Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

On the Importance of Authentic Social Media Engagement

By Dennis D. McDonald

I recently had a discussion with Robyn Tippins on Google+. I know Robyn from our podcasting days and from Linkedin Bloggers. Robyn, who recently moved to Read Write Web to serve as Community Manager, had mentioned  she was hoping it would be possible to schedule posts in advance on Google+:

When are we going to get the chance to schedule Google Plus posts? 

We have a live chat coming up on Tuesday and I want to promote it as much on Google Plus as I already do on Facebook and Twitter, but I can’t unless I schedule reminders to myself to manually post (and the Google Plus traffic isn’t worth that type of commitment just yet).

If you want us to use this as much or more than we use Facebook and Twitter, allow us to use it as easily as we use Facebook and Twitter!

This is how I responded:

Robyn, I have a really mixed feeling about this. While I promote my own interests and posts here and on Twitter, I would really prefer to screen out automatically generated or automatically posted announcements. The reason is simple: I like to know there is someone else pushing the buttons at the other end, even to reshare stuff. When a system gains the ability to easily schedule (and by extension, automatically generate) materials for publishing, the flood gates are open for auto-generated posts that contribute little to engagement. This results ins a system like Twitter which sometimes takes on the appearance of a massive stream of public service announcements and advertisements. I understand that this has turned out to be one of the marketing related applications of social media but one of the things I like most about Google+ is the quality of engagement potential it generates for me. I’d hate to see that degraded by autoposting.

Why did I say that? Two reasons.

First, I like to know when I read something online, especially on a service like Google+, that it was (a) written by a live human being and (b) not just broadcast automatically. I enjoy meeting and conversing with people and when impersonal or automated services start to take over social media channels, as has happened at Twitter, their value to me significantly degrades.

Second, I like to be able to filter or sequester posts made on behalf of organizations as opposed to individuals. Do I really care that the local dealer I bought my car from has added a new line of automobiles or has won a contest for best service? Maybe, maybe not.

Not all such announcements are advertisements, of course, as evidenced by the large number of nonprofits that use services such as Twitter. But many organizations do approach social media as just another advertising channel where effectiveness is measured by the number of exposures or clicks that are generated, not by more difficult-to-measure effectiveness or communication related metrics. In such an environment “ad impressions” become just as much of a yardstick as the easily-gamed “circulation” statistics proferred by many newspapers.

Maybe all this just makes me a curmudgeon. But when I see someone’s face next to an online post and I know that person personally or by reputation, I want to believe that that person wrote that post and is interested in engaging with me. That’s really all there is to it. 

What do you think?

Copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald

Who Cares if Business and Brands are "Social"?

Five Podcasts I'm Listening To Now - Oct. 2011