In 1977, I failed my initial swimming test during Plebe Summer at the United States Naval Academy.  During my remedial lessons with other sinkers I still remember my instructor yelling “Mr. See, you look like a sledge hammer going through butter!”  My technique needed some help; my rhythm, timing and stroke rate were creating plenty of splashing but not much forward movement.  If that continued I would soon be exhausted and drown.

Today, I see a lot of social media activity that looks like a sledge hammer going through butter.  Is your program one of them?  In my opinion, here are a few elements of a social media sledge hammer at work:

1. Extreme cross-linking automation:

A tweet or post on one platform automatically sends the same message across several platforms.  Yes, some automation can be helpful, but when you take it to the extreme it looks and feels like spam.  If you want to improve your strokes turn off some of the automation.  After all, how many different ways do you intend to pound your social audience with the same update?

2. Direct message automation:

This can also lead to problems.  Yes, it’s tempting to send an automated message that thanks someone for following you.  It’s also tempting to suggest they check out your blog, “like” you on Facebook, or connect on LinkedIn.  As tempting as it is to declare total efficiency by throwing your social media program into marketing automation mode, don’t do it.  Automated messages that thank people for following may seem like the polite thing to do, but it’s really just a non-value-add annoyance.  In addition, think hard about whether or not services that generate automated direct messages such as TrueTwit are worth the splashing they give your audience.

3. Extreme posting automation: 

This is another marketing automation temptation.  Preloading canned tweets and sending them out on a scheduled basis definitely lets you check the efficiency box.  You might even argue that it allows you to check the effectiveness box because you can send out tweets based on time zones across the world.  But what happens when someone replies with a question or comment to your tweet and you’re not there to respond?  The answer? You get dunked by losing the opportunity to engage your audience in real time conversation.

When a great swimmer is moving quickly through the water they seem smooth and powerful—almost effortlessly.  During Plebe Summer, I eventually learned that rhythm, timing, and stroke rate are critical to becoming a proficient swimmer.  If you’re not careful, automation in relation to your social media program will actually create drag and slow you down.

Now, at this point you may believe I have it out for the marketing automation folks.  I really don’t.  I use automation tools like TweetAdder to help me target, follow and unfollow profiles on Twitter, and I’ve been happy with the results.  The key is to find a balance between efficiency and effectiveness that doesn’t leave you exhausted and your audience soaked.

Have you experimented with social marketing automation? Have you gone back to some manual practices based on results? Share your experience in comments.

 

Alan See is the Chief Marketing Officer at Alan See CMO Temps, LLC. He has written this guest post for the Networking Exchange Blog.