29 Dec 2008

Love Means Never Having to Fake It

Okay, this is probably one of those posts where I come off like a jerk who wasn’t hugged enough as a child, but I’m going to say it anyway. Deal with it.

You can’t automate everything. In fact, some things should NOT be automated.

For example:

  • If you automate your marriage, you’ll find yourself divorced.
  • If you automate your parenting, you’ll find yourself with children who grow up to hate you and put you in a home when you’re 70.
  • If you have your secretary write your girlfriend’s Valentine’s Day card, you’re going to get slapped in the face.
  • If you automate your “thanks so much for commenting on my blog” responses, you’re going to turn me off as a blog reader and I’m probably never going to leave a comment again. Why? Because you’ve annoyed me and made me feel like I’m just another email address. Who needs you?

Okay, so obviously I have an example.

Last week I commented for the very first time on a blog that I really like. The content on this particular blog has been rising steadily and I wanted to send some support their way. I don’t really know the blogger, but I do have a periphery relationship with them.  Basically, we’ve exchanged a few emails.  So last week, I stumbled across a post I really liked and decided to leave them a comment. Shortly after, this winds up in my inbox.

Oh, c’mon.  It’s like a kick to the face.

I get what they’re doing. I get that they’re trying to engage back with the person who took the time to leave a comment.  They’re trying to grow their RSS subscribers. I’m a blogger. I read the same Problogger and Performancing posts that you do.

However, I can’t help but think this person (and lots of others. I’m not singling him/her out, by any means) is missing the point. This automated response isn’t going to earn you any goodwill with me. It doesn’t make me want to go back and leave another comment. It doesn’t make me want to go subscribe to their feeds. It makes me feel like you’re better than me and are far too busy to actually interact with me.

And let’s be honest, unless you’re TechCrunch, how many new blog commenters do you really get per day? You can’t spend two minutes crafting each one of them an email that at least looks authentic and original?  It’s not that hard. Or at least use Joost de Valk’s Comment Redirect plug-in to send them to a ‘personalized’ Thank You page. Don’t invade my email. My email is personal. And Joost is hot.

Either engage or don’t. Don’t pretend. I don’t need any more fake relationships in my life.

If you’re going to “welcome” your new commenters, then welcome them. For real. With a real email.

If you’re going to engage in social media. Then freakin’ engage in it. Don’t launch a bunch of sock puppet accounts and pretend you care when you don’t.

You just have to pick one. If you care about me as a reader or a customer, then make every interaction you have with me real. If you loved me, you wouldn’t have to fake it.

[I’m sorry. I feel better now.]


  1. graywolf December 29, 2008 at 11:06 AM

    Still waiting for my follow up email from comments I left on lisabarone.com 🙂

    remembers a saying about glass houses and stones 🙂

  2. Teifion December 29, 2008 at 11:06 AM

    If I ever have children I’m hugging them so they don’t turn out like you!

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say that what you are arguing against is the perception created by automation rather than automation itself being wrong. Thus if I were able to make a good enough automation it’d not be a problem.

    Thus it comes down, as many things do, to effort. If you put enough effort into making a good automation then it will not hit the pitfalls that you’ve listed here.

  3. Matt Webb December 29, 2008 at 11:08 AM


    I find your blog post to be [INSERT EMOTION], and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I invite you [POSTERS NAME] to visit my site at [INSERT URL].

    Just kiddin..

    I agree that doing this is pretty lame. I’ve gotten a number of them on all kinds of blogs ranging from SEO stuff to Linux… even got one from a blog about activities you can do with toddlers. Super duper lame.

  4. Lisa Barone December 29, 2008 at 11:13 AM

    Michael: As usual, I have no idea what you’re talking about. 🙂

    Teifion: I’ll buy that. I may be less irked if the automation was better and “appeared” natural. Still, I don’t think it takes too long to write a 5 line email welcoming someone, if that’s what you’re going to do.

