Automated Social Media Responses: The End of the Personal Touch

“Hello there! And thank you for your recent follow….”

Does your direct message inbox on Twitter (in particular), look very similar to the types of messages shown above? If yes then please do read on.

If we start right back at the beginning…. And just answer a few simple questions?

Rise of Social Media Hence the argument to standardise and automate responses… Or so they say.

Rise of Marketing Automation

Over the last 5 years or so, the marketing automation industry has massively increased from $225m to $1.6bn each year. Partially down to a lot of new companies joining the field and providing largely more effective automation tools and the offering for automation now spreading across multiple platforms – Automation first started with just email marketing and now encompasses full service automation. As the market saturates with heavy competition and technologies vastly improve, which then brings the price and costs associated with marketing automation dramatically down. Thus opening this process up to a lot more smaller companies around the world.

Why Automate Marketing?

Increase qualified leads?

Increase in sales productivity?

Reduction in marketing overheads?

*These are just a few positives more generally with adopting marketing automation.

What is Direct Messaging on Twitter?

With some accounts (particularly business accounts) you can send users a DM who you don’t actually follow. If you are very popular in social circles, there is an account limit of 1,000 Direct Messages sent per day. Once you reach this limit, you can’t send any more Direct Messages for that day… Who knew!

Twitter Automation- The Introduction

If we now focus on the automation of Twitter. By specifically looking at the process of sending automated direct messages to new followers, they work in the following way:

Step 1- Customer follows a company/business account on Twitter

Step 2- Automation kicks in and either instantly or at a pre-agreed time period after, an automated response is sent back

Types Of Automated Direct Messaging-

“Thanks for the follow….”

“Promotion of other social channels…”

“Giving away free promotional gifts…”

And more.

But Why?

Twitter automation with scheduling Tweets and so forth with the likes of Hoot Suite has been in the industry for a number of years now. If we ask the simple question, “but why would companies follow this approach with automated DM’s?” Because of a number of changes in the industry, has resulted in:

  • The need for a standardised ‘pre-set’, automated, instant response to users- negates human errors/feelings etc.
  • Increase of free tools and/or software that would allow all companies to do this. This process opened it up to the masses. It also meant that the automation could link with other marketing platforms and CRM systems etc.
  • The need for more effective reporting. But linking all aspects of marketing via one automated system, allows for better reporting on the success or failure of marketing activities.
  • Reduced marketing overheads. Whenever things hit a difficult patch, the marketing and sales departments are the ones who often feel it first. Marketing automation reduces overheads for companies, that’s a common fact.

Thinking from a top-level for a moment, having the ability with one click of button, to always be able to send a message to a new follower instantly… A good thing?? In theory…. Yes. Not having to pay a highly trained marketer to send 100’s maybe even 1000’s of Twitter messages individually every week… A good thing?? In theory… Yes. Connecting with your potential customers and ultimately trying to extract a KPI from them, website visit, order etc with the message content…. A good thing?? In theory… Yes.

There does appear to be a pattern… In theory… Yes. As we know, things that are often seem great in theory, in reality are never rarely that good. We will explore this thought later on.

Too Much of a Good Thing

As marketing automation becomes more affordable and more tools join the marketplace. Are we seeing a bit of over-kill in this space? That coupled with the fact that social media users are a lot savvier, and have grown up with the platforms, they understand when they are being marketed to. Are we beginning to see too much of good thing with social automation?

Twitter follower message automation may have worked for those who were first to market, but are these tools as effective for the smaller companies who look to adopt them now? Has the market been completely flooded with such practices? Meaning those ‘later adopters’ are feeling the full force of anti-DM automation.

Not Everyone Has a Hatred for Automated DM’s

What about the people with less personal experience of online marketing or those with no experience at all? “Great, company X has just sent me a personal and private message!” If you only have 10-20 followers and your interactions/mentions on the channel are low. Maybe receiving such a DM is great? To certain target markets this may work.

What Could Happen?

Twitter recently banned the usage of Apps that allowed companies to automate the following of accounts based on certain criteria. This technique of automation can be a complex situation for Twitter to manage, but would a similar thing be brought across to automated DM’s? At the end of the day, Twitter needs to keep its users and ultimately its business clients that use the channel, happy, but primarily it’s the businesses who physically allow for Twitter to have a revenue stream, and conversely, without users, there wouldn’t be any businesses. It is a fine balancing act. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they developed other private messaging options or even a paid for ‘In-mail’ such system as seen on LinkedIn.

Twitter actually says the following:

Including an automated “thanks for following” message to your new followers might be annoying to some users. We do not recommend this behaviour”.

In Summary

Where is that line between being personable and coming across too spammy? But replying instantly and keeping costs down?

In theory and for some companies automated DM’s may work. For every 500 automated DM’s you send, you may get 20 that unfollow as a result, but if one converts into a sale is that all worth it? Who knows? In the modern world with the need to manage multi-platforms in one place, plus the need to reduce marketing overheads and to have a standardised approach. Marketing automation will be something that will continue to grow, not only in social media, but more so in marketing generally. As more and more companies adopt social automation, the DM feature can and will only evolve over time.

Social media is ‘Social’ and if you were to walk into a room of people and say exactly the same thing to each person without making it personal, no one would want to talk to you?? Right? Social media is ‘done well’, when it’s used as a social platform. The likes of Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, have some of the most followers in the world. One of the reasons for that, is because of the constant ‘social’ and personable interaction, the followers recieve. If Justin Bieber, introduced Twitter Automation, would he have as many followers? I don’t think so… Therefore, why would business pages adopt this practice?

Automation does work well away from the social media space, if you look at re-targeting and introducing personalisation using automation, then you will see success. As an example- The automation of emails, with personalisation within the email based on purchase history. There is a big market here for re-marketing/targeting and personalisation. Although it is automated, it is tailored to that particular user. This is where automation will be strong in years to come.

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