that for dinner? Social media is people and when you put those fake conversations out there, you’re basically telling those people you don’t care and they’re not worth your time. Either BE social or get off social media.

      Okay…my rant is done. ;)

  • Maranda Gibson

    Automation can be a useful tool for some. I’m personally against it because, like you Lisa, I think it goes against what Twitter can be used for. Imagine you’re a customer with a problem to a company and you send out a tweet. Within minutes you get a response back and it makes you feel great about their customer service. After some digging you find that it’s the same bucket response that everyone who has a problem is getting. Suddenly that “special connection” you had with the company is no longer there.

    That’s disappointing.

    • Lisa Barone

      We heard that a lot in our post about Comcast and their attempt to use social media. Someone would complain on Day 1 about a problem — and get a canned response. Then they’d complain again on Day 2 about the same problem — and get the same canned response. It infuriated people that no one was talking to one another and they weren’t keep of track of people who were experiencing problems. Like you said, that “special connection” people had with Comcast on Twitter didn’t seem to hold at the end of the day.

  • Brent D. Payne

    What happens when Michael Gray gets in a car accident on his way to dinner? He tweets that he just got in a car accident (okay, maybe only I would do that) and then . . . 5 minutes later he says he’s hungry and heading to dinner? Busted!!

    As for autoposting blog posts, retweets, etc. That all makes sense to me. It’s not time oriented. Doing too many in a row is an issue. The times I retweet something and just let it sit there seems to be much more success on the number of retweets it receives. I only have one Twitter account. But Michael’s concept of having several different accounts interact with each other in a timed fashion is something quite ingenious and I feel is just a 2010 version of having multiple ‘users’ enter a forum and discuss a product or service. Seeding the thread for the ‘real people’ to come in later.

    • Lisa Barone

      But Michael’s concept of having several different accounts interact with each other in a timed fashion is something quite ingenious and I feel is just a 2010 version of having multiple ‘users’ enter a forum and discuss a product or service. Seeding the thread for the ‘real people’ to come in later.

      No. NO! Creating accounts to ‘interact’ with one another is not ingenious. IT’S GROSS! That’s not social media. That’s playing with yourself.

  • Mir Rooshanak

    I really agree with you on this one, Lisa.
    Props to whoever got the “Lemon of Troy” reference.

    Bart: Those Shelbyville kids think they’re so hot, but you know what? They’re not.

    Milhouse: I really agree with you on this one, Bart.

    The problem is that whenever there’s a cheap medium to communicate with mass amounts of people, it will be exploited. Sure you’re talking about automated tweets, but what about automated emails, or even worse (though less common these days) automated phone calls? What about telemarketers and businesses that cold call?

    The fact is, even with the reduced success rate, it may be worth implementing these automated methods due to their inexpensive nature. Conversely, actually taking the time to respond and make posts is time consuming and does not always pay off.

    My personal opinion is that automation is acceptable to a degree. I definitely have no problem with scheduling tweets or automating content to post on various sites. I agree with everyone else about the RT people. I personally very rarely RT and feel RTing should be left to popular Twitter people like Alyssa Milano, Ashton Kutcher, etc. I can’t tell you how much it pisses me off when someone RTs Barack Obama or CNN or some Twitter account that most people already follow. What is the point of RTing them? WE ALREADY GOT THE TWEET FROM THAT PERSON! But I digress.

    As for your not home analogy from a reply to a comment, how many times has someone *cough* me, tweeted you and you didn’t respond? To be fair, I didn’t really ask a question. Anyway, it’s not like people who tweet are expected to respond to every person or right when they tweet you. Twitter is not an instant message client or chat room. I have seen people do like ask me whatever and I’ll respond for the next 10 minutes, but for the most part isntant responses are not to be expected on Twitter As long as you respond in a timely mannor, I don’t think people feel slighted if you don’t get back to them immediately.

    DMing should NEVER be automated. Plus you should very rarely DM people. DMing is counterproductive to the Twitter experience. You want the content in the Twitter stream. Unless it’s something private, you should just @reply the person.

