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August 02, 2016 By Hendrik-Jan Francke

A Good Communicator is Genuine

No one wants to sound like a robot when communicating online. You want social media and email interactions to be as genuine and engaging as you are in real life.

But sometimes, humans end up sounding like robots online anyway!

A recent LinkedIn interaction got me thinking about how easy social media automation makes it to sound like a robot online and come across as inauthentic - even when we mean the best!

LinkedIn Example: Canned Congratulatory Messages

We’ve all seen the notices from LinkedIn prompting us to congratulate someone on a work anniversary or new position - the little joys of social media marketing.

While balloons and streamers may not be bursting from behind your screen, this notification frequently helps us stay in touch with our connections.

I was recently on the receiving end of these messages when I updated my LinkedIn profile to reflect my appointment as Board Member to the Technology Forum of Delaware.

After posting this update, several congratulatory messages appeared like presents on my doorstep. It was nice to hear from my connections, but I quickly picked up on an interesting pattern, as well.

Many of the messages simply read: “Congrats on the new job!”

Let me be clear in saying I was grateful to hear from my connections. It felt nice to be recognized - truly, any effort to reach out can make an impact.

But I also felt there was a story to tell in the number of messages that simply read: “Congrats on the new job!”

These messages were well intended, but not entirely authentic - or accurate.

The generic, automated quality of the “congrats on the new job!” message stripped some of its authenticity.

First, I knew that these folks simply clicked “message” when notified of the change. No time was taken to personalize the message, making it feel slightly less genuine.

And while I appreciated all of the thoughts, some of the in-the-box “Congrats!” messages I received felt more like an obligatory message on autopilot than real interest.

I could see them doing their daily 20 minute LinkedIn check and wishing me and 3 others the same message.


People love personalizing things. People customize their cars, their coffee cups. They work to convert the generic into their personal brand. Lets all agree to do the same on LinkedIn.

Insert a name and a relevant blurb about your relationship on a note or even an email, and the receiver will sit back in their office chair, take a sip of coffee, and think warmly about their relationship with you. Below, I explore those that sent me genuine congrats messages!

Let’s work for those moments, to preserve our humanity and prevent robot communication from taking over.

Second, being a board member isn’t a new job, but a new volunteer position. So to me, “Congrats on the new job!” simply is not accurate.

I wouldn’t expect people to say that to me in person, so it didn’t seem right on LinkedIn either.

I’m confident that my well wishers know the distinction between my job as a B2B marketer and a board appointment. I know many of these folks are board members for various organizations themselves!

Personalized Messages Are More Genuine

To be fair, I received even more personalized messages than those sent on “autopilot”. These more unique messages were a lot more impactful.

One witty colleague wrote:

Congratulations “your Board-ness". Delighted to hear your technical genius is finally being recognized.

This charming and personal message was a real stand out.

But, not all have to be. You don’t have to be the Oprah of communicators; you just have to be a genuine communicator.

Another example of a five star genuine message:

Congratulations on being named to the Board of the Tech Forum! I know you'll help them keep up the great work they've been doing.

This colleague didn’t just say “congratulations”. He recognized me specifically for “being named to the Board of the Tech Forum”, and then he added a thoughtful note at the end.

In this next example, my connection obviously used the prompt as a guide:

Congratulations on the new role at Technology Forum of Delaware!

But, he took that extra step to customize the message and make it more accurate, changing the word “job” to “role, and adding the name of the Technology Forum.

So, what’s the takeaway from these positive examples? Simply take the time to add a name, recognize the position for what it is, or add a follow up, and your communication efforts will be much more genuine.

Otherwise, the click and post of “Congrats on the new job!” is no different than a simple “like”.

(To me, a “like” shows more sentiment than an inaccurate automated message. Who doesn’t feel a little satisfaction as they watch the number of “likes” climb?)

Moral of the Story: When Relying On Social Media Automation, Keep It Genuine

My story ends with this: use the LinkedIn automated messages - and social media automation, in general - to your advantage. But, don’t forget the human element.

Add some detail and take one step further to ensure your connection knows you fully devoted your brain cells, and an inkling of human emotion, into your message.

LinkedIn, among other social media sites, remains a great way to connect. Just remember the next time you hit the “message” button: keep it genuine.

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