Ryan Holmes in Fortune – Here come the tweeting robots

fortune logoA column by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes was featured on the Fortune Magazine website yesterday.  Holmes weighs in on how automation is changing the face of social media.  You can check out the story, and find out whether a robot can tweet better than you can, here.

Holmes points out that social media is demanding increasing resources from companies today.  Dell, for example, tracks 25,000 posts a day about the brand.  To keep up with the workload, a growing number of companies are literally taking the social out of social media, i.e. automating functions that range from scheduling tweets and posts to actually generating content.

While this enables brands to deal with the growing customer load on social media, there are also major risks.  Real, human interaction is at the core of social media.  Replacing people with robots obviously compromises that.

Automated Assists

But, Holmes explains, there are many ways to automate without losing the human touch.  Auto-listening tools, which track mentions and keywords in social conversations, are already common on social media systems including HootSuite and represent huge time-savers.

Auto-scheduling and content optimizing features, which help assess when and what to post or tweet also promise to streamline social media campaigns.  HootSuite recently introduced AutoSchedule to its Hootlet browser extension, which automatically selects an optimum time for publishing on Facebook and Twitter in order to maximize reach and avoid swamping followers with too many messages at once.

Other tools actually help to guide content creation by matching prospective tweets and posts against what a company’s followers are talking about in real-time on social networks.  These features promise to play a big role in the emerging field of paid social advertising.  Automatically optimized messages can be easily converted into high-impact promoted stories and tweets that show up right in users’ streams.

Finally, there are automated tools that don’t just optimize social media content – They actually create it.  Examples include sophisticated Twitter bots that can engage in seemingly real conversations, as well as virtual agents that can respond to users’ comments in Facebook.  These tools can be helpful in communicating basic, FAQ-style information, but their use should be limited, Holmes warns: “When consumers used to turning to social media for real, human intervention and connection end up running up against yet another automated message, the results may not be pretty.”

Time Saving Tools

At the end of the day, the best solution to the automation dilemma is found in social media management systems (including HootSuite, of course) which integrate proven automated listening and scheduling with features that help real people connect better.  HootSuite’s streamlined dashboard, for instance, makes it easy for big teams to collaborate – leaving more time for the one-on-one, personal interactions that social media was made for.

For the full story, check out Holmes’ article on the Fortune website.