Social Media Automation

I was moderating a panel at the Corporate Social Media Summit in NYC yesterday, joined by representatives from Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, H&R Block and Radian6.  One of the questions that came up during our discussion of “Using Social Media for Brand Preservation and Enhancement” was:

As consumers increasingly expect real-time online responsiveness from B2C brands, how is it possible to scale to meet that demand? 

Sarah Carver of Radian6 tossed off what I thought was a fascinating concept to explore.  I am paraphrasing liberally here, but Sarah suggested that the day may come when certain online Customer Service tasks are “automated,” allowing human agents to deal with the more complex issues that crop up.

Rba1_08At first, this concept got my dander up.  Do we really want the whole “Press 0 for an Operator” paradigm that we all HATE when we use 800 #s replicated on our beautiful Social Web?

But on reflection, I think this might be fine for basic tasks, e.g., “Hey @ChickfilA, where can I get a chicken burger around here?” might get a geo-targeted and automated Siri-style response.  I can even see something like, “Hey @AAA, my tire blew out, come help” and getting a DM from AAA to confirm your location and assure you “help is on the way.”  But when I am pissed that my cable is out, or my PS3 hard-drive died (#firstworldproblems), I am only going to be more peeved to receive a bot response as I rant into the socialverse.  It’s a tricky line to walk.

Marketers and Customer Service executives must be vigorously encouraged to remember that the original promise and JOY of social media was the humanization of brands.  “Holy crap, @FrankatComcast just responded to my pissy tweet and they’re sending a guy over! w00t!”

Nobody wants to return to the days of automation for automation’s sake.  Consumers want to feel empowered, not sidestepped.  If the day comes when you need to “tweet 0 for an Operator,” I’ll be the first barbarian at the gate.

Disclosures: H&R Block, AAA and Radian6 are SHIFT clients.



Posted on: June 14, 2012 at 10:08 am By Todd Defren
11 Responses to “Social Media Automation”

 

Comments
  • Although the business is young, there are a lot of players out there already. New entrants include Adobe Social, which employs Adobe acquisitions Context Optional and Omniture; BuddyMedia, which is optimizing earned content to be ads with its Brighter Option acquisition; Bazaarvoice, which has introduced a solution to launch social ads outside of traditional social networks; and Webtrends Social, which tracks social content off domain, ads and their performance back to the corporate website; and finally, Wildfire which has partnered with Adaptly to measure the paid-to-owned transition.

  • I’m glad Sara clarified. But I’m not sure people use social media to ask companies questions about hours and locations. That’s what their websites and mobile apps do. Because its easier and you are guaranteed an answer.

    Does anybody expect a company to answer every inquiry on social channels? I don’t think people expect that kind of discourse, especially on Twitter. They tweet when they are frustrated and can’t get help on other channels. And the automation you’re discussing is really about “Twitter” not on all social platforms.

    But definitely an issue we’ll see coming up more often.

  • vernon niven says:

    We’ve tested our tool for automated outreach marketing (detecting and meeting the needs of people who don’t follow your brand but could use your help)… and it does work in some situations. Lots more upside available.

    But for now, we don’t offer automated response for one simple reason: Twitter does not allow automated messaging on their service. TwitAdder and other tools were recently sued by Twitter for breaching this policy.

  • Larry says:

    Scalability is an issue I have been giving some thought to, Todd. Google could multiply revenues if they had better customer service, but they will only talk to you after the $10K – 100K per month level. The $300 month guy isn’t profitable, they say.

    So I guess social media is still figuring out how to segue from the social aspects to the business function aspects.

  • Hey Todd, I hope that companies get more involved in real-time social channels. If a bit of automation helps, that’s great but as you say not if it means nonsense like phone tree hell.

  • Sarah carver says:

    Thanks Todd and to explain further in terms of automation, I am more in favor of a process that allows all customer tweets that ask about store hours and location to be routed to a certain agent, there by stream lining the process and making the process more efficient. Then that agent would still reply to the customer, I am a big believer of that one to one approach.

    • Todd Defren says:

      But even that could wind up swamping a Customer Service group, eh? I think as consumers get more attuned to services like Siri (which itself is bound to improve), they’ll be OK with a certain level of SM automation (for basic requests). The trick is to make sure that brands don’t tread *too far* over that line.

    • Todd Defren says:

      But even that could wind up swamping a Customer Service group, eventually, eh? I think as consumers get more attuned to services like Siri (which itself is bound to improve), they’ll be OK with a certain level of SM automation (for basic requests). The trick is to make sure that brands don’t tread *too far* over that line.



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