“Automation and AI is never going to replace good community management, which is about everything that’s stunning about humanity, and our ability to communicate, develop, share.”

I think we’re all supposed to be afraid that the robots are coming to get us. I’m not sure. My experience is limited, thus far: on the one hand, the robo-caller my bank uses can’t say my name correctly, so I might soon be taking my business to a different uncaring financial institution. On the other, I’ve seen social media and moderation become increasingly automated, so I guess their plan is that soon I won’t have any money to put in a bank account. Checkmate.

In the current rush of anxiety about AI, big data, algorithms and ‘disruption’, a lot gets forgotten. We’ve been automating steadily for years, and some of that has been beneficial. For example, the simple introduction of moderation filters has saved many of us from the tedium of having to delete posts containing the f-bomb. Surely, no-one still thinks those posts should be read. Ah, that imaginary someone would say, but what if they have something important to say? Well, if your Ts&Cs have made it clear from the beginning that profanity is frowned on, a smart user will work out that the reason why their pithy comment is missing from the thread might have something to do with how they called something you posted “f%$*ing moronic”.

But you should definitely think about how best to deploy automation. Throughout human progress (which ended in 2016, obvs), we have seen automation free us up to do less drudgery. I hear where the Levellers and the loom breakers were coming from comrade, but no-one ever looked forward to a 12-hour day in a cotton factory. The great thing about automation is when it sets you free to do something more important.

It’s a pity that we have to deal with moderation, but that’s our lot in the internet age. So, don’t be afraid to automate anything you can, I say. If swearing goes against your brand image, then just make it disappear. One of the beauties of that approach is that it gets rid of an awful lot of personal attacks, since no-one is just an idiot these days, they all have to be described as a “f-ing idiot”.

And if mention of Piers Morgan always causes trouble on your page, then at the very least set up your social media tool of choice to highlight every time his name appears. Catch it early, and you prevent all the other posts appearing, arguing about the pros and cons of Mr Morgan, when all you wanted to do was post a poll on what the community’s favourite TV pundit is.

We all want to spend as much time as possible engaging with the people who are interacting with our brand in positive (though quite possibly critical) ways. But 10 or 20% of posts can occupy 30 or 40% of your time. Don’t let ‘em. Ditch the bad, warn the near misses, and then get back to encouraging the exciting, creative thoughts your community has.

Automation and AI is never going to replace good community management, which is about everything that’s stunning about humanity, and our ability to communicate, develop, share. That’s where a brand’s energies should be spent. For that minority that makes you go “Urrrggh” there are professionals like Strawberry, who can work swiftly, efficiently, and even elegantly to keep your brand and your consumers safe. We only tolerate cussing when someone has emptied the coffee pot and not put another one on to brew. There are limits, after all…

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