What do you think a public speaker cares more about? How many people are in the room, or how many of those people seemed engaged in what they are saying? I don’t think anyone would disagree that engagement is the ultimate goal.
When someone is engaged, they become involved. A switch in their psychology is turned on. Another way to put it is, they are filtering out everything else going on except for what they are paying attention to. The person coughing. The fact they need to pick up dinner later. Text messages. They don’t matter.
Engagement is really about choice. Someone chooses to read this tweet over that tweet. Engagement is the ability to get someone to ignore other things, to pay attention to you. And prevent – at all costs – being the one who ignored for something else.
Yet when we talk about achieving “engagement” in social media, do we really mean it? Not if we’re over-automating, I don’t think. That tweet might achieve an impression but did your follower really give it their attention?
You don’t really give all the tweets in your stream equal attention right? You probably pay 80% of your attention to 20% of the people you follow. Why? This is our brain’s natural filters at work – paying attention to who we’ve defined as important by unconscious habit.
I think we can agree the goals of being on social media are pretty straightforward if you don’t complicate it: build an audience, build relationships and yes, drive results like clicks and traffic.
So the logic seems simple. “If I’m not going to be online for a day, I can automate some updates, I’ll get some more impressions, more re-tweets, more clicks and more traffic. Hey, I can do that everyday and I barely ever have to be online, and I’ll still get traffic!”
But there’s a fallacy. You’re playing the numbers game and not the human game. Numbers are the result of being human but not the original input or cause of those results.
I’ve tried scheduling social media posts in the past. Sure, I gained some extra chances to get “impressions” but what I felt I lost in return was not worth the trade off. It’s like people can tell I’m not really there – so they gradually are not really there either. This is bad. People ignoring you or your brand is what you want to avoid at all costs.
There’s a natural ebb and flow of conversation on social media, especially Twitter. If you pay attention, you can ride that ebb and flow to your advantage, and time your posts just right. To resonate with the sentiments, feelings and discussion happening at that moment. You can get a sense for how many people are “online” and might be more likely to pay attention.
I love how the late Steven Covey said you can be effective with people but not efficient. But that’s the mistake people make. Automation is trying to be efficient with your social media at the expense of being effective. When you over-automate – your feed becomes more about you and what you can get rather than a two-way street. A conversation. A chance to help someone. All relationships should be give and take. Even online.
In social media, I believe the person being MORE authentic, MORE real-time – will be the ones you’ll train yourself to pay more attention to in the long run.
But for me it’s not just about getting clicks, traffic, re-tweets or favorites. Automation just doesn’t feel right. So I will never do it. I’m not saying there’s no place for automation ever, and certainly don’t have anything against some of the wonderful social media tools out there. It’s just not how I will ever approach social media.
The funny thing, is not only are we disconnected from the person we’re with in real life at dinner, because we’re checking Twitter. We’re not even connected to half the people tweeting – because they’re not there either.
*Watch image via Frank J. on Flickr