    Matt: Hey, I know you! 🙂

  5. Ranked Hard SEO December 29, 2008 at 11:37 AM

    I agree, most times the comments are spam, so if you get someone to actually write a comment, and you have the time to send them a Thank you, do it, not just the canned response.

    Regardless it’s been fun getting to “Stalk” you LB, and now you know kinda who I am based upon the email left in the comment box.

    PS…What is on your Wallpaper that is so revealing? not more knee socks I hope…

    LOL 🙂

    Ranked Hard SEO 🙂

  6. Teifion December 29, 2008 at 11:44 AM

    You forget how fast us 16 year-olds are at programming.

  7. Lisa Barone December 29, 2008 at 12:07 PM

    Ranked Hard: If you can’t even give me a real name, I’m certainly not going to reveal what’s on my wallpaper. 🙂 I’d like to welcome you to the ranks of Stalker, though. 🙂

    Teifion: Are you really 16? I was thinking 14 at best. 😉

  8. Olivier December 29, 2008 at 12:14 PM

    Hmmm now I feel like a jerk for not even having an automated response… I wonder what the protocol is on amount of time you can still email a person a thank you for your comment email 🙂

  9. JMorris December 29, 2008 at 12:17 PM

    [I’m sorry. I feel better now.]

    Why be sorry? What is blogging if it is not unapologetic self-expression? But, I digress…

    You make a good point here about automation. I’ve experimented with automation in many forms. It’s the sysadmin in me that is attracted to it. Some things are well suited to automation, some are not.

    Personally, this type of automation doesn’t bother me that much, but having the perspective of someone who is bothered by it is always good. It’s far more frustrating to deal with the constant onslaught of automated comment posters than it is to get a “thank you” for an action I took.

    The bigger point here, for me, is that you shouldn’t be luke warm in your efforts. Either go all out or don’t go at all. That is a very good point. One that everyone should consider before they get involved in social media.

  10. Lisa Barone December 29, 2008 at 2:16 PM

    JMorris: Yeah, you’re right. I guess I’m not really sorry. 🙂

    And I agree completely. Either take the time to show me that you really did appreciate my comment, or don’t bother saying anything at all. I would have come away with a much better impression had this blogger just done nothing.

    Either do or do not, there is no try. 😉

  11. Joe Hall December 29, 2008 at 2:42 PM

    The funny thing is, I think most of the plugins that create the automated messages to the commenters aren’t really that automated at all. From what I have seen, everytime there is a new comment it notifies the blog owner and ask if they want to send a automated message.

    The whole process is really dumb because, by the time the blog owner approves an automated message to be sent out, they could have just send a personable one instead!

    I have sent personal messages to a handful of my commenters and have always found great results re: community building/networking.

    One thing that really bothers me is automated twitter DMs! When someone follows me on twitter they are guaranteed a personable response!

  12. Bob Weber December 29, 2008 at 3:24 PM

    Should we be sending ‘Thank You for posting’ emails at all?

    I’ve gotten some personalized ‘Thank You’ emails for posting comments that were just kind of akward. If I randomly post on your blog, I don’t always want to talk to you, I just thought the conversation was worth joining in. Now, not only have I shared my valuable insight on your post, but I have to try and craft a dazzling response to your email when I don’t even know you?

    Maybe I’m just antisocial…

  13. Darren Slatten December 29, 2008 at 5:44 PM

    Interesting post, Lisa. I found these lines to be particularly intriguing:

    This automated response isn’t going to earn you any goodwill with me. It doesn’t make me want to go back and leave another comment. It doesn’t make me want to go subscribe to their feeds. It makes me feel like you’re better than me and are far too busy to actually interact with me.

    Either engage or don’t. Don’t pretend. I don’t need any more fake relationships in my life.

