So John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame posted a pithy little list of tools you can use to automate your social media activity the other day. He was trying to offer some options for the time-swamped small business owner who can’t sit on Twitter all day or spend hours online because, well, they have better things to do. Jantsch is a smart guy. He knows the social media space. I haven’t read his book, but it seems to have sold a lot of copies and he’s a well-received speaker at conferences around the world.

But damn, if I wasn’t irritated by his post.

I tweeted the link and asked my friends on Twitter to read the post, then promise never to use any of his tips. Of course, I use two of them — one, TweetDeck, has nothing to do with blasting spammy, pseudo-personal greetings; the other, Twitter application in Facebook, does post your non-reply Tweets as your Facebook statuses. Like John, however, I monitor responses in Facebook and converse with those people, too. That dissolves the impersonality of the act in my mind. (Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.)

That said, the other suggestions John made were essentially contradictory to the essence of why social media exists in the first place. His point was to say something like, “Sometimes you should automate the messages you send because the amount of time you have to spend on social media doesn’t scale with your audience.” But social media evolved because people were tired of being blasted marketing messages and not treated with individual care and attention. What Jantsch is recommending is a reversal of the personal and a reversion to the noise.

The next morning, he responded to my Tweet, and some playful poking from Shannon Whitley, with the following:

PRACTICAL TIP NO. 1

As-you-can is better than being Mr. Spamalot.

His first response (keep in mind they appear in reverse chronological order) offers two extremes — automate or do nothing. While I agree with John that as your network or audience scales, you have to manage your time wisely, I whole-heartedly disagree that automation — in essence, spamming — is the answer.

What John fails to see is that there’s no requirement for a business or an individual to respond to every single query from their audience, customers, followers or fans. We all know huge brands have millions of people to communicate with. We all know small business owners only have so many hours in a day. But because conversations on blogs, Twitter, Facebook groups, message boards and more are archived, indexable and public, just participating when you can shows your audience you’re there. And often times that is enough.

When an issue is in need of attention, you address it. When you have time to banter about with less urgent topics, you do. The fact you’re consistent is much more important than whether or not you’re ubiquitous.

I have two children. Often times, my social media activities go dark on the weekends. If someone asks me a specific question, I’ll see it Monday and respond. If not, I move on.

Social media conversations aren’t email. They aren’t support tickets. They’re personal communications. And they should stay that way.

PRACTICAL TIP NO. 2

If you can’t take the time to personalize the greeting, then don’t send the greeting at all.

Jantsch asks why a “warm greeting like when someone gets an email newsletter,” is consider spam. Show of hands. How many of you have ever thought of a canned, “thanks for playing” auto-responder or an email newsletter was, “warm?” I subscribe to social media email newsletters from Chris Brogan, a friend, and Paul Gillin, someone I’ve met, but not someone I know well. I don’t consider either of their email newsletters warm. I don’t consider them spam because I asked for them. I know they’re blasted to hundreds of people but the content is interesting to me.

However, sending an auto-response DM on Twitter to me is spam. I didn’t ask you to say, “Hey person who just followed me! Thanks for thinking I’m super cool. Looking forward to your Tweets! XOXOXOX.”

While Jantsch makes a point of saying you need to be careful not to self-promote in an auto-responder, I wonder how hard it is for him to not include, “Buy my book!”

For more on this topic, check out Amber Naslund’s, “Thanks for following. Now click my junk!

Jantsch’s last response to me is one for the ages:

“The trick is to do it all — personal and automated.”

I’m hoping he means do personal and then do automated and not, “make the automated personal.” If it’s the latter, that might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s like saying, “The trick is to have kids but maintain your virginity.”

Maybe I’m being irrational (please tell me if I am) but by definition anything that is automated is NOT personal. Automation means you don’t have the time or inclination to do it personally. Thus, impersonal.

PRACTICAL TIP NO. 3

Participate in the communities you communicate with.

An audience member at Tuesday’s Social Media Club Louisville meeting asked me what I thought about PingFM, a tool that enables you to update your status on multiple social networks at once. I tried it soon after it hit Beta and set it up to post my updates to both Twitter and Plurk. But just a couple of days into the experience, I realized I wasn’t participating in the conversations on Plurk and was missing out on several on Twitter because the service (I used it via IM) disconnects you from those separate communities. What I was doing was blasting one-way communications, not monitoring or participating in responses on either Twitter or Plurk, essentially making me a spammer on both networks.

