Automation - ready or not, here it comes (and there’s no escaping it). Grocery stores with self-checkouts, smart home systems, and even conversations, the online ones. Ever since the tools automating comments on social platforms have appeared, you can’t be sure if you’re talking with a real person or a bot anymore.
People use auto comments for different reasons - the most frequent one is simply the lack of time to keep up with the pace of the ever-growing social channels. But there are also different objectives behind the practice, and if you consider starting your adventure with bots or other automation tools, this article will guide you through all the hows and whys (and ifs!) of setting up auto-comments.
1. Automation misapplied
Automating comments is usually associated with two utterly different practices: presetting replies to repetitive comments, and setting up bots that initiate interactions with social media users to drive attention to your profile . The latter is frequently used in the case of Instagram, where most bots do three things: like posts, follow users, and post comments.
As far as comments are concerned, you need to preset the exact content of the automated comments in the first place, minding your target audience. Let’s say you’re based in Canada and you sell toys for cats. You want to reach cat owners from all over your country to grow your community and attract possible clients.
You set up generic auto-comments like “I love it!” or “Sweet” to suit the broadest spectrum of contexts. Then you define cat lovers in Canada as your target audience (basing on several hashtags). Congrats, your bot’s ready to start posting!
But, uh-oh, wait up! The bot has just posted “I love it!” to somebody’s photo of their late cat. And the person turns out to be a cat lovers guru in Canada.
One random comment may trigger unexpected consequences and result in an unpleasant user experience. Before you ever consider installing a bot, mind that you don’t really have control over its activity. If things go awry, it may ruin your brand’s image, lead to an Instagram ban, and actually contribute to the failure of your business. Sometimes, it takes only one seemingly innocent comment.
Last but not least - Instagram identifies spammy comments added by bots as an inauthentic activity that is against the platform’s terms of service.
2. Automation demystified
Automation is not utterly a bad practice. Used smartly, it can actually do much good. One positive example of how the technology can be leveraged is automating the moderation of social media comments. Although in more complex issues, moderators should personally engage in answering questions, there are also repetitive ones that can be addressed with ready-made templates. Here’s what auto-replies can do:
- solve simple issues - whenever a customer asks about fixed information like sizing, pricing, or opening hours;
- provide information - if the team is offline or in a different time zone, auto-replies may provide information regarding the expected waiting time for an answer;
- redirect issues requiring urgent attention - to other communication channels like a relevant email address or phone number;
- elevate the customer experience - whenever somebody appreciates your work or product, you should always take your time to say thank you. Well, actually, with automation it doesn’t really take time at all ;)
3. It’s not all about replies
Sadly, not all social media users are reaching out to start constructive conversations or seek help. As an administrator of a public space, whether it’s an actual space or an online one, you should take care of keeping it nice and tidy.
Some automation tools allow you to automatically hide or delete comments. Here are some examples of junky contents that should be immediately removed from your online space:
- comments that include racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks, hateful language, and inappropriate photo content;
- spammy links or links containing viruses;
- promotional links redirecting to one’s website or profile.
Remember that hiding or deleting comments may turn out to be a losing game. Some negative remarks naturally trigger delete reflexes but they also create a perfect opportunity to provide excellent social customer service. Instead of automatically hiding or deleting negative content, try to invite clients to talk to you in private messages or resolve their issues publicly, in comments.
4. Best practices
So spam is something that you shouldn’t accept - keep that in mind while presetting your automation tool. Facebook explicates spam as sending bulk messages, excessively posting links or images to people's timelines, and sending friend requests to people you don't know personally.
Including links in your auto-replies or replying in private messages, especially if your answer includes far beyond the expected information and if it’s overly promotional, poses the threat of a ban. Avoid it by all means.
In order to give the automated response a more individual feel, preset varied replies for each trigger (a word or phrase that has to be used in a social comment or message to set off the auto-reply). Think about several different answers you can give someone asking about, for example, the opening hours of a bistro:
- Hey @name! We’re open Mon-Sun 8am-10pm.
- We’re open every day from 8 am till 10 pm, come visit!
- @name from Monday till Sunday from 8 am till 10 pm, come whenever you’re hungry :)
And there are plenty of different ways to say one simple thing, be creative! It will apply the human feel to your answers and, in result, make each and every follower feel truly heard and respected.
Certain automation tools allow targeting different audiences with automated replies. In this way, you may preset your replies to apply only to users tagged in your CRM as regular customers, internet trolls, or leads. You may also exclude certain users from your automated communication, for example, influencers, who you’d probably like to deal with personally.
Save yourself some time to track and verify your automated replies. Check how they are working; if you find that something is wrong, introducing certain changes like extending or limiting the list of your trigger words should be enough.
Having a personalized little helper that will handle simple and repetitive issues saving you loads of time sounds like a game changer. Make sure to use automation wisely, observe how it works, and introduce changes if needed.
Always give your replies that human touch - you don’t want to sound like a robot, do you? Respect all social channels’ official position towards external tools, and choose only these ones that comply with their rules.