    If you’re going to write a thanks for the follow DM (which I have don a couple times), you should take the time to write something witty and . Also, if you’re not going to follow the person, what’s the point of DMing them “Thanks for the follow?” Whenever someone DMs me this and hasn’t followed me back, the DM serves as a reminder to unfollow that clown.

    Looking through a list of my DMs, I have produced the inverse Michael Gray effect of actually spending time but making it look automated.

    • Lisa Barone

      You tweeted at me and I (for whatever reasons) didn’t respond to you. That probably happens a lot on some days as I get busy and just can’t keep up with the tweet. But…you remember that I didn’t respond to you. That’s in your head. Imagine if I set out tweets when I wasn’t even there and made the problem of not responding that much BIGGER? That seems like a good way to really piss people off and make them feel like you don’t care.

      Re: The inverse Michael Gray effect – heh. If you’re accidentally sounding like a robot, that’s an entirely different problem. :)

      • Mir Rooshanak

        I mean are you talking about totally automated Twitter accounts? Because if you send out an automated Tweet and someone @replys, you can still respond. You can even get your @replys pushed to your phone, so I mean how is sending automated Tweets different? A lot of times when I Tweet something on my computer, I don’t go back on Twitter for a while. I guess when you’re super cool you get instant responses, but I haven’t reached that stage yet.

        My example re you not replying to an @mentions was not to call you out. I was simply pointing out that people don’t always reply, so not replying or not replying right away, while a little bad, is not as KILLER as you may be suggesting.

        At this point, I am assuming we are on the same page re automation and that you are talking about totally automated Twitter accounts. An account with automated tweets where the person respond to @replys, if not instantly, in a timely manner is just as good as a regular Twitter account. The bot is just sending the tweet for you instead of you sending it yourself at that time.

        The thing that’s important, and I think the main message of your post, is that the response be personal and not an auto-response or something.

        Not talking RTing and automated DMs because I already talked about that and most people posting are on the same page.

  • Mary Henderson

    Guilty as charged, but I make it a point to respond to tweets and auto-DMs do save a lot of time. I try to make it sound personal and not trying to sell them something – buy my e-book or something. I find that ppl actually do reply to my auto-DMs! Lol.

    @Brent Payne: That’s just hillarious!

  • Gina@concierge4moms

    Great article!! I think making long lasting relationships and personalization is very important in social media. I think that is what makes everyone individual. Also, responding to someone elses point, i agree that responding to a tweet even if its a couple hours later is better then not responding at all. I have my own biz, blog, free lance write and have a daughter, and stay at home. So sometimes I cannot be constantly on a computer. My daughter always comes first. I do not like automated responses it turns me off from the person and their company

    • Lisa Barone

      I do my best to reply to tweets when I feel they warrant a reply. Sometimes it’s hard to reply to everyone who tweets my way because I feel like there’s not really much to say and I don’t want to reply just for the SAKE of replying. Though, I think that irks people about me sometimes.

  • Kesha Brown

    Hey Lisa, I’m so glad I found this post. However, like other newbies, to blogging at least, we see and hear so many conflicting messages from so called experts that tell you to do this, don’t do that, automate this, don’t automate that and in the end, some of us get confused (yes, namely me!) :-) I wholeheartedly agree that social media should be about making connections and making it humanish is the only way to do so.

    So what I’ve done is this:
    Automation – I usually only automate notes about new blog posts and quotes. I found that a nice quote or something to start the day gets retweeted more :-)

    Cross posting – Because I use HootSuite, I have all of my accounts setup so when it comes time to post something I ensure to only choose the networks that makes the most sense. I find that I have a different following on Facebook than Twitter so most people aren’t seeing the same message twice.

    Twitter DMs – I actually ask a fun question in my DM to spark a conversation…especially since I haven’t been watching every single follower to contact them individually. Those that answer gets more interaction from me. What do you think about that?

    I keep it “human” by using my phone and since I have a twitter app, I don’t miss any messages.

    Then again, any feedback from you guys is appreciated. Of course, my goal is to interact so I don’t want to be “one of those people who seems like a robot!”


