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

About Dan Shure

Hi! I'm Dan Shure. I write all of the posts and host all of the podcast episodes you'll find on the Evolving SEO blog. Say hello on Twitter @dan_shure!


  • December 30, 2014 Reply

    Darren Moloney

    Likewise, same here Dan…. thing is I’ve found when it comes to clients a lot are happy whether it’s automated social media or not (they just want posts out the door)… I’ll schedule posts though based on user behaviour… in some sectors we find social media at around 9pm GMT works well… I’ll auto schedule and then monitor but rarely do I post manually at those times, got to have some work/life balance…

    • December 31, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Right, for clients and businesses one may have to use some automation – as I should clarify I’m mainly speaking of personal accounts. That said, there are some rare exceptions where people have built up so much “equity” (trust, “real-ness”, engagement, listening, sharing value etc) – they can get away with a little automation here or there.

  • January 13, 2015 Reply

    Adam from BOLD ROCKET

    Great post Dan. I just tweeted this.

    I think it is really important to be yourself in social media – not necessarily going “wide” (aka. having as many followers as possible) but building deep relationships, even with the smaller group of very relevant and engaged community. Having said that I also believe there are some areas for automation in engagement building. For example we use Storify in a welcome message to our new followers. The assumption is that they would like to get to know us better so we have created a small board introducing what BOLD ROCKET is about.

    Thank you for a great post!


  • November 5, 2015 Reply


    Thanks, Dan! Great post!
    I agree that personalization is very important in social media, of couse automatic scheduling of posts is much more easier, but maybe this way you can loose some of your audience.

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