Automation vs. Authenticity on Social Media



An Oxford University study from March of this year found that automation may threaten half of the United States workforce. The study lists loan officers and receptionists as the most likely careers to be automated (98 and 96 percent likelihood, respectively), while elementary school teachers and surgeons are probably safe (.4 percent likelihood for each).

One career you might think would be safe – writing – actually isn’t. Though folks have gone back and forth recently about the safety of journalists from automation (most agree that investigative journalists won’t be replaced by a computer any time soon), robots are already writing articles at a frantic pace. A robot might have written the postgame article you read on ESPN, and our fast-processing robot friends have even written some books.

Which brings us to social media.

There are a number of solutions out there that use different algorithms and systems to automatically curate and post content, usually with the promise of unbeatable consistency and reliability. And while I won’t say with confidence that social media managers are in the same category as surgeons when it comes to safety from automation, I can say that at least as things stand now, there are a lot of reasons authenticity wins out over automation when it comes to social media:

  • Quality of content: Do you want a presence driven by the same 10 sources every day, or do you want your feed to be diverse, with articles from sources ranging from HBR to First Round Review to yes, the occasional Buzzfeed article? When a person’s behind the screen curating, you’re more likely to be squared away with a feed that runs the gamut of the industries and verticals you’re covering. Having a person who can read each article closely and decide whether it fits your strategy has a lot of value.
  • Voice and personality: Current automation tools are great for posting headlines with links and even quotes in some cases but aren’t yet capable of crafting a voice that sounds like you and distinguishes you from the crowd. A tailor-made service will give you that voice. A consistent, personable voice will give you more freedom to post unorthodox content and is ultimately an important element of true thought leadership.
  • Conversation: Most automated tools today are focused on curation, not conversation. Working with a person allows you the comfort of knowing that your interactions with others on Twitter, Facebook, and more will be handled by a real person with real social skills (sorry, Baxter). Social media is a two-way platform, and you won’t see its full value unless you’re prepared to interact as part of your overall strategy.
  • Strategy: We haven’t yet found a tool capable of learning the nuances of a custom strategy and curating content that fits spec. For most automated social media tools, you’ll input some key topics (e.g. marketing, social media, and advertising) and the tool will output content with those keywords. That works in some instances, but more attention to detail is necessary if you want to see true value from your social media presence.

For some companies, there’s a good chance that an automated social media solution could be exactly what they need. If all you want to do is be on social media–you just want to check a box and get it over with–then I can’t in good conscience say that you should completely avoid those sorts of solutions. But if what you’re looking for is a tailor-made, custom solution that integrates with the rest of your marketing efforts, then automation is absolutely not the way to go. You’re not going to become a prominent thought leader with a one-size-fits-all solution.

On social media, authenticity is key. Are social media managers at risk of losing out to automation? Maybe when someone comes up with an advanced AI system that’s capable of overcoming some of the obstacles above (which is certainly a possibility in the long-term). But in the interim, you won’t find me shaking in my boots for fear of being overtaken. If you want authenticity on social media, it’s best to stick with real, living people.



Reprinted by Permission.
Image Credit: CC by Daniel Gable

About the author: John Darwin

John is a recent college graduate from Creighton University. He earned his B.A. in English, specializing in British Literature, and is currently working as an editor at Social Media Contractors.

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