    • Lisa Barone

      Hey Kesha! Thanks for sharing how you do stuff. I really like how you use automation, especially the part about sharing a cool quote in the morning. Because while it may be automated, it’s also really useful to your audience who may be into that kind of stuff. I also like how you’re cherry-picking which content goes where for the different audiences. Basically, I think you’re awesome and that you rock. :)

  • DJ Waldow

    Lisa: Love it. Right there with you on the auto-DM stuff. I get creeped out every time. I’ve been tempted to unfollow someone who does that. One thing I wanted to add about automation regarding your comments on email. I’ve been using TextExpander (for Mac) for several months now. It’s basically an application that allows you to create a shortcode that then spits out full text (or whatever you want). Crap, I’m not really explaining it that well. The point is, I use it all the time for things like my signature (see below: all I typed was “bsig” minus the quotes and BAM!). Nice, huh?

    I wrote about automation as well as TextExpander in this post, Automation Can Be Good, But Use With Caution. Wait. Is that cool to drop a (very relevant) link into the comments? Pretty sure you and I have similar thoughts on the issue – you just said it so much better!

    Still bumming that we didn’t meet face to face in Vegas!

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  • Robert Samuel

    Lisa I totally understand your purist approach when it comes to social media because establishing good solid relationships is the whole purpose. I like to blend that approach with the other side (tweet blast and so on). :-)

  • affiliatesea

    Automation in networking helps you in some aspects.But its always better to manual communication.Completely automating the tasks may give very bad results.

  • Josh

    Two things that I do automate:

    1. (Personal) FriendFeed. People who want an aggregate of my social presence can go here. I understand the lack of a need to connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Delicious, Digg, Flickr, YouTube and whatever else is out there — if you just want to lurk, following my FriendFeed is definitely the way to go.

    2. (Business) Off-hours tweets. I’m community manager for a gym; we’re open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., and while I frequently am looking at our mentions and am tweeting at times I’m not there, I automate tweets for times I know I won’t be available — for example, if I’m working 9-5, there will be an automated tweet at 5:00 to say the gym is open and something motivational — no chance I’m up that early. But if I’m opening the gym, I send that tweet manually.

    • Lisa Barone

      wait….so you use Friendfeed? It’s like FINDING A UNICORN! :p

      Again, I think you’re another person using automation in a smart and useful way for people. I do think there is a responsible way to use it. Rock on!

  • Joe Hall

    So about 90% of my revenue comes from creating custom automation software for clients. The biggest battle with automation is sustaining authenticity. And the best way to sustain authenticity while doing anything at all, is by being honest and upfront about everything.

    Therefore I advise all my clients to tell their users that they are using automation. In fact if we are going to totally automate an account I usually advise them to change the screen name to include BOT and then have them set up a separate account for human interaction.

    In the end it comes down to sustaining authenticity while managing time/resources. Which is why having a sound automation strategy is sometimes more important than the tools you are using.

  • Norcross

    I’ve never quite understood the automation thing. Granted, I’m not building any sort of empire or network, nor am I generating leads from tweets. They are usually either me swearing, pics of my kid, or thing I think are funny. The closest thing is having something I upload to Flickr go over to twitter. Granted, I work from home and welcome the minor distractions. But if I’m busy, I close it. If a client DMs me and then wonders why I haven’t responded, I kindly remind them that twitter isn’t the appropriate place to contact me with time sensitive information. Hell, I deleted Facebook all together, so that’s no even an issue.

    Maybe I’m a luddite with it all, but I’d rather see a human than an automation any day.

  • Eryck Dzotsi

    The way Lisa puts it here “For me, automation stops being okay when it stands out and when it detracts from the humanness of your account” says it all. It is not a matter of just being a purist. It is a matter of being social.

    Whether you use these social media platforms as a CRM, branding, sales, or even plain pulse assets, the expectations from users is a personal treatment. If you can use automation in such a creative way that the users will never figure out that it is just a bot sending out the updates, well Kudos.

    The reality is that too often, we know, and therefore our audience also knows that it is not the case. No one is fooled by lame attempt at automation.

