Automation vs Using Bots - What's the Difference?

September 27, 2018
by Laura

The other day on Instagram I was talking about the widespread use of bots on social media, but particularly on Instagram.

I’m sure you’ve encountered it - some big Instagram account comments on your photo with a “wow, love this photo!” and you’re pleased: a big grammer likes your content! But then it happens again: “wow, love this photo!” and now you’re suspicious. By the third time, your finger is hovering over the block button. You’re annoyed now, you probably don’t like that grammer anymore and you’re feeling disheartened by the whole platform.

So why do people do it?

This is the question I asked, and while I was doing it, I thought about the irony of the fact that as soon as I hit “Post” I knew the same photo would be automatically posted to my Twitter account, thanks to a bot I’d set up with IFTTT. There I was, complaining about bots and it’s lacking sense of community, while relying on automation to keep my Twitter feed interesting. Why do I see that kind of automation acceptable, while getting miffed about bot comments?

Automation is a legitimate time-saving tool in marketing and some of it, I swear by (like IFTTT). Utilising a tool like Buffer, Hootsuite or Tailwind can literally save you hours of time, ensuring your social media remains up-to-date and engaging while you’re managing the myriad of other tasks you need to tackle that day. So what’s the difference? Save time posting content or save time commenting and engaging with your community?

To me, what it comes down to is reputation. As marketers, we need to think about how what we’re doing may look to our audience and how it makes them feel. Genuine comments can do amazing things for community outreach where it builds trust and genuine affection for your brand. When bloggers, grammers and brands break that trust by faking comments and engagement it can do significant reputational damage. As someone who spends a lot of time on Instagram both for my work and my personal blog, I know the people who are doing it and I’ve already decided I don’t want to work with them. Yes, I’m probably more invested than some, and also pretty observant. And yes, I’m just one person, but I know I’m not alone in noticing it.

So when making the decision between automation and bots, always think about how your actions will translate to your audience. Scheduling tweets, pins and Facebook posts in advance is barely going to be noticed, and is a completely acceptable way of ensuring you’re posting at the optimal time. Managing your content this way is still genuine and authentic because you’re still the one writing it - it’s just being posted at another time.

Using bots to interact with your community seems like the opposite of building a community. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and think about what it could do for your brand outreach if your followers received an authentic comment from you? You’re now a real person, you now have a real connection and they’re probably much more likely to check out your profile and see what you’re about. And they’ll definitely stay away from the block button.

At the risk of sounding self-serving, if you feel like you don’t have time to engage with your audience, then hire someone to do it for you (teehee!). But seriously, while plenty of accounts with huge followings do get away with using bots every single day, that's not the message I want to send to my audience! What about you?

Cheers, Laura x

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Automation vs Bots: What's the Difference
What is the difference between automation and bots?

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I acknowledge the First Nations people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which I live and work, i.e. Meanjin, Brisbane. Sovereignty was never ceded.
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