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.

10 responses to “Automation Removes Intimacy”

  1. Bridget, I agree with your assessment on automation. I am a hybrid when it comes to this topic and my strategy with social media. I think it is VERY important to communicate personally but I can’t always be online for the accounts I am responsible for.

    I use Hootsuite to schedule, I respond to notifications by commenting, liking, and replying to engaged users, and I try to engage with others by asking questions and engaging in conversations to build relationships.

    Working part time for a company as their Digital Marketing Manager makes it tough to be there as much as I would like. It’s a balancing act for sure.

    This is a good topic! I knew it would be an interesting one!


  2. Oh no for sure, Justine. I use quite a few automation tools, but it’s more like Revive Old Post to cycle blog posts on Twitter. Or I schedule for our clients on Hootsuite in two week blocks at a time. It totally depends on what you’re contracted for, if they’re your client.

    But for your own business, or for me as Give on Twitter, I manually follow and add people to lists and I check for notifications from 6am to 9pm. It’s important to me.

    Thanks for sharing this on Twitter and commenting, as always. You’re the best.


  3. I would be interested in knowing more about the tools you find the most helpful in social media and why.

    I manually follow and add to lists as well. I like to dig in myself.


  4. Love this post! I used to think Twitter was impersonal because of the character limit. A few months ago, I started focusing on Twitter as much as I used to focus on Facebook – paying attention to who interacted with whom, noticing who responded personally to mentions, etc. I’ve done a 180 degree turn on Twitter, and now see it as actually more likely than Facebook to nurture professional relationships. I’m just starting my business so have the luxury of lots of marketing time (that’s secret code for very few clients YET), and I’ve really enjoyed creating relationships with others on this platform. 🙂

  5. Lynn,

    I have found Twitter to be a GREAT place build relationships! I think it’s much more social than most people realize, It’s my favorite communication tool!


  6. I am also in the hybrid camp. Automation allows to continually share our blog posts as an example concomitantly every day [except Friday]. It also allows us to share posts such as this from a small group of trusted sources. Very often i am close to a computer and have opportunities to respond personally, but not as frequently I like. We’re here, and hope to represent ourselves are responsibly as possible.

  7. That’s precisely how I handle it, too, Kyle. I think responses should be by hand for sure. Thank you for your continued friendship and leadership all of these years. I appreciate you.