    • Lisa Barone

      I agree that there’s definitely an expectation of personal treatment, which is why customers get so angry when they find out businesses aren’t really listening to them and have just phoned it in. If you’re going to be in social media, there’s an expectation you’re going to be social. if you’re not, it creates a really odd disconnect between customer and business.

  • netmeg

    I can’t automate me and still be me. It doesn’t work. I’ve tried over the years. I don’t “bot” well. Wish I could. Can’t even successfully pull off different personas, because I always forget, and the netmeg comes out.

    That said, I do use some automation where it makes sense. Like on my event sites, I will schedule blog posts about event updates, and have it automatically fed up to twitter and a facebook page. People subscribe for those, and they get retweeted and shared and liked a lot, so I assume they’re good with it.

    But I can’t imagine automating twitter. For one thing, my twitter usage is actually a stealth plan to suck up the brains of everyone with whom I interact. Despite my just-under-35k tweets, I actually listen and learn a ton more than I impart. Automating to broadcast-only would disrupt that process.

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    I am 50%-50% here. I read a lot. I find at least a dozen of worthy articles a day that I feel like they could benefit others as well, and I do want to share them on Twitter. It’s silly to tweet 12 articles in 2-3 hours span, so I schedule them.
    But no I wouldn’t schedule an “interaction”, when I spend 30 minutes checking my stream (and, I admit, especially my lists) the interactions I choose to have are genuine and in “real time” so to say.
    Oh by the way, don’t sue me, I’ll schedule this post’s retweet too ;)

  • Keri Morgret

    Wait, you actually reply to _other_ people when they point out a spelling error? I just thought you didn’t respond period. Now I know you’re ignoring me on purpose! =]

  • Pradeep

    “Every time you place an automated piece of content into that community you make it harder for people to trust it.” I would say people just ignore you.

    In fact I am seeing many people on social networks have made it their habit to automate their messages. I don’t think this will drastically effects your relations but there will be some negative change in the behavior among your network when you don’t respond or purely depended up on tools. Also automation tools basically represent their brand icons from where the message is been updated which can impact you aren’t much accessible.

    My thoughts: When social media itself is to make things social with basic fact being human relations and involvement, your social media automation practices will make you isolate in your social network.

  • Amy Dean

    As always, great post Lisa. It really struck me when you said that you get messages that say “Why do people follow you on Twitter when you’re so useless?” I would love it if you could write a post about dealing with the emotional punches that invariably come with social media.

  • LisaDJenkins

    You hit a nerve with cross-posting, Lisa. I ranted on it months ago with the promise that “If you see a post on any one of my profiles, it’s because I’m there – live and in color . . .”.

    The closest I come to automation is using HootSuite to consolidate my client Twitter accounts (praying every day that the Facebook Pages glitch gets cleared up). I use columns in HootSuite for keyword tracking but I also automate keyword tracking with RSS as a backup. I don’t even pre-schedule blog posts. It just feels wrong to me.

    I think it was Chris Brogan who said something along the lines of, ” . . . automate anything that doesn’t touch a human, humanize anything that does . . .”

  • Daria Steigman

    Hi Lisa,

    Late to the comment party, but had to add my two cents. I agree with you completely about cross-posting for three key reasons: (1) you always look lazy when you have an #in, #fb, etc., in there; (2) the way we talk/engage is different in different platforms, so it rarely makes sense to post exactly the same thing in multiple places; and (3) what’s the point of engagement if you’re too lazy to engage? I’ve never understood cross-posting — seriously, you can’t take 30 seconds to cut/paste AND edit your link or tweak the information from one platform to another?

  • Rick LaPoint

    I’ve been a techie most of my life, but I have always hated pretty much anything Auto. No matter how much you tweak or program, Auto will always screw something up, and usually something important at the worst time.

    When people hit me with Auto, I often feel slightly insulted. If I invest the time to reach out and interact, at least tell me to buzz off in person.

    If social media is about personal networking, then I’m also irritated by those who exploit it by automation. Reminds my of the classic quote, “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”