While I will again say that using the Twitter application on Facebook does mimic this spam-like function, if you monitor Facebook frequently and respond to those conversations based on your status, you’re fulfilling the obligation to participate in that community.

PRACTICAL TIP NO. 4

Never, never, never blast anything to people who haven’t opted in.

And yes, this applies to Twitter direct messages. Your canned, semi-personal response is a blast message because you have it set to send to anyone who follows you. They didn’t ask for your auto-response, so it’s spam.

More broadly, there’s a reason text messaging regulations require opt-ins and double opt-ins in some cases. Yes, the end user has to pay for the text, but the principle of the regulation is to ensure the customer or audience isn’t unduly inundated with crap he or she doesn’t want. There’s also a reason we have a do-not-call registry. People shouldn’t have to tolerate broadly targeted messages, marketing or not, they haven’t asked for, at least when it comes to “personal” communications in the social media space.

Now if we can just get someone to regulate non-opt-in spam email, we’ll be set.

The bottom line is that I’m a purist when it comes to what is spam and what is not. If you don’t have to think about it, put no effort into it and you’re sending it to people who didn’t ask for it, it’s spam. Even if you run a script that places their first name in the greeting and the name of their company or website in the body. Jantsch’s tips aren’t wrong, I just philosophically disagree with the premise.

But to his points, personal contact does not scale. The time and attention one person at a small business has to give to social media is going to be the same today with 10 followers as it will be in six months with 1,000. While there’s no silver bullet, the practical tips above will keep your voice both relevant and appreciated among your audience members.

And a special thank you to James Burgos for a direct request to write this post. Or at least the practical tips part. I’m sure James probably didn’t want me to pick on Jantsch.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.janetfouts.com Janet

    What perfect timing for a post like this. I've been getting a LOT of autoposts lately and the annoyance monitor is rising. My personal favorites are the ones who trumpet the wonderful “free gift” I'll get just for following them.

    I do understand the idea of autofollow when you get so many requests every day. I gave both Twollow and SocialToo a try as an experiment and found myself following people who were not in my area of interest, “friend collectors” or spam bots. There were one or two people in the new group of followers who became closer connections, but overall it was just noise.

    I'm a firm believer that getting to know who is following me and really interacting with them is the only way to truly engage. I try to at least browse previous posts and bios if not go to the website to learn more. I would hope that people do the same when they follow me.

    As far as Dms go, I often send a DM to find out more about them. I hate it when people send out “thanks for following me” replies, especially when it's Hey @dick,@bill,@sally,@harry,@sam thanks for the follow!!!! Either try to say something constructive and join the conversation in progress or send me a DM.

  • http://www.janetfouts.com Janet

    What perfect timing for a post like this. I've been getting a LOT of autoposts lately and the annoyance monitor is rising. My personal favorites are the ones who trumpet the wonderful “free gift” I'll get just for following them.

    I do understand the idea of autofollow when you get so many requests every day. I gave both Twollow and SocialToo a try as an experiment and found myself following people who were not in my area of interest, “friend collectors” or spam bots. There were one or two people in the new group of followers who became closer connections, but overall it was just noise.

    I'm a firm believer that getting to know who is following me and really interacting with them is the only way to truly engage. I try to at least browse previous posts and bios if not go to the website to learn more. I would hope that people do the same when they follow me.

    As far as Dms go, I often send a DM to find out more about them. I hate it when people send out “thanks for following me” replies, especially when it's Hey @dick,@bill,@sally,@harry,@sam thanks for the follow!!!! Either try to say something constructive and join the conversation in progress or send me a DM.

  • http://www.changeitmarketing.com kevinurie

    Love the article, but disagree on the Twitter/Facebook integration. I used to post all my tweets on Facebook, but then realized I am spamming my Facebook Friends with my Twitter comments.

    My Facebook friends expect personal post about what I am doing, my family, etc., my twitter following does not. Maybe all your Facebook friends new what they were getting into when they found you on Facebook. I am pretty sure my old highschool and college friends on Facebook, could care less about social media and marketing, and that is what I post on Twitter about.

    Now I just wish I could choose what to post, where, within Tweetdeck. That would make working in two worlds a lot easier.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair point, Kevin. I guess it all depends on what you use each network for. I know a lot of people who refuse to use Facebook for anything other than close, personal friends. Sounds like you use it that way, which means Twitter posts aren't really appropriate for them. Good for you for recognizing that. Some people don't.

