Last week, I was reading this article about how automation is destroying companies and their social media efforts. I enjoyed the article, and Gregory Schmechenia of Modern Pigeon made some very valid points. But I strongly disagree that automation (used well) is a bad thing for most businesses.
And I’m not disagreeing just because I offer a great social media automation tool either. I disagree with the way he cast a blanket over automation and only pointed out the wrong ways that companies sometimes use it for.
If you are using automation tools to auto follow or auto direct message – you are absolutely doing a disservice to your brand. If you are using automation tools to post content then not pay attention to the feedback you are getting from it, shame on you. But… if you are using automation tools to post content that is specifically targeted for a certain time of day, certain day of the week, to a certain group of people – it’s a great thing to use.
Automation tools allow you to schedule your Tweets, Facebook & LinkedIn updates any time in the future. If you are like me, trying to write several blog entries per week, does it matter that I wasn’t at my computer when I post the link on my Twitter?
Gregory would say yes, because the majority of responses you’ll receive are within 15-20 minutes of when you make your initial Tweet, etc. (Which is probably pretty accurate) But isn’t that what mobile devices are for? More than likely since I work from home, I’ll be at my computer anyway – but if not, my iPad or iPhone will let me know that someone sent me a response via Twitter or Facebook.
He also mentioned a story about how one of his favorite local restaurants sent a Tweet about a “Free Mimosa with a purchase of any of our brunch specials this Saturday.” He wrote to their Twitter, asking what specials were available and got no response.
My first client, and also my family’s business is Young’s Jersey Dairy which is a family fun destination in Yellow Springs, OH. We have two restaurants, two miniature golf courses, a driving range, a batting cage, a fully working farm and have 1.5 million customers stop by every year. I can’t tell you the times that someone posts a question on our Facebook wall or sends us a Tweet about “What hours are you open today?” Young’s has a web site, and a phone number. If you are expecting a response via Twitter, from the CEO/Social Media Team, who, as you can imagine, might be helping guests and dipping ice cream on a busy summer Saturday afternoon in July – you might be waiting a while. Social media is a great way to connect to your customers, but that doesn’t mean it is the end-all-be-all of your existence. Go to the web site, use a phone and talk to someone.
Although, I do agree with Gregory that his restaurant handled the situation poorly, and probably was using an automated social media tool in the wrong way. But just because this restaurant didn’t respond via social media doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. They need to respond to anyone and everyone that writes to them or about them. That’s what social media is. To never respond to a customer is ignoring them and they shouldn’t have a Twitter, etc account if that’s how they plan to do things. Starting up a social media campaign needs to be a well structured plan, not just a willy-nilly – “let’s be on Twitter!” But in fairness, smaller companies can’t afford to have someone sitting at the computer all morning instead of helping serve those free Mimosas!
Gregory is probably right for a majority of companies using automated social media tools. They misuse and abuse the powers that are given to them. (Which is why I work with my clients on how to use my automation tool correctly!!)
But if I have a set amount of information I want to pass out over the week via my Twitter, what is the harm in spending a little time on Sunday afternoon scheduling them for the week? This frees up my time to use social media to actually talk to my clients (and potential clients) and not worry about the schedule of social media messages I want to send out.
So, Gregory, let’s agree to disagree. Automation, used correctly is an awesome tool, especially for small business owners like me who are the design team, the sales team, the accounting team and the social media team all in one person. As long as you are taking the time to monitor what people are saying about you or to you, what’s the difference?
Ps. Reading through the comments, I noticed that Gregory did try to view the menu of the restaurant but it was in Flash and he was on an iPhone. Ugh. When will restaurants learn?