10 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Social Media Robot

social robotWhen I wrote “10 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Content Robot,” the response was so great, I was inspired to tackle another common downfall small business owners make when it comes to marketing: social media automation.

We’ve all seen it:  tweet after tweet that look like they were cut and pasted and scheduled for every hour:

“Buy my product! Click my link!”

It’s a turnoff, and doesn’t do much to help you find new customers. Below are 10 ways to avoid being that type of social media robot:

1. Write 95% of Your Updates Manually

There is a time and a place for automated updates. It’s perfectly acceptable to set up your blog RSS feed to automatically post to Twitter, Google + and Facebook. Just don’t make that your whole strategy.

People follow brands that seem like they’re run by humans. Show that yours is by writing your tweets like — you guessed it — a person.

2. Respond to People

Autotweeting anytime someone follows you does not count as a response. Find someone who’s having an interesting conversation and weigh in. Thank someone for sharing your content. Engage directly with people on social sites individually.

Robots can’t do that. You’ll find that you start to build relationships this way.

3. Watch Redundancy

Sure, it’s easy to copy and paste your updates and schedule them multiple times. But who said marketing was supposed to be easy?

Even if you tweak your update just slightly, it shows you put in the effort to do so, and it won’t annoy your followers.

4. Aim for a Mix

Here’s a little formula I use to ensure what I’m posting online is diverse enough to provide value to my followers:

  • Auto share my blog content
  • Share content with a question to give people a reason to click
  • Respond directly to individuals
  • Ask questions to foster conversation
  • Offer personal tidbits

I don’t go crazy with the personal stuff, but I don’t make much separation between me and my business. So it’s fine for my business followers to know I’m going kayaking over the weekend. It makes me — yep — human.

5. See What Other People Do

How do those other Tweeters get tens of thousands of followers? Pay attention to their tweets to find out. If you read through their updates, you’ll see some of the elements I listed in #4.

Matt Mansfield does a great job of staying on topic (content marketing) while responding to people who comment on his G+ posts. Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe) rarely autotweets anything, and responds to everything sent his way. That’s why he’s got more than 22,000 followers.

6. Cut Back on Promotions

Yes, you want people to click your links and buy from you. But if you constantly post links to your site, you’ll scare off potential customers. The marketplace has changed; customers no longer want you to put promos in front of them (did they ever?).

They’d rather get to know you as a brand and find your promotions through other channels, like email.

7. Enough About Me – Let’s Talk About You

We hear that cocktail party example a lot, and it works. If you were at a party, would you talk constantly about yourself? Maybe, but you’d turn off everyone you talked to. Same applies online.

Talk about other people. Ask them questions. Pull them out of their shells. If they want to know about you and your brand, they’ll ask.

8. Be Regular…but Not Too Regular

I like to take certain times of day to schedule my tweets. It’s important to me to have near-constant activity on Twitter, and less so on Facebook and other channels. At most, I schedule one tweet an hour. Usually less. Any more than that, and I’m just clogging up everyone’s Twitter stream.

Aim to be present, but don’t go overboard on any one site.

9. Vary Your Updates Across Platforms

It’s too easy to paste an update from Twitter onto Facebook or LinkedIn. Or better yet, click all your social icons in Hootsuite and send the same update to all. But if someone is following you on multiple channels, consider how annoying it is to see the same thing every time.

Instead, mix it up slightly. You can share the same link; just post a different description on each site. This gives people a reason to connect with your brand on multiple channels.

10. Take a Break

Sometimes I get over tweeted. I need a break from social media. In those cases, I schedule whatever tweets and updates I want to go out for the next few days, and I close it down. Having some space from this virtual world that often sucks me in clears my head and helps me start fresh when I return.

It isn’t hard to humanize your social media updates. Put in a couple of hours a week, take advantage of scheduling updates, and you’ll see your followers number rise.

Social Robot Photo via Shutterstock

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Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

35 Reactions
  1. Even though 95% manual updates sounds like a lot, social media is all about brevity, so it doesn’t really take tons of time. And #5 is a great point. Finding a couple “mentors” to emulate can really help as well.

    • Robert–
      It does sound like a lot at first, but if you get used to how long it takes to respond or tweet someone back, it’s not so much!

  2. I see a lot of brands becoming social media robots. They fail at #2, #4 and #7. I personally love a brand that responds to my tweets and comments in Facebook and Twitter. It shows to me that they care for their customers.

  3. Great tips, Susan. I especially like the cut back on promotions tip. Who wants to be slapped in the face with a sales pitch every 5 seconds? I know I don’t. Thanks for sharing this with us.


    • Ti–
      Like this post? You’ll LOVE my ebook! Oh. Wait. That’s spammy. Same thing on Twitter. 🙂

  4. I half agree with the “95% of posts manually” statement. I agree you need to be original in your content. I schedule a lot of content, but I always try to put myself in that day. I pretend I am there posting it at that time. Also every day I come in and if there is a lineup I look at it. If it makes sense I leave it and wait for comments. If it seems stale in the slightest, I’ll trash it and start from scratch right there. I just like to look at scheduling as a backup generator. If something happens and I have to be out of the office, we still have posts and consumers don’t get bored.

    • Mason–
      95% is something to shoot for. I don’t always hit it. But I do notice better clicks when I take the time to craft a tweet, versus autopost my blog content.

  5. Good advice. If everyone followed it the Twitterverse would be a better place to socialize. What are your thoughts on automated direct messages? I don’t like fake… how bout you?

  6. Fantastic ideas Susan, and super ‘actionable.’ (Is that even a word?)

    I feel that publishing content through social media is about honing-in on a few best practices, not getting consumed with the details. Practical advice like mixing topics is smart, and easy to implement. Thanks a bunch for your article!

    • Michael–
      I use “actionable” all the time, so if it’s not a word, it is now! I agree: keep it simple. Get them to click on the link because you piqued their curiosity.

  7. Susan – The key point is social media is a two-way communication medium and like any other communication media you only get as much as you give. You also need to communicate, which means listen as well as tell. Just telling (yelling!!) to people will not get you anywhere, even in social media.

  8. How about timing? Working in EST, we find on occasion if we have a LONG day and we are getting started at say 5-6 am, we will post WAY TOO EARLY in the morning and subsequently we totally miss the boat for those in PST … Mid-day EST seems to a good time to get good engagement, your thoughts?