Commentary

The Fine Balance Between Automation And Personalization In Social Media

Surely, in the course of your social media work, you've experienced a certain moment of frustration. It may have been with a client or with your very own company, and, in your head, it would have sounded something like this: "Why aren't we sharing all our YouTube videos on Facebook or on our website?"

That frustration is caused by the awareness, either explicit or implicit, that content can and should be repurposed. Not only that, but when it is repurposed, the benefits are exponential. If you use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and your website as distinct channels, you're relying on customers or potential customers visiting each one in turn -- and let's be real; you can't build a marketing strategy based on the prerequisite that strangers follow you around the Web.

No, the foundation of power is to shift your thinking altogether. Imagine that every digital touchpoint is part of your online brand ecosystem. Imagine that, no matter which channel your customers choose to use, they can either access your content or easily navigate to it: that your Twitter stream is visible from your website and can be followed with a click, that your online store is accessible via your Facebook Page, that your YouTube videos are embedded everywhere you look. It's a virtual utopia, and one that leverages network effects: the exponential strength that comes from connecting and leveraging distinct nodes.

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Social media sites acknowledge this sort of cross-posting bliss by making it ridiculously easy to implement. Want to push MailChimp campaigns to Facebook? Facebook posts to Twitter? Tweets to LinkedIn? There might not be an app for that, but there's surely a feature you can enable to make it happen automagically.

The trick is finding the balance between making those things happen automatically and retaining an authentic, personal, non-annoying voice on social media. If I "like" you on Facebook, but I'm getting News Feed updates every few minutes because you've linked your Twitter account, I'll hide your feed.

Automation is no substitute for engagement. It is there to make your life useful as well as that of your customers. So at every point that you're tempted to automate, ask yourself, "What will this do to the customer experience?"

With our clients, and because Facebook updates generally occur less frequently than Twitter updates, we automatically cross-post from Facebook to Twitter but not vice versa. Instead, we put tabs on Facebook Pages that pull the Twitter, YouTube and blog feeds, and then we manually cross-post to the Wall when the update is important enough to deserve it. We automatically cross-post YouTube updates wherever we can, and we tend to personally link our Twitter accounts to our LinkedIn accounts.

Developers live by the DRY code mantra: "Don't Repeat Yourself." If you have lots of headers, you can tell the browser that each one should be 14pt bold, or you can tell the browser that all headers should be 14pt bold and then tell the browser which bits of text are headers. With the latter way -- the DRY way -- if you ever need to change the header format in the future, you only need to change it once.

For social media, I propose a slight modification to the mantra: DRY UP. Don't Repeat Yourself, Unless (it's) Personal. If there's a way to automate the propagation of your online content and make yourself more efficient, take it, unless it will in some way compromise the selfsame personal relationships you are using social media to build.

What do you automate, and what do you refuse to automate? Let me know in the comments or on @kcolbin.

4 comments about "The Fine Balance Between Automation And Personalization In Social Media".
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  1. Karl Hourigan, July 27, 2010 at 2:56 p.m.

    I very much like the question "What will this do to the customer experience?", when considering automation. We are not automating much yet at all, but as we create more and more content we will likely be looking at that. It's important to keep our business objectives in mind. What are we trying to accomplish? Does this channel help us do that, and how? Can we measure it to know how well it is or isn't working? And of course, is this where are customers are, and is this of value to them?
    As you put it, "The trick is finding the balance between making those things happen automatically and retaining an authentic, personal, non-annoying voice on social media."

  2. Lauren Armstrong, July 27, 2010 at 4:06 p.m.

    I agree completely. Automation is not a replacement for engagement. I just wrote a blog post yesterday that dealt with some of the pitfalls of this very issue. Automation can lead to little to no interaction.

    http://www.smcubedconsulting.com/blog/?p=85

    I hope you enjoy it, it pairs nicely with this post.

  3. Lief Larson from Workface Inc., July 28, 2010 at 1:14 p.m.

    There is simply no replacement for an authentic, one-to-one relationships. The reality is that we're in a crossroads right now. We have endless technology at our fingertips, we see the audience moving to social, we need to follow and engage the audience, yet companies are not providing the tools to enable its greatest brand asset (the people) to engage with prospects/buyers/consumers. This is the important distinction of "no substitute for engagement". The issue isn't the content, it's humanizing the brand by (cough, cough) being human.

    http://lieflarson.businesscard2.com

  4. Adeah Wetzel, July 29, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.

    Your voice is your voice despite the method of publication on your social media sites. My observation is that automation has made it even more important to share relevant, valuable updates with the right community. It is not a question of quantity versus quality, rather a consciousness of who your message is going to and do they find value and relevancy in your delivery.

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