The Fine Line of Automation in Social Media: Sincerity at Scale

Considering the tremendous growth of social media usage over the past few years, it should come as little surprise that companies’ investments into social platforms continues to rise. More than 75% of the Fortune 500 has adopted Twitter, and that’s followed closely by adoption of Facebook and YouTube according to a recent University of Massachusetts study.  

As a result of this growth, the social business software landscape has grown exponentially. Although the sector offers a wide variety of tools to harvest all the data created on social media, ways to track social ROI are still lacking. While many believe there’s substantial value to be had by increasing key performance indicators (KPIs) like brand awareness, brand loyalty, and brand perception, driving the bottom line is the easiest way to prove value.

Unfortunately, tweeting and posting status updates surely drive the vanity metrics like brand awareness, but they don’t do much to drive the bottom line. If companies want to see social have a real impact on their revenue, they need to reevaluate their approach.

Rather than mass social marketing, companies need to consider direct social marketing options. Email marketers have figured out how to do this through personalization, yet no one is really taking those techniques and applying them to social. Where are all the social marketing automation solutions?

Let’s take a step back and evaluate why existing social marketing practices are not reaching their ceiling. Take Twitter. For the sake of round numbers, let’s just say a company has 10,000 followers. They click the “tweet” button and the 140 character message departs into the Twittersphere. You would naturally assume that a sizable portion of the audience catches that message, but upon further inspection, it’s pretty disappointing.

Users are following hundreds of accounts, and the stream moves so quickly that only a small fraction of your audience will see the tweet (and let’s not even bother including the overall stream because the likelihood that consumers will randomly catch your tweet is slim to none). So, your 10,000 followers quickly became an audience of a fraction of the size (call it 1,000).

Then, only a fraction of that fraction will be compelled to click on the link in the tweet so using the same fraction, and if we stick with the 10% model, you’re now down to 100 people. Last, only a fraction of the fraction of the fraction will actually take the desired action (e.g. form signup, whitepaper download). Call it 10 people out of 10,000. And, for anybody counting at home, these are pretty generous fractions…

So how do we increase the percentage of people at the bottom of the funnel? Well, for starters, talk to people; there’s a reason they call it “social” media. It’s not called “publish media.”

Social media users have shared an incredible amount of information about themselves all over the Web. Whether it’s explicit information they’ve shared in their bios or implicit information they’ve shared through their behaviors, personalize your communications using information you can gather.

For starters, take a page out of the email marketing playbook and address them by name (e.g. “Hey Steve…”). Beyond that, give a quick background as to why you’re communicating with them (e.g. “noticed you like skiing”). Then, you’re free to jump into the ask (e.g. “here’s a 20% off deal for your next purchase”).

If you properly segment your audience and have a good reason for communicating, you’ll be shocked by how warmly these personalized social messages are received. I can tell you from personal experience, resources like the social inbox are significantly undervalued when seeking your customer’s attention. When you reach out, they want to feel valued so show them you took the time to understand what they’re all about.

While this messaging can be very powerful, the logical question becomes “can this scale?” There are vendors working to bring social and marketing automation together in a way that allows for this personal touch at scale. But even when using solutions like natural language processing for basic interactions, most extended engagements need to be vetted by a human to ensure they maintain a natural feel.

As businesses begin to invest further resources (both tech and non-tech) into their social media management, two things will become essential to making the most out of each platform: competent social media manager(s) and third-party optimization services.

It may not be easy, but ‘sincerity at scale’ is fully attainable. Automation is a means to this end. I’m looking forward to the day when every company figures it out.

Adam Wexler is founder and chief strategy officer at Insightpool.

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