How Not to Sound Like a Robot

It’s important when communicating with people over social media that you don’t come across as a mindless automaton. There may be a couple of reasons why you come across this way. Either you actually have some kind of automated content curator spitting out mindless junk, or you have an actual person on your social accounts, but this person is so single-minded toward sales or some other goal that they might as well be a robot.

When you’re communicating on social media, you have to actually be social. You have to make small talk with your followers, share random funny things you either find on the Internet or produce yourself, get excited about things happening in your industry that may not have anything to do with you directly.

This kind of interaction is sometimes seen as superfluous and a waste of time by business owners, but it’s the only way that anyone on social media will ever pay attention to you. In other words, on social media, your business can’t be a business, it has to be a person.

brand-character-designerThe Author’s Approach

Authors are intimately familiar with the process of creating new characters for a story. In a sense, when you create a social media account, this is exactly what you’re doing. Authors might spend a great deal of time thinking about the background of a character, the character’s favorite things to do, the way the character dresses, what the character eats, how well the character maintains herself, and a variety of other setups that explain or enhance the character’s motivations within the story.

For your business social media accounts, you might not go quite as in-depth, but you can create a character, and with every post you plan, imagine what that character would post. For example, a skateboard company might create a Tony Hawk-like personality to tweet from. An ice cream parlour might send messages like a cartoon character. An web server company might talk like a hacker.  The possibilities are endless, as long as the personality matches with the professionalism (or casualness) of your brand.

The Real Deal

Sometimes you want to get personal with your customer base and talk to them just like you would if you were meeting them at a party, or becoming online friends. Another approach for your business social media accounts is to use them like personal accounts. Make no bones about who is behind the keyboard, use your own personal name, post random thoughts throughout the day. If you’re too busy to maintain that, you could hire a “manager of communications” or something like that to do the exact same thing.

ted-azaryA prime example of this method comes from the Twitter account for the cable channel, Syfy. Now, Syfy has a number of Twitter accounts including @SyfyAU, @SyfyUK, @SyfyPR, and accounts representing whatever number of shows they broadcast in any given year. But their main account, the one you follow if you’re looking for everything Syfy-related, has the name Ted A’Zary as its public-facing name. Ted is a senior executive at Syfy and he takes the time every day to tweet, retweet, and respond to questions just like he would if it was his own personal account.

There are a lot of things to consider if you wanted to go this route, including if you have enough time to devote to it, or if you have the budget to hire someone else to devote their time to it, but if you do go this way, you’ll find you’re not just gathering followers, you’re gathering friends. And, in the long run, friends are a lot more loyal than customers. An important thing to note, however, is that if you decide to hire someone to do this, you should find someone who shares your vision and drive for the success of your company so that they can echo your excitement over new company developments which they will invariably share over social media.

robot-schedulerThe Backseat Scheduler

One of the main culprits of social accounts sounding like robots is when you use a method for scheduling posts, and then set it and forget it. Scheduled posts are an important tool, but never allow them to be the center of your social strategy. Take the time to see what’s up at any given moment on the Internet and add your voice to the noise right then and there. If you have something that needs to go out at a particular time, that’s great, but don’t let that keep you from being spontaneous and relevant.

You don’t want to miss, for example, when the entire Internet is talking about a couple of llamas that are on the loose in Arizona. Grab onto that opportunity and ride that wave, because by the time you can create a custom graphic and make it all shiny and professional, the wave will have crashed, the moment is over, the llamas are captured, and you’re left with a useless graphic you can either use and appear irrelevant, or keep to yourself knowing how many hours you wasted on it. Timing is everything, especially on a medium that updates the entire world in real time.

Death to the Robots

Okay, so Skynet’s not about to take over. The singularity is a few years down the road. That big fighting robot in Japan seems to be well under control. But we can stem the tide of robot revolution even more by making our online connections real and human. Especially if you’re interested in building a loyal customer base. What other methods have you found to be successful in the war against automatons? Or do you think robots are just great and we should welcome our robot overlords?

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