    Perhaps your expectations are unrealistic? As it turns out, posting a sincere comment on someone’s blog doesn’t automatically entitle you to an equally-genuine response. Most bloggers are simply too busy to fully reciprocate the “love” of every new commenter. You can either continue commenting on the same blog, hoping that the blogger will eventually notice you, or you can move on and continue searching for a blog that understands your value and is worthy of your comments.

  14. Lisa December 29, 2008 at 7:18 PM

    Bob: Agreed, agreed and agreed. I commented on your blog because I wanted to participate in the conversation that was happening there. Not because I think we need to be best friends or because I need validation that you found my comment to be worthy with a personalized email. We’re all antisocial, why force a connection?

    Darren: Hmm, I don’t like either of those options. I just want to comment on someone’s blog and leave it at that. I’m not doing it with the hopes that they recognize me and send me a handwritten note back thanking me for my time and my insight. The “thanks for commenting” email is actually a bit creepy to me. I left you a message at your house; why are you suddenly in my email?

    That said, if you ARE going to send it, send me something genuine. It doesn’t have to be a novel or anything impressive, but at least talk to me like I’m a real person. Don’t send me something automated that does nothing but shill your RSS feed. That’s worthless to me and shows that you’re not interested in me, just what I can do for you.

    And as an aside, yes, I do have unrealistic expectations. We’re both aware of this.

  15. Darren Slatten December 29, 2008 at 11:26 PM

    Just so we’re clear, by “intriguing” I meant “hypocritical.” Everything I wrote thereafter was actually just one big metaphorical synopsis of why my last relationship failed. I expected your response to be a continuation of that metaphor, but after reading it several times, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re speaking in literal terms and missed my message entirely.

  16. Jill Whalen December 30, 2008 at 7:26 AM

    Heh…you must have commented on the same blog I did (or I suppose it’s a canned response that many use).

    I had the same reaction and even mentioned it on Twitter the other night.

    It’s really just kinda ick. I don’t like Twitter follow autoresponses either.

  17. netmeg December 30, 2008 at 4:36 PM

    Now, if you *really* want to make an impression, you’ll hand-write your thank you on engraved notepaper and *mail* it to them.

    (How creepy would *that* be? ork ork)

  18. JadedTLC December 30, 2008 at 4:53 PM

    Lisa – I totally agree. I think a personal touch is very important in making a reader feel acknowledged. I’d rather not be contacted if it isn’t personal. I think that’s where big brands are going wrong.

  19. Annie Cushing December 30, 2008 at 4:56 PM

    I find automated messages like the one who showed a little disingenuous. If I email tech support and receive an automated message that my request has been received and will be followed up, great. If it gives me additional info that might help me while I’m waiting, even better. But beyond that, I can’t think of an example of helpful automated messages.

    Since most people wouldn’t expect a thank you note for commenting on your blog, why take the risk of creeping someone out or looking like a poseur? Just engage w/ them on your blog, which is where the real conversation’s taking place anyway.

  20. Andrea Hill December 30, 2008 at 6:42 PM

    I actually just came across a plugin the other day that sends the automatic responses, and it struck me as really spammy.

    Yes, I know that people want to encourage commenters to come back, but that’s why you can allow them to CHOOSE to get updates by email, or subscribe to an RSS feed of comments. The idea of sending unsolicited email is not something we’re supposed to be doing, and the idea that it’s not even personalized is even worse.

    Thanks for verbalizing (writing?) what I had on my mind!

  21. AndyW January 1, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    I can’t say emails like that get on nerves… it’s just another piece of crap in my inbox which I should delete and but usually just leave (over 12k emails and counting…)

  22. Hypotheek January 2, 2009 at 10:28 AM

    I do like the “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” feature, but I hate it when I get e-mails when I didn’t subscribe. And I hate it even more when I can’t unsubscribe from the e-mails..

  23. Malaysia SEO Consultant January 5, 2009 at 12:21 AM

    Link building should not be automated too. It should be done manually. 😀

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