There’s a bakery I sometimes visit that makes incredible pastries. They’ve built such a reputation that the morning batch is usually sold out by 8:00am, which is about the time I’m able to stop in. They don’t want to increase the volume of their baking because it will reduce the quality of the product, which is how they built their reputation in the first place.
I had a chance to look into their kitchen and saw to my surprise that they already have some interesting automation in place. They have a large oven with multiple levels and conveyors that continuously move products through the baking process, and they have some kind of adjustable conveyor rack that loads the oven. But they still do the rolling and shaping of their pastries and bread all by hand.
Every business has to draw the line somewhere in what they will automate, and what they will do manually in order to balance quality and volume, which is ultimately reflected in cost and price. Every business does this, they just draw the line in different places. A mass manufacturer of cheap pastries will automate everything in order to scale for volume. A baker of the highest quality goods will do nearly everything by hand.
For some reason, enterprise software is infected with a zero-sum mindset. If you’re not automating the whole process, you’re not doing it right. This is particularly true with marketing automation. From SEO to lead nurturing, businesses are driving toward an automation that takes the human cost–and the human touch–out of the process as much as possible. Apply? that mindset to social media, and you have the advent of systems that will automatically find things for you to update, automatically post the updates for you, and automatically follow and message prospects that engage with your updates if they fit a given model. The unspoken and dangerous assumption is that anyone that doesn’t engage with your social clone is not a prospect you should waste your time on.
If you’re selling a commodity product that you just want to scale with a cheap price, then automating your entire marketing process makes sense. If you’re selling something of any kind of quality, you need to put a little more thought into where you draw the line with automation. For SocialRep, we draw the line at automating human engagement with social media. Finding a lot of good content to post is something we automate, but we push the content to users for selection. Posting to multiple networks is something we automate, but following up or engaging prospects is something we enable users to accomplish to maintain a human touch.
In our equation, everything that can be done efficiently by computers and algorithms to make it easy for users is a good use of automation–like automating the process of pushing pastries through an oven. But everything that exemplifies the human touch–selecting what to post, what to comment on, connecting with other humans–is something that should be done by humans. If the vision is to turn social marketing into the cloud equivalent of a call center, I think we’re entirely missing the point about the “social” in social media.
If you’re a marketing manager or executive, I’d love to read your comments on social media automation. What are you interested in automating? What do you think should not be automated?