Automation Removes Intimacy by Bridget Willard

Automation Removes Intimacy

In Cincinnati, in a hotel elevator, I recognized someone I’d been following on Twitter.

Jason said, “Wow, Bridget. You know everyone.”

Right. It’s my job.

The Siren Song of Automation

Hardly a week goes by where I’m not pitched the newest, shiniest version of a social media tool or automation service. And I’ve not been shy about my feelings for the subject. The poor dead horse is being abused at this point.

That said, there are dangers of automation. Removing yourself from understanding your customers and even knowing who they are can remove that feeling of intimacy.

Intimacy just means hands-on or being close. There’s a revival in the crafts movement — people want to create with their hands. They are making their own bread, beer, and beading their own jewelry.

Even in the business world, there’s a movement to go back to working in your business instead of on it. Yes, in your business — in the craft. Being hands on.

So, why would you want to automate the most important part of your business — customer relations?

The Power of A Name

When I applied to be a Happiness Hero at Buffer, one of the prerequisites was to read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. No doubt you’ve heard of it or read excerpts if not the whole thing.

What stands out most is the power of using someone’s name. I’ve been practicing this a lot lately. In fact, I think it was misunderstood last night with our waiter as flirtation, but there is a risk in everything.

Twitter Lists

So, one of the most important part of my social media strategies — especially on Twitter — is listing. So, you can write a script that will add people to a list depending on the keywords they use in their bio or hashtags that they tweet. You can sign up for the brand new service that promises you’ll never have to lift a finger to tweet. But you may miss out on a lot.

One of my rituals is reading bios and adding people to lists. When I’m notified that I get a new follower, I check out their profile, follow or not, and put them on a list. This is the first level of intimacy.

Oh. Okay. John Doe just followed me. He lives in Orange County and is a social media marketer. I’ll put him on my Social Media list and my Orange County list.

Whispering In Your Ear

Back in the day, I worked at a church. The pastor could never remember anyone’s name. So, I’d stand next to him and when someone approached, he’d ask me their name and I’d whisper it in his ear.

So that worked for a congregation with about 150-200 people which fits right in the Dunbar number if you believe that’s our social limitation.

But will the new fancy tool do that in person? Sure, they promise the world online, but what about when you meet said follower at a conference?

WordPress and WordCamps

For our industry, WordCamps are our trade shows. There is at least one almost every single weekend. As a marketing manager for a WordPress Plugin Development Shop, attending these conferences and knowing our customers is important.

Knowing your customers by name is important for a few reasons. Let’s start with common decency and manners. That should be enough.

Let’s not forget the power of someone’s name. Is it better to greet someone as “Hey there bro” or “Hey, friend?”

Or is it better to say,

“Hi, Paul. How was your trip on the train?”

It shows that you care. It increases loyalty. It is the beginning of a relationship. If you truly care about people and building up a culture of community, this is tantamount — required as a baseline.

Knowing your customers has never been a bad thing.

Automation Removes Intimacy

Back to the title, “Automation Removes Intimacy.” The intimacy you have with your customers on social media is important for in-person meetings. It’s important for keeping that relationship going online.

Social media is about connecting, as humans, to other people. Whether it’s for friendship or to increase the lifetime value of a customer, being social can never be automated.

Well, if Science Fiction catches up to us, perhaps you can get a protocol droid like C3PO.

Until then, be cautious when automating. You should want to spend the time getting to know your customers.

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