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Automating Politeness

As I repeated, for what seemed like the millionth time, the phrases that so often accompany a meal with my kids:

Stop kicking the table
Chew with your mouth closed
Take a bite!
Sit up 

I thought… how wonderful it would be if I could automate that process. 
Tweet about automating politeness

What a timesaver it would be, and how much more effective? No opportunity for correction would get missed because I was busy correcting someone else, or swallowing, or blinking or breathing.
Automation can be a blessing. 
There seems to be a school of thought in social media circles that automating anything is not authentic. I disagree. Would you go back to keeping your books in a spiral notebook, or have you gotten used to software to automate many of those tasks?
How about your Tivo or DVR? Is scheduling programs to automatically record watching television in an unauthentic way? Advertisers might say, “Yes!!” but I digress….
Some social media tasks shouldn’t, in my opinion, be automated. Pulling a news or quote feed and sending it to your Twitter stream is not authentic. Scheduling a tweet to announce the blog post you completed at 3 AM so that it posts at 9 AM… I think that’s just smart. 
Listening is another social media task that can benefit from automation. Set up tools like an RSS feed of Twitter searches or Google Alerts. You don’t have to remember to go listen that way…. You just have to respond. And response is one of those tasks that shouldn’t be automated. Conversation cannot be automated, either… Posting tweets or status messages all day when you are not there to respond to a question, comment or conversation is not authentic. 
If I ever figure out how to automate table manners, I’ll let you know. I promise. In return, would you let me know what your favorite tools for automating social media tasks are? And why?  

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7 Responses to “Automating Politeness”

  1. Aaron October 4, 2009 at 8:49 pm #

    Good post. Not sure I know when automation can be authentic. And maybe, the question isn’t about automation but the language used, after all, there are many spoken words that lack an authentic flair. Just as empathy does not come from a timely act, but a genuine act maybe sending a tweet is more about what makes for genuine communication, automated or not.

    • Mandy Vavrinak October 4, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

      Genuineness is another great measure of what “authentic” means… the word “authentic” is fast becoming another overused buzzword. Perhaps your thought about defining what’s authentic by the intent (genuineness) of the communication could be a good “gut check” for automation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  2. Heidi Cool October 4, 2009 at 11:02 pm #

    I believe in selective automation. As we discussed tonight on #blogchat, I autofeed my Google Reader Shares and Delicious saves to my personal Facebook page. I don’t visit my FB page (or update my status) very often, so this allows me to share information with my followers on a more regular basis. (I update my Facebook business page manually with one Web related tip/link per day.)

    I share stories from Google Reader as I’m skimming my feeds, with a focus on stories related to Web development, marketing and social media. I save things to Delicious all day long, whether I’m doing research for a client project, looking for a solution to a technical problem or searching for the perfect recipe for chocolate torte.

    Like you I do auto-post my blog posts to Twitter (and Facebook and LinkedIn) but I don’t cross-post regular messages across multiple services. For example I see my Facebook and Twitter followers as being different audiences, deserving of unique messages. At the same time I recognize that there is some crossover between them–thus I don’t want to bore people by making them read the same thing in multiple places.

    Basically I just try to give my various audiences first priority. If using automation will both save me time and help give them good content, then I’ll do it. If automation reduces the quality of the content then I won’t. It’s just about finding the right balance.

    • Mandy Vavrinak October 4, 2009 at 11:06 pm #

      Heidi,
      I think you’re right about needing to differentiate audiences and respecting that those who are connected to us in more than one place don’t want to necessarily read the same content twice. Need to choose what to automate, and for what reasons… and if the reasons allow better sharing of relevant content specific to an interested audience, I’m all for it! 🙂

  3. Mark Alves October 18, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

    FreeRangeInc is handy for consuming an RSS feed of a Twitter search on a mobile device.

    As far as oft-repeated commands to children go, personalization can be helpful here as it is with social media. For example, change up the wording (don’t auto-blast across all your channels and don’t auto-criticize the kids), praise when you see the right behavior (akin to commenting on someone else’s blog) and ask questions (are you chewing with your mouth open? works the same way as asking your readers questions instead of telling them how to behave).

    • Mandy Vavrinak October 18, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

      I like the idea of asking questions, too… think that may be effective with my middle daughter. Sometimes we concentrate too much on the negative, both with kids and comments. And thanks for the tip about FreeRangeInc… will check that out!

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