      Of course, I'm wide open and connect with a lot of people on both networks so it makes sense for me to send Tweets to both. The key for maintaining that real connection, though, is responding to folks in Facebook who might comment on the status as well as those who do in Twitter. Both are fairly manageable, even with a large network.

  • http://www.changeitmarketing.com kevinurie

    Love the article, but disagree on the Twitter/Facebook integration. I used to post all my tweets on Facebook, but then realized I am spamming my Facebook Friends with my Twitter comments.

    My Facebook friends expect personal post about what I am doing, my family, etc., my twitter following does not. Maybe all your Facebook friends new what they were getting into when they found you on Facebook. I am pretty sure my old highschool and college friends on Facebook, could care less about social media and marketing, and that is what I post on Twitter about.

    Now I just wish I could choose what to post, where, within Tweetdeck. That would make working in two worlds a lot easier.

  • http://www.changeitmarketing.com kevinurie

    Love the article, but disagree on the Twitter/Facebook integration. I used to post all my tweets on Facebook, but then realized I am spamming my Facebook Friends with my Twitter comments.

    My Facebook friends expect personal post about what I am doing, my family, etc., my twitter following does not. Maybe all your Facebook friends new what they were getting into when they found you on Facebook. I am pretty sure my old highschool and college friends on Facebook, could care less about social media and marketing, and that is what I post on Twitter about.

    Now I just wish I could choose what to post, where, within Tweetdeck. That would make working in two worlds a lot easier.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Matt – Not sure how I let myself get sucked into this so deeply, but here I go again!

    It's funny how the storm brews over the follow DMs. Due to this polite discussion hosted by Jason, I received a handful of, let me see, “you suck” kind of tweets. I'm very ok with that, but then I reply back with an offer to discuss how much I suck, and nothing?

    So, the purists who think auto DM is evil think ignoring genuine replies to have a conversation is okay – that's when this entire discussion gets silly!

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Matt – Not sure how I let myself get sucked into this so deeply, but here I go again!

    It's funny how the storm brews over the follow DMs. Due to this polite discussion hosted by Jason, I received a handful of, let me see, “you suck” kind of tweets. I'm very ok with that, but then I reply back with an offer to discuss how much I suck, and nothing?

    So, the purists who think auto DM is evil think ignoring genuine replies to have a conversation is okay – that's when this entire discussion gets silly!

  • http://www.mattjmcd.com Matt J McDonald

    Jon,

    Absolutely agree with you there. It's a little ridiculous when people try to pull the “holier than thou” routine, and then don't have the integrity to actually discuss it.

    While the follow DMs wouldn't be my choice, I still think that if you want to do it, then go for. After all, if people don't like it, then they don't have to follow you.

  • http://www.mattjmcd.com Matt J McDonald

    Jon,

    Absolutely agree with you there. It's a little ridiculous when people try to pull the “holier than thou” routine, and then don't have the integrity to actually discuss it.

    While the follow DMs wouldn't be my choice, I still think that if you want to do it, then go for. After all, if people don't like it, then they don't have to follow you.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Amen. Enough said.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Amen. Enough said.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Good advice, Stuart. It becomes increasingly more difficult with the size of your business, though. To John's point, where to you manage that gray area between managing it yourself and bringing on more people to help you? It's not a clear cut thing, but certainly a fun discussion point. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Good advice, Stuart. It becomes increasingly more difficult with the size of your business, though. To John's point, where to you manage that gray area between managing it yourself and bringing on more people to help you? It's not a clear cut thing, but certainly a fun discussion point. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Bravo! Well said. I love the tape recorder/iPod analogy. Great points.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Bravo! Well said. I love the tape recorder/iPod analogy. Great points.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Certainly an argument can be made for the success of them. But just like one in every 10 telemarketer calls gets through and I actually talk to the person, the chances of a connection are certainly there. Some people aren't as pure about the whole spam thing as I am and are receptive to it. I also think there's an element of unsuspecting victim (okay, that's strong). They don't realize it's an auto responder and think the big best-selling book dude is “emailing” them.

    Still, you're right that if the opportunity to connect is paved by the autoresponder, it may well be worth doing. I just wouldn't use it on principle alone. I also think with the continued monetization of networks like Twitter and influx of marketers, they're going to get as over-bearing as the telemarketing phone calls quickly.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Certainly an argument can be made for the success of them. But just like one in every 10 telemarketer calls gets through and I actually talk to the person, the chances of a connection are certainly there. Some people aren't as pure about the whole spam thing as I am and are receptive to it. I also think there's an element of unsuspecting victim (okay, that's strong). They don't realize it's an auto responder and think the big best-selling book dude is “emailing” them.

