It is often said that as a business you should approach social media as if you were actually in a real room with your audience – be clear, be on brand and be relevant. That is the easy bit. What is more difficult is the engaging and the listening and it is here I am finding more and more companies being lazy on social media.

The percentage of automated and scheduled messages seems to me to be on the rise. There may be companies where automated direct messages or automated responses works for them but I don’t know anyone who likes them.

Time and effort saving tools such as Buffer, Hootsuite and the hundreds of others are constantly championed and recommended to us social media types are great but are they now being over used? Of course there is a time and a place for automated messages. I often use Buffer to schedule some tweets in when I have a day full of meetings or workshops, but tend to stay away from it when I am available.

One of the problems with automation is that it can be so obvious, so your audience are likely to cotton on. It makes engaging with your message less appealing. Going back to the real room analogy it is the equivalent of walking up to someone, giving a message with no eye contact and then getting straight off – not very social.

There is a lot of talking on social media but not so much listening, not so much conversation. Lots of impressions are lovely but surely higher levels of engagement is better for your business. Scheduling tips and information to your audience to go at set times is fine if the content remains relevant, but I have noticed some accounts pushing out news stories that are dated because they have been scheduled. When this is painfully obvious, it can actually devalue your online presence and in the worst cases, devalue your brand as a whole.

The real value of social media for companies is the same as if you were in a room full of people; you should be trying to widen your network and develop relationships that you can potentially take offline. Social media is a great platform for businesses but we need to get back to some of the core principles of business communications. This is social media not just media.