31% of people today expect a response from companies on social media within 2 hours, while 37% of those same people expect a response in under 30 minutes. Social media has made the world more connected, but it’s also made us a little less patient and raised our expectations on companies of all types.

Thirty minute response times are fast. If you’re having trouble keeping up with that, automatic responses are one way to make it easier for you.

 How Do Automatic Responses Work?

Automated responses can be set up for direct messages or comments on most social media platforms. You have a lot of freedom to decide when the messages go out, what triggers them, and what they say. Often, you can make custom messages that are triggered by specific situations identified in people’s communications with you.

Some social networks have their own automated response options while others require you to get a third-party software to help. You can set them up for most communication functions on most social networks, but not everywhere.

Benefits Of Automatic Response

Each business can get a variety of benefits from automated response, but here are a few that generally apply for most:

. Get A Response Badge

Social media networks like Facebook have a badge they display on pages that respond quickly to direct messages. By setting up an automatic response message, you’re likely to get this badge on your page. A badge like this could encourage some people to reach out to you through Facebook because they trust that you’ll get back to them in a timely manner.

. Keep People Up To Date

If you’re on vacation, very busy, don’t work on the weekends, or there’s anything else that may keep you from responding right away, automatic response comes to the rescue. People prefer to get a response telling them why you’re unable to respond right away instead of hearing the same information directly from you after you eventually respond.

. Efficiency

Auto response makes it easy to get that vital first touch with people on social media. Whether it’s a response to a direct message or comment, first touch is important. Accidentally ignoring someone trying to reach you can send a bad message, so automated responses might be a great way to make sure that doesn’t happen. It also takes virtually no effort once you set the system up.

What’s The Downside?

No system is a perfect fit. Automated response does have its benefits, but there are some negative that can easily tag along with those benefits. A few of those negative include:

. An Inauthentic Image

People know when they’re receiving an automated message. It can often feel like reading a sign on a business door or getting the answering machine. Considering that most people use social media to network and connect with actual people, this can be a disappointing experience. Automated messages remove some of the authenticity that people expect on social media. You can recover this later down the road, but it doesn’t always make a good first impression.

. Inappropriate Or Unfiltered Responses

There have been a few cases where automated responses have made bad judgements and posted things that weren’t appropriate for the original message. This could be something embarrassing like posting a “sorry for the bad experience!” type message on a customer compliment, or it could be something more serious like retweeting offensive language posted by another user, either in their name or their tweet text.

You have limited control over what happens with automated responses. There’s only so many layers you can put to keep it functional while trying to avoid some of the more embarrassing things.

. Lazy Response Times

It’s easy to get complacent when your automated response is set up. You feel like everything is good to go. However, this complacency could lead to longer response times for the people sending you messages, making it harder to really see the benefit for your customers. 

Automation Gone Wrong: AT&T March Madness Tweets

In 2012, AT&T set a bot loose on their Twitter account. The goal of the bot was to send personalized tweets to people about an ongoing promotion they had to win NCAA tickets. Some of these tweets were automatic responses while others were original posts to followers.

Unfortunately, the bot went a little crazy. It was completely unhinged and was sending tweets out like mad, spamming AT&T followers around the US! This is a case of a poorly implemented social media automation plan. Moves like this earned some bad reviews for AT&T.

Should You Automate?

Automation isn’t appropriate for every business. If automation keeps you from providing the highest level of service possible, it’s not a good option. If your customers react negatively to it or if it’s causing you to distort your brand voice, you may need to tweak or remove your automatic response.

On the other hand, automated response is great when you have limited hands controlling your social media. You can’t always be online and available to respond if you’re a sole proprietor or the leader of a small team. Automated responses are great for keeping you in the game without requiring you to be online constantly, and utilizing automation like chatbots can save small businesses money. They also get a simple message out to your customers without a lot of effort on your part.

People are expecting faster social media response times every year. Rather than falling behind, put automated systems in place that help you keep the pace.

Author Bio

Christine James believes that every customer has a voice. She is the Community Manager at HissingKitty.com (a customer complaints website) and loves talking to customers on social media about their challenges with Fortune 500 companies. Her work has been published on Huffington Post, Inc., SocialMediaToday, and Thought Catalog. Follow her on Twitter @hissingkittycom.