One of the big takeaways from 2017’s Social Media Marketing World conference was the emergence of super-cool, sci-fi-level, artificial intelligence and chatbot technologies. Automated tasks, offers, and communication are the future! Yet, another major takeaway was the reminder that human connection is paramount for building strong and lasting relationships with your subscribers and customers. That sounds like a contradiction, how does one reconcile the two?
How can you personalize automated communications and still be authentic? This balance between the convenience of automation and the importance of authenticity requires that we take a fresh look at mass communication and realize that…
We Automate to be Human
While writing my first book Sell Local, Think Global, I had the good fortune to interview Rob Hatch, the president and co-founder of Owner Media with Chris Brogan. Rob and Chris pioneered using email automated tools to connect, and take that connection to a personal level based on responses from their subscribers. We got to discuss their unique and pioneering approach to automation.
Rob and Chris set out to achieve several goals:
- Grow their email subscriber network
- Systematically send out thousands of customized emails
- Track key analytics as subscribers clicked through emails
- Formulate a follow-up strategy with an offer that adapted to those analytics
- Enhance the revenue stream from those subsequent online sales
How’d they do?
Within a year, they bumped their online sales from 5% to 40% of their overall income. That’s a big hike!
Rob coordinated and scheduled thousands of emails to be released through an automated engagement process – and then, came the magic. “The difference happens after the email is sent…the value of mass communication is telling a large audience that your door is open, so leave time to directly interact with those who take you up on your offer.”
Leaving the Door Open
Now that you’ve reached out, the next step is engagement. You’ve invited your subscribers to interact with you, and this is an opportunity to authentically help others. You engage, rub elbows with your tribe, and find out who’s sitting on their hands waiting for the next season of Stranger Things. For your subscribers, this is an opportunity to interact directly with you. Chris Brogan and Rob Hatch take a unique approach to responding, they personally respond to every subscriber who reaches out – even if it is a single-line email. When I reached out to Rob recently, sharing my excitement about AI and chatbots from the Social Media Marketing World, he responded:
I’m excited about chatbots and ai as well. When implemented well, I think they can be great examples of our "To Automate is Human" approach. Take people through a short journey with the underlying intention of connecting with them personally.
Rob’s response is short and to the point, but personal, conversational, and informative. Rob applies his unique perspective in his automated correspondence. He uses automated delivery of the plain-text messages, and keeps them simple, but very personal:
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence were some of the most talked about topics at the event. They’re not new. They’re here. And there is a tremendous opportunity for businesses which has yet to be fully understood.
But as interesting as it all is, and as much as I will be paying attention to it, there was something else I couldn’t shake.
We automate to be human.
Yes, let’s talk!
Rob is inviting his tribe to reach out and wants to make sure they have the most direct path available. He looks at it like a relationship with a brick-and-mortar store. No matter the question, no matter the customer, “I would never turn them away.”
One of the biggest mistakes made with technology is putting something out in the world (like a website, or a social media page) and failing to engage people when they reach out. Social media is the behemoth that it is because it is all engagement! When you follow someone on FaceBook, InstaGram, or Twitter you feel like you have a personal relationship, you are engaged with what is happening in that person’s life.
In the very near future email communications will be supplemented by, or give way completely to, personal messaging communications on sites like SnapChat and WhatsApp. This is where AI and Chat Bots come into play. You have the opportunity to use that first layer, like Rob does, to engage and make offers that feel personal. Once you have engaged, stay human! Everything comes down to how you engage, so if you want to do business, network, partner with people, or just be friendly, regardless of the technology, you have to engage so that your (future or current) customer spends their time with you!