social media

When Automated Marketing Goes Wrong

Earlier this week, I received the following email from Pinterest:


You may wonder why this is at all significant. Kassie, Pinterest sends emails like this all the time…Yes, they do. But guess what? I don’t hate running- I really, really love it. “Embrace the morning run” makes it even better-I pretty much only run in the morning. Maybe Pinterest and I need to spend more quality time together, because we clearly don’t know one another well at all…

While this was ultimately a hilarious experience, I would be mortified if I was the person who sent this email. It’s a great example of when automation goes wrong.

Scenario 1: Pre-Scheduling/Automated Posts

Not all automating is bad. I use it to schedule Facebook posts, tweets, and blog posts in advance. The thing is, you can’t just put this stuff on autopilot- consider Murphy’s Law. Facebook, for example, went through a month-long phase where it wasn’t publishing any of the posts I had pre-scheduled. It made it on my radar, and for awhile I had to manually publish everything, but it would’ve made me look lame if updates weren’t publishing for a month because I scheduled them and forgot about it.

Another potential danger to look out for in pre-scheduling  is the actual content. You don’t want to schedule things too far ahead, because new information is constantly coming in and you don’t want to be known for posting month-old articles. In keeping scheduled posts relatively short-term, it’s also more likely that you’ll remember what you’ve scheduled to go out and make adjustments as necessary. For instance, if an event that you’re promoting gets cancelled, but you’ve scheduled some status updates to build excitement, it’s really awkward if those end up getting published because you forgot about them.

You can also set up automated posts to respond to mentions on Twitter or Facebook (or anywhere else). As a warning, the results are often hilariously terrible. For example, this automated response from Dominos Pizza:



This person had an excellent Domino’s experience…but Dominos apparently believed it needed a different PR approach on it’s Facebook page…and apologized for the inconvenience.

Scenario 2: Automated Names

These often fail the hardest, and are the biggest giveaways that robots handle your marketing. If you have no interaction with a person besides him filling out a form on your website, you don’t necessarily need to be on a first-name basis. This chart below (from Beachhead) shows the most common reactions to errors in a personalized email.



If it’s a larger corporation, I generally assume most of the marketing emails I get have been automated, so I’m a bit more forgiving (it’s not like the CEO of Old Navy knows my first name). But, if it’s a smaller business and I’m a loyal customer, getting a personalized email for “Amanda” would be a bit offensive. On a scale of “Never visit the website again” to “Automatically delete emails,” I’m probably more of a “Continue receiving emails for mild amusement but never take this business seriously again.” Depending on the individual, you may get more of a “Meh” response to a “This is totally a personal affront” repsonse.

Fun fact: we don’t have first name fields enabled on our email newsletters, and it’s not because we don’t appreciate our individual subscribers- it’s because we read about automation fails and know how potentially damaging a glitch in the system can be).

Scenario 3: Marketing the wrong things to the wrong people.

This tends to be more of a large scale business problem that comes from sending automated sales emails. It’d be kind of embarrassing to send out an email trying to sell a specific type of lawnmower to someone who just purchased one from you earlier in the month. Being on the receiving end of that email would also be confusing: maybe the customer and salesperson had some lengthy phone calls/email exchanges about the purchase, examining options in a way that made the customer feel really, really awesome about his/her new lawnmower. I’m talking zero-buyer’s-remorse positive. This person was raving about how attentive the business was to the needs of individual customers. And then…this tragic email.”What the…it’s like they don’t even know me…

Heavy automation takes away the humanness of marketing. The risk, especially with smaller businesses, is that your existing customers feel undervalued. The reason people enjoy small business interactions is because there’s a unique quality of service implied: a genuine friendliness, a concern for the customer’s needs (in other words, they kind of expect that warm and fuzzy feeling).

This is where something like email segmenting can come in handy, if you have the time and patience to sit down and go through it all. This can help add a personalized element to your automation, plus, your messages are going to get more bang for your buck when they get to the people who will benefit from them.

Takeaway: “Ultimately people buy from people.” Automation clearly has benefits, otherwise no one would be doing it. Find a happy automating medium that feels right for your business.

Tech Thursday: Copycat

If you have a sibling, then you are probably familiar with the copycat game (for those who don’t know- it’s a unique form of torture where someone mimics everything you do until you have a meltdown and Mom has to intervene. At least, that’s how the Strouts played it…).

In this week’s Tech Thursday, we’re exploring the different social media networks and how they’ve each been accused of copying elements of another (idea inspired by this article claiming that Google+ Collections are just copying Pinterest Boards). There are only so many different things you can do with social networks- how do we define copying?

Watch the video and find out:

Dude’s Guide to Pinterest: Part 4

dudesguidetopinterestPinterest is one of those wildly popular websites we find ourselves explaining to people. Most people think it’s for women only so we thought we’d have our token male, John, look at the site and report back. For the next few weeks, John will delve deeper and deeper into Pinterest in an attempt to explain it to everyone but in particular a certain half of the population. This concludes the series of posts that take a look at social media through a guy’s perspective. (If you missed posts one, two, and three, give them a read!) 