    Still, you're right that if the opportunity to connect is paved by the autoresponder, it may well be worth doing. I just wouldn't use it on principle alone. I also think with the continued monetization of networks like Twitter and influx of marketers, they're going to get as over-bearing as the telemarketing phone calls quickly.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Interesting point. I can certainly see where someone might be lulled into thinking of their community of followers that way. I guess I try to see Twitter or other networks where people might listen to me as a big cocktail party or social gathering. I like to work the room, having conversations with a lot of different people. I may not stop and chat the first time through, but I'll be back tomorrow. I certainly get as much or more from my community than I give. Maybe that's the measuring stick of how genuine your level of participation is?

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Interesting point. I can certainly see where someone might be lulled into thinking of their community of followers that way. I guess I try to see Twitter or other networks where people might listen to me as a big cocktail party or social gathering. I like to work the room, having conversations with a lot of different people. I may not stop and chat the first time through, but I'll be back tomorrow. I certainly get as much or more from my community than I give. Maybe that's the measuring stick of how genuine your level of participation is?

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    I certainly apologize for my part in cluttering your Twitter with “you sucks.” Not my intent. Good on you for calling them on it, though.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    I certainly apologize for my part in cluttering your Twitter with “you sucks.” Not my intent. Good on you for calling them on it, though.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Limits and filters are great to have, Vince. Great points. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Limits and filters are great to have, Vince. Great points. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Well said, Janet. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Well said, Janet. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Fair point, Kevin. I guess it all depends on what you use each network for. I know a lot of people who refuse to use Facebook for anything other than close, personal friends. Sounds like you use it that way, which means Twitter posts aren't really appropriate for them. Good for you for recognizing that. Some people don't.

    Of course, I'm wide open and connect with a lot of people on both networks so it makes sense for me to send Tweets to both. The key for maintaining that real connection, though, is responding to folks in Facebook who might comment on the status as well as those who do in Twitter. Both are fairly manageable, even with a large network.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Fair point, Kevin. I guess it all depends on what you use each network for. I know a lot of people who refuse to use Facebook for anything other than close, personal friends. Sounds like you use it that way, which means Twitter posts aren't really appropriate for them. Good for you for recognizing that. Some people don't.

    Of course, I'm wide open and connect with a lot of people on both networks so it makes sense for me to send Tweets to both. The key for maintaining that real connection, though, is responding to folks in Facebook who might comment on the status as well as those who do in Twitter. Both are fairly manageable, even with a large network.

  • http://goodwolve.blogs.com/moxieworks jacqueline

    I think that the less authentic the “tweets” the more of us that will stop using it. I like the idea of it being a cocktail party where you interact, but if I am interacting with a robot I am not going to be too happy – and will probably not return to the party. I am all for building relationships the hard way – by actually investing time and energy – ahhhh old school feels just right even in the virtual cocktail party that social media is.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed. Thanks for stopping by Jacqueline.

  • http://goodwolve.blogs.com/moxieworks jacqueline

    I think that the less authentic the “tweets” the more of us that will stop using it. I like the idea of it being a cocktail party where you interact, but if I am interacting with a robot I am not going to be too happy – and will probably not return to the party. I am all for building relationships the hard way – by actually investing time and energy – ahhhh old school feels just right even in the virtual cocktail party that social media is.

  • http://goodwolve.blogs.com/moxieworks jacqueline

    I think that the less authentic the “tweets” the more of us that will stop using it. I like the idea of it being a cocktail party where you interact, but if I am interacting with a robot I am not going to be too happy – and will probably not return to the party. I am all for building relationships the hard way – by actually investing time and energy – ahhhh old school feels just right even in the virtual cocktail party that social media is.

  • http://www.successful-blog.com Liz Strauss

    Automate? I have trouble making sense of relationships on automatic.
    Products yes. Systems yes. Communications with real people, ah, not so much.
    It's damn hard to stay intimate with customers ideas, needs, and thoughts when what we throw them is something unintriguing and flat, or worse, we ask but don't give back.

    People have so many choices and so many reasons to choose other than us. It takes so much to get someone who'll listen, why not talk to them or at least talk humanly when they're listening in on other conversations? (like on Twitter) .

