Online conversations: is automation worth your while?

A while ago there were plenty of blogs, including my own, reporting on the ways (fake) Likes, fans and followers on social media were at the heart of a commercial industry. Bloggers and heavy users of social media tend to automate or streamline at least part of their interactions.

Can you automate part of your actions without appearing – or being – ‘fake’ in the human sense? Should you?

Levels of engagement in conversations

Visitors and commenters: to automate - or not?The level of engagement involved in an online conversation can differ enormously. Dealing with online conversations can cost you hours upon hours. ‘Likes’ don’t seem to get a lot of follow-up by companies. However try to check up once a week or so – getting zero response is discouraging.

Related posts: Twitter automation, and A Clone War.

The role of automation in online conversations

What actions can you safely automate?

  1. Standard replies like “Thank you for the follow!”, “Thanks for the RT”, “Thanks for the mention”. This category was hit by Twitter’s decision to make automated actions by tools like IFTTT difficult. Meanwhile tools like Commun.it still collect new followers and interactions and compose standard messages for you to send. My advice: edit them.
  2. Messages on repeat thanks to tools like Buffer, like “Read my post on subject X” for the umpteenth time. My main problem is with people who quote at me when they’re not even online 🙂

Automating your responses to questions

While it’s up to you to decide what to automate, here’s my tip:

Try not to fool people into thinking they have a personal and meaningful relation with you when they don’t.

Answering questions literally on autopilot is tricky and that’s why not many businesses are doing it (yet). I once asked a new follower who had sent an automated “Thanks for the follow” tweet if they’d had a busy week, and the response was something like “Busy week! Check my FB page…”

I can’t tell you how to do this type of automation on Twitter without IFTTT but it’s probably either down to your budget or your technical abilities. But that’s beside the point.

Questions indicate a sincere interest in a topic or in you. Personally I would say never automate this type of action. Not even to seem polite.

Comments – the life blood of conversations

This is what you can’t yet leave to an automation tool (unless you have a really big budget). You don’t need me to point out that all comments are not equal. I suppose you could automate replies to really short “Great Post!” comments but is saying “thanks” really that much of a time waster?

For the more relevant comments: if you’re used to putting yourself on the stage through blogging or on social media, don’t forget others are not. The important thing here is to have a heart 🙂

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