There’s a lot of detritus out there.  Seriously, someone has a how-to on how to cook make perfect crispy bacon. (Step 1, open package; Step 2, place in pan; Step 3, throw pan and bacon in trash because you’re too dumb to cook bacon.)

There’s also a lot of catch phrases that turn me off. “Paleo,” being one of them. “Gluten-free” being the other. One recipe called for “Himalayan sea salt.” That’s way too a specific a salt to for any self-respecting guy to ask his grocery store clerk for. There are only two types of salt. The small kind and the big kind. It doesn’t matter if it comes out of the ocean or not, it still tastes like salt.

I’ll forgive you Pinterest. Because now I’m soaring on the chicken wings of my dreams.

But … will I continue to use Pinterest? Would I recommend it to other, like-minded dudes?

I’m still leaning toward “no.” I enjoyed the fact that I could find an easy wing recipe, and that it came out great. But I can just as easily find that sort of thing on,, or the plethora of other online recipe depositories out there. My other pinboards are largely empty.

Just like real-life scrap-booking has little appeal to me, I can’t really recommend Pinterest to other dudes. I work a lot, I have two kids, and there’s just not a lot of time for this pinning nonsense. My Pinboards will collect whatever the equivalent of dust is on the internet.

So long, Pinterest, and thanks for all the wings.

Dude’s Guide to Pinterest: Part 3

dudesguidetopinterestPinterest is one of those wildly popular websites we find ourselves explaining to people. Most people think it’s for women only so we thought we’d have our token male, John, look at the site and report back. For the next few weeks, John will delve deeper and deeper into Pinterest in an attempt to explain it to everyone but in particular a certain half of the population. This week continues from a man’s introduction to Pinterest and resuscitating a neglected account. What’s John’s first pin, anyway?  

So I pinned the first thing I saw and within seconds, some (presumably) nice lady named Nadia Wong repinned it.

All of a sudden, I’m commenting, repinning, getting excited over Pinterest. Kind of embarrassing, but true.



So we had wing night the other night, and I wanted a little variety, so I hit my pinboard.

I went with the baked brown sugar wings because of the simple fact that I had all the ingredients already. I ditched the cream sauce. I don’t have time for that.

brown sugar wings (1)

They came out pretty damn good, too. Not as crispy as I’d like, but wicked flavorful, and a nice break from the frying.


So, yes, Pinterest did come in handy. But is it worth it?

Find out John’s answer and final word on Pinterest next week!

Dude’s Guide to Pinterest: Part 2

dudesguidetopinterestPinterest is one of those wildly popular websites we find ourselves explaining to people. Most people think it’s for women only so we thought we’d have our token male, John, look at the site and report back. John will delve deeper and deeper into Pinterest in an attempt to explain it to everyone but in particular a certain half of the population. To continue from last week’s introduction, Breaking Even Communications takes a look at social media through a guy’s perspective in this blog series. Let’s see what happens once John remembers his neglected Pinterest account:

When we last left off, I had started, and then quickly forgot about, my Pinterest page. And thus, I now believe Pinterest is like a potted plant. Some people like their plant, paying it attention, giving it light and water and love. Others, like me, will bring a plant home from the, I dunno, plant store(?), only to forget I left it on the radiator to die an agonizing plant-death.

But, like that birdsnest snake plant I had in college, you can bring a withered and dehydrated Pinterest page back from the brink with a little bit of half-hearted attention.


Rather than pin about guitars that I don’t have time to play and cars I can’t afford, I decided to shift my Pins to one of my more recent obsessions—making the perfect chicken wing. (Why are chicken wings second only to calzones as being the most magical food found on earth? Dude, you’ll never understand if I need to tell you.)


And, as it turns out, Pinterest is made for recipe sharing.

Here’s what a simple keyword search for wings pulled up:


My God, man. Just look at that. That’s beautiful. And, unlike guitars and Mustangs that were the focus on my other Pinterest pages, I do have a budget for the occasional wing-fest.

Moreover, Pinterest now has a fun, practical purpose for me. I’ve got about 50,000 wing recipes and ideas accessible in a colorful, fun format.

Which brings us back to the primitive days of personal computing. If you remember when the IBM PC Jr. came out, it was marketed as more or less a word cruncher/videogame system. It was also touted as a way to organize your recipes, via the simple process of turning on the computer, waiting a half hour to boot up, removing your old hand-written recipe cards from the box, typing them, storing them on a large floppy drive, printing them on a noisy dot matrix printer, and then putting them in a binder. It was that simple!

Well, the digital world has come a long way to become the kitten-gif delivery system that it’s famous for today. But we’re still using it to organize ways to cram our maws full of fatty, fried foods.

Next week, check out John’s first pin and an IRL Pinterest recipe…will it be an internet-worthy Pinterest fail?

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