Don’t Be a Robot

Posted by: in Austin Social Media, Communication Strategy, Integrated Communications, Social Media Insights & Trends on August 30, 2012

Okay, nobody wants to be a robot. Well, nobody except for my five year old daughter who likes to do the “Robot” while we listen to Skrillex… but that’s beside the point. What I’m getting at is that we as people AND brands are inherently more interesting to other people when we act like humans and not robots on social networks like Twitter, Google +, Facebook and LinkedIn.Ā 

Before you sigh and hit the back button on your browser, hold on a second. I promise you that I have a point that applies to both business use of social media by individuals AND brands.

Take a step back and think about the last neighborhood party you attended. Or better yet, the last cocktail party you attended. For bonus points, think of the last cocktail party you attended as part of a conference or business gathering where you were mostly intermingling with people you didn’t know (or didn’t know well). While I know that this analogy has been beaten to death, it helps make my point.

While you were at that party. did you get trapped at any point in time talking to one of those sales-y types? You know, the ones who look at your name tag and immediately ask you what you do? And within two minutes, are asking you questions like, “do you manage a budget” and “tell me what your 2013 goals look like?” In most cases, you can’t run away fast enough, right? It’s because you derived zero value out of the conversation and worse yet, you know you were being pitched in a place where you were hoping you could just enjoy a cocktail, some passed hors d’oevre and perhaps meet an interesting industry colleague or two.

Unfortunately, there are still a ton of people on the social Web who take the sales guy approach to Twitter. Either that or they immediately start talking to Oprah Winfrey or Lady Gaga like they are good friends with no hope of ever receiving a response. Or worse, they autoconnect their foursquare account and bless you with a non-stop stream of checkins from places like Joe’s Coffee Shop and Chili’s. While brands are getting better at this, most are still in broadcast only mode.

One of the biggest problems is that a lot of people and brands forget that the reason people come to social networks is to be social. That doesn’t mean that social can’t include business. And in fact, social networks are a great place for brands to better engage their customers and fans with an eye toward driving sales, increasing loyalty while solving customer service issues and gathering important intel for future products. But it’s important to not forget the “social” part of the social networks.

Here are five tips to help engage on social networks that ultimately will get your more important stuff better noticed while growing your personal/brand fan base and driving key metrics while you do it:

  1. Be Interesting: While people tend not to care about what you are having for breakfast, talking about things that are interesting will get you noticed. Is there a new mobile app that you recently checked out that’s worth downloading? Did you read a helpful article on AdAge? eMarketer? Life Hacker? Give it a share.
  2. Don’t Go Cold: Don’t forget to warm up your audience before you decide to post. I’ve found that just posting a link on Twitter or Google + cold gets little to no traction if you haven’t been active on that platform that day. As a rule of thumb, before I post a link to a colleagues blog, something I’ve written or a client’s website, I try and retweet a few folks and/or post a couple of useful links.
  3. Ā Pictures are Good: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. While people don’t necessarily want to see hundreds of pictures of your new puppy, Max, they might be interested in seeing a cool picture of a concert you are attending. Or maybe a cool shot of a local landmark. Hint: Instagram and Path are good for helping make you look like a better photographer than you might really be.
  4. The Thank You Economy: Remember to thank your followers/customers. If someone @ messages you, retweets you or says something nice about you/your brand, take the time to say “thank you.” If you do this on Twitter, you can take advantage of the fact that people only see @ replies where a follower is following your account and the person you are tweeting to. This helps cut down on noise. On places like Google + and Facebook, don’t be afraid to bundle your “thank you’s” into one update.
  5. Don’t Worry… Be Sappy: Once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to let your hair down. This doesn’t mean that you should overshare but as you can see in the image that I embedded of a recent Facebook post I did, I got nearly 60 likes and more than 25 comments (and I’m just a guy). Bottom line, people like to know that you are real whether you are a brand or a person.
Obviously there are a ton more ways to engage with one’s audience. But nobody wants me to write the 89 ways to not be a robot post so I kept it to five. If you’ve got more goodness to share with this group, feel free to leave it in the comments.


By: Aaron Strout

Aaron is the President of WCG, one of the three agencies under the W2O Group umbrella. He is a regular contributor to Marketing Land and a co-host of video podcast, Live from Stubbs.

Find me on: Twitter Facebook
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

11 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Fun background music: I’d rather not post than be a robot Aaron which is my accounts are quiet(er). I’m busy being my brand and it bugs the crap out of me when people that get real busy like me automate. Luckily I have people like you for friends so I don’t have to tolerate it too much.

  2. Jill – agree. Better not to post at all than to do it poorly. And thank you for commenting. I know you do a good job across your brand and personal accounts at being social. Thank you for your comment.

  3. You do a great job Jill!

  4. Couldn’t agree more, Aaron … especially with number four. For brands to say a simple “thank you” to their customers doesn’t cost them anything except a minute of time – and that simple acknowledgement goes a long way. I know when I’ve gotten that kind of acknowledgement (@AAEurope is great at this, for example), it does make me feel valued. And when I don’t (I’ve always felt that @Dominos does a poor job at this, for example) my feelings about the brand definitely take a turn for the worse..

    I also think it’s important for a brand to measure the response that they get to the content they share. It’s now pretty easy and inexpensive to track and measure what kind of posts get the best/most response from their audience, and to use that data to build an ever-increasing level of engagement. Thanks for the post – and of course for the robot video. šŸ˜‰

  5. Thank you Greg. Appreciate your examples of brands that do a good (and not so good) job of responding. Regarding the Robot video, we’ve gotta have a litte fun too, right?

  6. Thank you sir. And here here!

  7. Hi Aaron, thanks for the well-written reminder about how to behave in Social Media. I’d argue though that people do like to know what you are having for breakfast. Ask any of your SM friends where you get your coffee and they all know it’s Starbucks. Talking about food (or coffee) is an easy way to allow people to engage with you. By the way, I loved reading about your moment at the airport. So sweet, though not surprising.

  8. Heather – first of all, thank you for replying. Much appreciated. Second, it’s funny that you mention the point about people wanting to know about what one is having for breakfast. I actually went back and forth on whether or not I should dive deeper on that point because I agree with you that it’s those little picadillos (to steal a term from Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting) that make us interesting. The only tricky part is that I think the “what I had for breakfast” part comes after you’ve established yourself in a channel a bit. Meaning, once you’ve shown that you are engaging/interesting/get it, allowing others to have a little more insight into your life. And then of course there are people like Natanya Anderson who’s foodie tweets/updates are worth following just for the insight and amazing pictures. But that’s a whole different story. Also, glad you liked my airport post. Totally random but even more random was how many likes/comments I got on that post. šŸ˜‰

  9. Thought I responded to this but apparently not. Totally agree. But I think it takes a little relationship building first for people to “want” to know what you are eating for breakfast. Once they do, it’s these little picadillos that help deepen a relationship.

  10. Could I suggest a sixth, that being “be generous.” That’s the complete opposite of the pure sales guy, whom I’ve had the misfortune of meeting far too frequently.

    Provide something of value to the community, especially if there’s not even a remote prospect of a quid pro quo, and you’ll have improved the community in a small way. Even if you don’t get anything back directly, you do make others just a little bit better.

  11. Mark – love this idea. And trust me, I know I haven’t nailed it with just five recommendations (there are probably 105). But being generous is definitely much needed and unfortunately, counter-intuitive to many brands.

Some HTML is OK


(required, but never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.