Read Before Replying: Bots & Business Social Media Don’t Mix

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Marketing your business on social media takes time – a lot of time. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are ‘on’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You never know when people will comment on any of these platforms – but you do know that people expect very rapid responses to all of their comments. The bigger the brand, the greater the expectations for a rapid response are.

That’s why you’ll see some companies resorting to the use of bots for social media management. A bot is a simple computer program that does one task, such as scanning Twitter for any mention of a company’s name, and upon finding the name, posting a positive comment in reply.

Let’s say you’re the owner of Steve’s Sausages. You might use a bot this way, so that when someone Tweets “Having a great BBQ with @StevesSausages on the grill!” your customer gets a reply that says, “Thanks for choosing Steve’s Sausages for your fun time!”

There’s only problem with this approach. Bots that scan Twitter aren’t actually ‘reading’ the text. They’re programs set to recognize certain keywords. Bots don’t understand context or emotional tone – but the people who are Tweeting definitely do.

Comedians targeted Pace Salsa, a brand that was apparently using bots for social media management, for some laughs. You can read about it here (it’s definitely NSFW!) but if you want the short version, the comedians created obscenity-filled Tweet after Tweet regarding Pace Salsa, to which the bot consistently replied, “Grab The Southwest By The Bottle”.

The exchange quickly went viral – which was NOT the type of publicity Pace Salsa was hoping to achieve with their Twitter presence. The Twitter account was shut down, and even though there’s now some question about whether the Pace Salsa Twitter was authorized or under the control of an ad agency, the fact remains that the presence, which had been promoting Pace for months, is now not operational.

The lesson here is simple: just because you can use technology for something doesn’t mean you should. Bots may have saved Pace Salsa time and labor costs associated with monitoring and responding to relevant tweets, but they just weren’t capable of exercising the type of human judgment essential to smart social media marketing.

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