Image by Chris Isherwood via flickr

Don’t Hire Robots: Why The Human Touch Still Rules on Social Media

Jeanette will be taking on this subject in more detail as one of Hootsuite’s SXSW 2015 speakers. Learn more about her session here. And discover all of Hootsuite’s SXSW 2015 activities here.

While headlines of “Robots Taking Our Jobs” might seem a little sensational, the discussion around automation has always had a place in social media. We can automatically send or schedule on Twitter, Facebook and beyond, but robots just don’t cut it when it comes to engaging with customers. To building customer relationships, you need to be human.

What the human touch means on social media

The human touch is the best way to forge a link between an organization and its supporters (read: customers). NPR recently did an experiment where they replaced automatic Twitter updates with a staff member manually creating Tweets for five days. During that period they saw a 45% increase in website traffic referred from their Twitter account. They also gained 14% more followers than the previous week. This is why you can’t rely on robots.

The lessons from failed efforts to replace humans with social media bots are also instructive when it comes to hiring and training employees, as businesses work toward scaling social. Choose employees who are willing to own social media by becoming brand ambassadors and the main point of connection with customers, who then become brand ambassadors in turn. Just as important is training your employees to communicate on social with a human touch.

People don’t want to be shouted at. They want to be engaged with like human beings. That means using emotions, from humor to sympathy, in online conversations and in the content we create. On a customer service level, it means quick and personable service on social media; it means a human touch.

Enable your employees to become social without becoming robots

For your employees to become brand ambassadors, you need to enable them to be social the right way. Here are four tips to help you do it:

1) Allow them to put time and resources into social media on a day-to-day basis: So often we read about businesses banning social networks for regular employees. We should be encouraging staff to get onto Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn while at work. Not only are these incredible resources for lead generation, competitor analysis, industry news, and learning, but they’re an amazing platform on which your employees become brand ambassadors.

2) Train them on social media tools and social media etiquette: Doing so ensures that they know how to respond to people in any situation on every social network. It also ensures they’re acting in an appropriate way and using the tools correctly. Part of this should involve security training, and providing a secure social media management tool which will greatly reduce the likelihood of error.

3) Trust them to act on behalf of your business on social media: This is a tough step for many businesses, but employees need to be empowered to connect with customers and prospects in a very personal way online. Encourage them to brand their professional social media accounts and reach out to people who might be interested in your business. Allow them to connect with followers and share their knowledge about your company or product. Your employees will put on their best face if they know they’re representing the company online.

4) Consider rewarding employees who are dedicated to promoting your business on social media: A reward doesn’t need to be financial. Give your employees recognition for their social media skills on LinkedIn. Make a note of their performance at your next team meeting. Allow them to participate in your social media strategy planning. If employees are your best brand ambassadors, then like any ambassador, offering incentives will help keep them interested and committed to your social media efforts.

Join me at SXSW 2015 for my session

Don’t Hire Robots: The Human Touch in Social Media