To congratulate or no? The question of authenticity in automation

By Kristen Nauss, Marketing Director

I recently hit a major milestone in my career; my voice work career is now old enough to drink. YAY! 21 years of getting paid to read copy and give it life. Some copy has been really boring legalese – sorry to those folks who had to endure lectures on copyright infringement – and some has been a ton of fun – a certain pancake house with sexy waffles was a hoot! All in all, 21 years at anything gives call for celebration. At least that’s what LinkedIn thinks.

When someone in your LinkedIn connections list reaches a milestone, you’ll receive a notification to potentially congratulate that person. You have an option to click on the thumbs-up icon to “like” the anniversary or to send a little message saying “Congrats on the anniversary! Hope you’re doing well.” This is awesome! Right?

I’d say yes… and no.

In an age where everyone is becoming a potential lead, a target, a contact, etc. it’s hard to see where the true partners end and just-another-notch-on-the-LinkedIn-bedpost begin. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the well wishes, but I just received over 20 of the same exact message in less than 10 minutes. Does that scream sincere to you?

It’s not that they aren’t wonderful people, it’s that they aren’t using the medium properly.

I recently stumbled on two great blog posts – “Why we’re throwing out all of our lead forms and making content free” by Dave Gerhardt of Drift, and “Stop treating me like a piece of shit.” by Jon Westenberg.

Both blogs refer to the importance of human interaction. Bots are cool and can help us manage communication with prospects and connections, but bots and automated messages/responses don’t engage human-to-human interaction… Humans do!

According to Dave Gerhardt, “As a result, marketing ends up treating people like leads and email addresses instead of treating people like people.”

But that criticism doesn’t apply to just marketing. It’s everyone. We all fall into the trap of treating each other like a pawn in the game of life. Instead of connections, we are making contacts and seeing how THEY can help US out down the road.

Instead, we should be asking ourselves how WE can help THEM at every turn.

Jon Westenberg comments, “Treating people like leads instead of humans just doesn’t work. It doesn’t sell. It doesn’t push you to any level of success. You wantto suck at marketing or sales? Dehumanise your prospects.”

And it’s not just prospects. It’s people in your life in general. Your relationships of every kind suffer when you don’t treat people with respect and as people – human beings with feelings.

And don’t get me started on the people who attempt to personalize something. You know, that person who chooses to send you a note, but hasn’t looked at your profile at all, and assumes your company has multiple employees by saying, “I bet they appreciate you there!” Yes, I appreciate myself because I am a business owner of 1.

Yup, me. Only me.

If you’re going to do this, and do this right, put forward some freaking effort – okay?! Take the time to look at their profile and see the description they gave for the job they are having the anniversary for. Actually craft a real message. Be human. Or just hit the “thumbs up” button. There’s nothing wrong with only hitting the thumbs up button. But there is something wrong with letting a form email tell someone you care about them and their accomplishment.

Don’t fall into the trap of letting automated programs do the talking for you. Instead, use these automated programs as a tool to help get your personality out there and connect with other real people just like you.

Marketers take heed: it isn’t just Millennials who like to be understood and talked to – it’s people of all generations, creeds, and nations. Avoid acting like people are a stepping stone or a bridge or a dollar sign. Stop selling and start connecting. And by all means, congratulate those around you! But you better mean it when you do, or your “congratulations” could be perceived as a slap in the face, instead.


As Marketing Director at Extend Your Reach, Kristen helps our clients build multi-channel marketing strategies, including identifying target markets and personas. Additionally, she oversees the Reach marketing team and assists with business development responsibilities. She brings more than 20 years of strategic communications experience to her role; most recently at Michigan Blood as Director of Special Events & Community Relations and Public Relations Supervisor. Email Kristen or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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