The best part of my day is easily the hour or so I spend on social media, touching base with customers and fellow industry experts on what’s going on in the wide, wonderful world of marketing, printing and taking your business off the web and out into real life. And do you know what I’ve learned? That today’s marketers have been bitten by the automation bug.

Virtual reality is plagued with marketing bots, and their presence in offline reality is starting to become a real problem.

botfly

No, not that kind of bot.

What’s the Problem with Bots?

When automation for social media was first invented, marketers thought it was the coolest thing ever. They could send out automated direct messages, have bots trolling the web for mentions of their company/industry and generally maximize their reach with a minimum of effort. Great idea, right?

Sure it is…until you remember that social media was never truly meant to be a marketing medium. Building a reputation for your company in the wide world of cyber-socializing is generally considered a qualitative rather than a quantitative endeavor. It’s a chance for you to reach your customers on a more personal level.

While customers were willing to let businesses use this new medium to answer their questions and connect with them one-

girl on computer

THAT kind of bot.

on-one, they were un-amused when companies started spamming their inboxes, Facebook walls and Twitter timelines. Having spent most of my morning wading through bot after bot, I can see where they’re coming from.

The problem is, bots take the personal touch out of marketing. By using what I like to call a plug and chug technology across the board marketers are effectively telling John Q. Public that who he is as a person doesn’t matter. He’s going to hear the exact same message in the exact same way as everyone else…whether he likes it or not.

Avoiding Botting IRL

Botting on the web is an obvious problem. A software steps up, provides the tools, marketers jump on it like a starving pool of piranhas. But you can’t really bot in real life, can you?

Actually, you can-and many direct mail marketing experts do. To understand how this works, and how to avoid it, let’s trace back to plug and chug marketing. In this case, we’re talking about consistently sending a single message out to every single member of your clientele.

Digital printing and variable data have taken all of the excuses out of taking a single marketing message and sending it out to your entire mailing list, regardless of which aspect of your business they’ve expressed their interest in. You have the capability to divide your clientele into subgroups, which can then be reached on a personalized level based on their current relationship with your company.

You have the tools at your fingertips to build a personal relationship with your customers through a tailored, carefully structured direct mail marketing campaign. Why are you wasting that capability by botting away?

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The Internet is the new global frontier for today’s marketers. Between Twitter, LinkedIn, Four Square, Facebook, Second Life, blogging, Friendster…well, I could keep going on, and on, and on, but I won’t. I think it’s enough to say that there’s no shortage of social media options out there for you and your company, and if you’re not taking advantage of the power of social media marketing you’re missing out.

The question is, when it comes to social media how much is too much?

With Social Media, You Get What You Give

There are some companies and businesses out there that can get away with being what are known as broadcasters in the social media world; they send out announcements and thoughts to every one of their followers, but because they have literally thousands of followers they’re not going to take time to do the same.

Remember that freaky kid in high school who used to sit in the corner and talk to himself? Sometimes he had something cool to say, but for the most part you just stopped listening. That’s how it works when you’re a broadcaster on Twitter.

To get the most out of your social media campaign you have to take the time to interact with your followers, and unless you have a dedicated social media department that does nothing but dream up fun stuff for your marketing campaign you’re not going to be able to do that if you’re running a social media campaign on 50 different fronts.

So How Much Is Too Much?

I’m not going to sit here and tell you which social media venues to run your social media campaign on. Everyone has their favorites. Here’s what I do recommend:

If you can’t consistently create new content for each venue, you’re resorting to automation or you never have time to reply when people message you back, you’re doing too much.

Social media metrics should be as qualitative as possible. Anyone can send out automated bots, but it takes a real social media mogul to use it to reach out to their clientele. Social media is about people connecting with people. The minute you’re too busy to do that you’ve already lost the social media game. It’s time to step back, cull your social media activities, focus on the ones generating the most interaction and move on from there.

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