Quick poll: how many of you have more than one social network account? I’m sure most of us are bobbing our heads yes, or mentally raising our hands. In this day and age, it is completely normal, if not essential, to be present on more than one social network. Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Instagram, SlideShare, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google +, I could go on and on listing the social platform options available. Many of us couple our personal accounts with our professional ones as well, creating a delicate balance that inevitably leans to one side or the other. The point of this small tangent is that it’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to manage all these accounts, while keeping on top of personal and business developments. Google seems to realize this problem and wants to make life easier by using automation, which it recently patented (more on that later). Below, we’ll discuss how automation might play a role in social media, where social networks need to draw the line, and if automation endangers the social aspect of social media.
What Google Did
On November 19th Google submitted a patent for software that, as Business Insider put it, “will craft personalized social media reactions for you based on data from your ‘emails, SMS, social networks, and other systems.’” Sounds like a time saver! However, Socedo, and we’re hoping you as well, agrees with Facebook’s and Twitter’s API wording that no social media automation can or should exist without human initiation. Google seems to have discovered a workaround to this by having a UI (user interface) appear and ask you for approval for each message before it’s sent. This idea of using automation in social media to help make managing all of these social networks more feasible is something Socedo has been working on as well. At Socedo we have identified three vital areas necessary for the success of social media automation, those are: syncing, scheduling, and templating.
Basic forms of syncing already exist in applications like HootSuite that allow you to manage your Twitter, Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn, foursquare, WordPress, and Mixi accounts in one place. In the future we will see more sophisticated technology that allows you to take data from one social network in order to take action on another social network. For example, it’s Stanley’s birthday today. Your app realizes you’re good friends with Stanley from data showing that you frequently converse with him by sending text messages and Tweets. Facebook knows it’s Stanley’s birthday but your automation software discerns that this wouldn’t be the network you would use to wish him a Happy Birthday. Instead, it crafts a message for you to send via SMS. Your software could even look at Stanley’s Pinterest page and Amazon wishlist and recommend a birthday present for him.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? While this type of automation can help us to strengthen relationships we also have to be weary of privacy and keeping the human nature of social media. In this example, the software is only accessing data that you already have access to and is not taking any actions that were not already human initiated.
The scheduling that exists today involves planning ahead on which posts that go out on your blog, or any other social network. The future of social media automation will include scheduling of actions like favoriting, following, commenting or replying. Let’s say you are catching up on social media late at night but don’t want your friends to get a whole bunch of notifications when they are sleeping. Smart scheduling would allow you to interact with people when they are most active. This could also allow you to have a more active social media presence even when you are busy throughout the day.
Does this make social media less social? In this example, all of the actions are human initiated and scheduling allows those actions to align better with the way we all go about our day. However, if software is automatically taking actions on your behalf then we have crossed a line. Imagine you are able to ‘like’ every post that mentions the Seahawks from your friends on Facebook. The platform would quickly become meaningless as it would be a hub of completely automated actions.
Remember Stanley and his birthday? Google is working on creating software that would create a happy birthday message for you without you personally having to type something. It’s unclear how accurate these suggestions would be, but manual templating could be very useful. That means you write a message and set rules about who will receive it. For example, when it’s the birthday of someone in your town, you may want to have a message queued up that asks where they are planning on celebrating. This message would be editable and still need your approval to be sent but it would save the time of always coming up with a message from scratch.
These templates could even involve workflow across different social networks. For example, you could setup a rule/template for your close friends that would suggest a photo of the two of you to post on their Facebook wall during their birthday. Then the rule prompts you to send a similar Tweet in the afternoon along with a text message that asks what they’re doing to celebrate that night. This allows you to leverage various platforms to make more of an impact.
So where do we draw the line with templating? Many of the social networks require that all templates need to be fully editable by the user. They should also be editable close to the time when the action was initiated. This allows us to leverage the time savings of templates while also allowing for natural spontaneity in human relationships.
Yes, automation is cool. Not only is it cool, but also it allows us to have a chance at managing our always-updating social networks. However, with automation comes the risk of taking the social out of social media. Socedo realizes this risk, and while it provides automation, it makes sure that every action is human triggered and every template is editable. Even though the software is helping you favorite, reply, ReTweet, or direct message another human being, the connection you’re creating is still important. Automation should help make humans more efficient while saving time for the meaningful aspects of relationship building. Automation helps you say Happy Birthday to Stanley, but you’re the one showing up to the party!