Humans vs. Robots: Social Media Edition

This morning, I awoke to the news of the Colorado Theatre Shooting, where a gunman opened fire on the audience of a midnight screening of the new “The Dark Knight Rises” film. President Obama, who was in Florida at the time, was briefed a little after 5 A.M. with the news, and gave a statement to the press expressing his sadness. All news outlets were on alert for updates on the matter, and the internet went wild disseminating the story. Then, at 9:20 A.M., a tweet from the NRA asked its followers, “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

This tweet remained on the American Rifleman twitter page for nearly two hours before it was removed, but by that time the damage had surely been done. The NRA seemed to be compltely unaware of the tweet, and only took it down after receiving a call from an inquisitive reporter. So why the ignorance? Apparently, the tweet had been scheduled using social media management software, HootSuite, to appear at that exact time. Because HootSuite allows users to schedule tweets far in advance, it is highly possible that the message was written well before the tragic event in Aurora, Colorado took place.

Now, while I’m usually a huge supporter of new technologies that make my life endlessly easier, there was definitely a clear loser in this specific man vs. machine battle. If I’ve learned anything from my Social Media classes, it’s that listening is astronomically more important than talking when it comes to the World Wide Web. The lesson that the NRA should take away from this isolated incident is this: Robots aren’t good at PR. They can do a lot of things, but taking human emotion into consideration when delivering content is not one of them. Because while time-released tweets may sound enticing, the internet is a 24/7 beast, and no robot is equipped to solely handle that – at least not yet.


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