Automation may be one of the big buzzwords of the marketing world, but tread carefully with it, says Penny Smits, director at PR agencies, Wordplay Public Relations.
I recently had an online conversation with a fellow Instagram user about a video I’d posted, which went something like this:
Them: “I love this!”
Me: “Where are you based?”
The instagrammer’s lack of response led me to question if:
a) They didn’t really ‘love’ my video and were actually being a sarcastic prick.
b) I was talking to a robot.
A closer look at their profile made me revise my first conclusion. The instagrammer’s account revealed they enjoyed black coffee, colourful chocolates and playing the electric guitar and seemed to be a perfectly likeable person.
I therefore deduced that their original comment was in fact automated.
I did some quick research into an online ‘tool’ that automates Instagram engagement for clients that apparently include celebrities, startups and brands. The bot works by accessing a client’s profile information and automatically commenting and liking photos with specified hashtags. All this is done without the client actually viewing the Instagram image they apparently like.
The key selling proposition seemed to be that automating Instagram engagement helps attract attention to a client’s Instagram account, leading to more comments, followers and likes.
At first glance, that sounds great! Who wouldn’t want more likes for their super cute cat photo or perfectly constructed acai bowl?
The problem arises when someone like me wants to, you know, actually engage.
The truth, is I genuinely wanted to know where my fellow Instagram user was based, as their handle indicated they offered a service I could be interested in accessing. However, their failure to answer my question indicated they didn’t really care about me and had a ‘wet and forget’ approach to social media management. This ultimately left me with a negative impression of their brand.
Have we forgotten that a key element of social media is that it’s meant to be social? Thankfully, Instagram’s cull of SPAM accounts last year has warned many brands off buying followers. But is automating social media engagement without providing any real interaction really any better?
Consumers are demanding more openness and authenticity than ever before. Brands therefore need to put vanity metrics behind them and genuinely engage with their communities.