A recent post (rant) by Chris Brogan entitled “Social Media is No Place for Robot Behavior” has sparked some interesting conversation about the place of automation in social networks. He specifically is complaining about the use of the auto responder on Twitter. Too many marketers, mlms, etc. are trying to use it as a link pusher, and users are annoyed. It goes against the grain of the average Twitter user. Twitter is about connecting and conversing, not broadcasting.
I use SocialToo to keep track of those who follow and unfollow me. It has the auto responder feature on there. When I saw it, I thought ‘cool!’. It was an easy way to put a personal touch and thank everyone for the follow. It seemed an easy way to be polite, and try and be as humble as possible. After all, people don’t HAVE to follow me. They CHOOSE to follow me… for some reason or another. And I wanted to thank them. The intent was genuine. But is the action itself misplaced?
Businesses try to personalize everything. Letters sent out to customers are automatically spewn off with their name inserted. Humans don’t do that. ROBOTS do. And still, when something comes addressed to me, I feel like the company is trying to connect with me. If my cell phone bill came addressed to ‘Dear Account #xxxxxx” or “Dear Rogers Customer”, I would think ‘WTF Rogers? I pay you how much money every month and you can’t even make the effort to put my name in a letter?”. And so I do expect it. Even though I know they use a machine to do it. I expect that level of personalization.
But this may be where an auto response on Twitter falls down. It’s not a letter to your customer. This person just stumbled into your shop. It fits with the idea of cafe shaped conversations and small boutique environments that seem to be popping up with social media. If I walked into my favourite coffee shop and was greeted by some automated voice at the door saying ‘Dear shopper. Thank you for visiting our store’, I could very well see myself responding ‘seriously??’ and turning around and walking out the door. However, a sign next to the door that said “thank you, please come again” would not offend me in the least, or if after I had exchanged a few words with the sales clerk, they thanked me for visiting the store, or I received something in the mail after the fact, I would be far more likely to visit that store/cafe again.
I get that Twitter is the little boutique around the corner. Users expect they will be greeted by a real person. Personalizing your mailouts when you are a big company is one thing. Using social networks, like Twitter, like you are a big company is another… especially when you aren’t one.