    Social media is high touch form of reaching out. — if you don't have time to use it that way — please don't PRETEND to be personal. It demeans me. It wastes my time. It lowers me to the value of the lowest person you sent that message to. And if I am taken in by your folksy message, it makes me feel like a fool when I realize you were just “being personal.”

    When you thank me with junk mail — please don't think I feel your appreciation.

    I understand as well as most how scaling takes time and brings expectations. But to deliver the real thing keeps it valuable.

    People understand limited time and that you can't be every where. No one wants to be written off as a mass mailed number. Broadcasts belong to that special list of people who have asked to received what we've said we're sending.

    Personal is relational — not automational.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Couldn't be more on the same page, Liz. Thanks for the perspective and pithy quote to end it. That is why you're the queen of bloggers.

  • http://www.successful-blog.com Liz Strauss

    Automate? I have trouble making sense of relationships on automatic.
    Products yes. Systems yes. Communications with real people, ah, not so much.
    It's damn hard to stay intimate with customers ideas, needs, and thoughts when what we throw them is something unintriguing and flat, or worse, we ask but don't give back.

    People have so many choices and so many reasons to choose other than us. It takes so much to get someone who'll listen, why not talk to them or at least talk humanly when they're listening in on other conversations? (like on Twitter) .

    Social media is high touch form of reaching out. — if you don't have time to use it that way — please don't PRETEND to be personal. It demeans me. It wastes my time. It lowers me to the value of the lowest person you sent that message to. And if I am taken in by your folksy message, it makes me feel like a fool when I realize you were just “being personal.”

    When you thank me with junk mail — please don't think I feel your appreciation.

    I understand as well as most how scaling takes time and brings expectations. But to deliver the real thing keeps it valuable.

    People understand limited time and that you can't be every where. No one wants to be written off as a mass mailed number. Broadcasts belong to that special list of people who have asked to received what we've said we're sending.

    Personal is relational — not automational.

  • http://www.successful-blog.com Liz Strauss

    Automate? I have trouble making sense of relationships on automatic.
    Products yes. Systems yes. Communications with real people, ah, not so much.
    It's damn hard to stay intimate with customers ideas, needs, and thoughts when what we throw them is something unintriguing and flat, or worse, we ask but don't give back.

    People have so many choices and so many reasons to choose other than us. It takes so much to get someone who'll listen, why not talk to them or at least talk humanly when they're listening in on other conversations? (like on Twitter) .

    Social media is high touch form of reaching out. — if you don't have time to use it that way — please don't PRETEND to be personal. It demeans me. It wastes my time. It lowers me to the value of the lowest person you sent that message to. And if I am taken in by your folksy message, it makes me feel like a fool when I realize you were just “being personal.”

    When you thank me with junk mail — please don't think I feel your appreciation.

    I understand as well as most how scaling takes time and brings expectations. But to deliver the real thing keeps it valuable.

    People understand limited time and that you can't be every where. No one wants to be written off as a mass mailed number. Broadcasts belong to that special list of people who have asked to received what we've said we're sending.

    Personal is relational — not automational.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Agreed. Thanks for stopping by Jacqueline.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Agreed. Thanks for stopping by Jacqueline.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Couldn't be more on the same page, Liz. Thanks for the perspective and pithy quote to end it. That is why you're the queen of bloggers.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Couldn't be more on the same page, Liz. Thanks for the perspective and pithy quote to end it. That is why you're the queen of bloggers.

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  • http://www.greenbusinessinnovators.com Patrick

    Great discussion, so far.
    John Jantsch seems to be the only person suggesting some ideas for scaling your ability to stay in touch with people who want to be engaged.

    I would be curious to hear others?
    Thanks

  • http://www.greenbusinessinnovators.com Patrick

    Great discussion, so far.
    John Jantsch seems to be the only person suggesting some ideas for scaling your ability to stay in touch with people who want to be engaged.

    I would be curious to hear others?
    Thanks

  • http://www.greenbusinessinnovators.com Patrick

    Great discussion, so far.
    John Jantsch seems to be the only person suggesting some ideas for scaling your ability to stay in touch with people who want to be engaged.

    I would be curious to hear others?
    Thanks

  • http://www.greenbusinessinnovators.com Patrick

    Great discussion, so far.
    John Jantsch seems to be the only person suggesting some ideas for scaling your ability to stay in touch with people who want to be engaged.

    I would be curious to hear others?
    Thanks

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