Social Media for Robots – “I’m Sorry, I Can’t Do That, Dave”

The art of being human on social media

Everyone loves robots. I’m an eighties child and was brought up on a staple diet of C3PO & R2D2, Ed 209 & Robocop, Johnny5 and those less famous bin-shaped things that attack people with kitchen utensils in Doctor Who – “Derek” or something *sic.

One of the defining features movie/TV androids have is their voice. Everything from R2D2’s bleeps and pops, Ed 209’s “you have 5 seconds to comply” through to Derek’s death call of “EXTERMINATE” has been imprinted on our minds from a young age. We all merrily quote our favourite robotic movie soundbites to our friends in the pub and as light-hearted Facebook statuses to images of cats, as we know we are talking to humans (unless replicants are now a reality without me knowing).”

Social media was designed by humans for humans and, although we are existing within a digital realm, theoretically, attached to each end of the keyboard are humans with human brains and everything!

Automation within social media channels is not a new concept and scheduling software is widely available, but using them to their full potential is another matter.

BeedeeBeedeeBeedee. Where’s the human touch, Buck?

In a normal situation, I’m sure we’d all love to have a conversation with Twiki from Buck Rogers, but when we follow our favourite brands on Twitter being greeted by an automated news feed is hardly going to spark a wave of interaction. It’s like attempting to hold a conversation with the talking clock.

Now, there are obviously situations where automated feeds are appropriate, such as @BBCNews for example. However, if your social strategy is to drive traffic through to your website, engage with customers/clients and manage your brand awareness and reputation there are some tricks you need to employ to avoid your company’s online presence becoming akin to inviting the emotionless super computer “Big Blue” to a party.

Tone of voice on social media is a much discussed topic and Simon Jenkins covered this subject rather eloquently here >>. What I’d like to approach are the methods available to anyone starting out or managing an already established company’s social output to ensure the human touch remains.

Manual posting

If you are just starting out on your corporate social journey, manually managing your posts is a great way of keeping tabs on your burgeoning relationship with your socially inclined clientele. By all means post links to news articles that your followers would be interested in, but include your opinion of the story and maybe invite additional comments.

Scheduled posting

Software such as Sprout Social, Buffer and Hoot Suite are there to help you manage the frequency and timing of your tweets remotely, capitalising on the maximum reach of your following that may be active during out of office times. (For a comprehensive list of the best scheduling platforms currently available, Steve Masters has produced this handy list >>)

Social Media for Robots – “I’m Sorry, I Can’t Do That, Dave” image Sprout1Social Media for Robots – “I’m Sorry, I Can’t Do That, Dave”

Sprout Social – Content scheduler

Advanced social media marketing tools

Not only do some of the platforms mentioned above allow you to schedule your tweets, they also provide you with the capacity to post on numerous social sites, manage multiple accounts and allow you to report comprehensively on how a particular campaign is running. Everything from your click-through rate (how many times a link was clicked) and social reach (how many people saw your post) to the geography and age demographic of your followers can be tracked.

100% automated feed? Danger Will Robinson, Danger!

Powerful stuff I’m sure you’ll agree. The problem is, with great power comes great responsibility. Welding tools such as these, it can be very easy to just schedule a load of news stories or automatically post a blog from your WordPress or equivalent site and set them free onto your social profiles – unfortunately, we humans can tell when the robot speaks. Mix it up a bit. Schedule some relevant news stories for publishing throughout the day but then follow them up with discussion points – be the David Dimbleby of your own social media Question Time. Don’t be afraid of directing a discussion point at influential industry commentators and spark up some conversations.

The most important concept to grasp when operating behind the guise of a company profile is to embrace the fact that a real person is managing it. Scheduling posts can help you reach more people but reactively talking to your followers using your own voice will keep people coming back.

Robocop may be Robocop on the exterior but he will always be Alex James Murphy underneath.

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