Are your automatically-generated emails messing up your 2.0 mojo?

This weekend, when I was in dire need of a good scallops recipe, I went onto to see what looked good. Over the past year, they’ve become my website of choice for recipes because their site is so easy to use, and their user comments section helps me decide whether or not to try a certain recipe. FoodNetwork does a great job of making the whole on-site user experience very pleasant and interactive. (Stay with me here, I promise there’s a point to this.)

So after all of this time using the site, I finally decided to create an account on the site so that I could make use of their ‘save to my recipe box’ function. What I found so interesting was what appeared in my Inbox as a result of my new registration:
Subject line: New User
my email address here

Thank you for registering with
Your new membership will enable you to enjoy all the great features available on

The Membership Team


No links, no ‘check out our latest dessert recipes here’, no graphics, no description of ‘all the great features,’ no ‘please add us to your address book’, no meaningful subject line, no ‘here’s how you can contact us.’ The whole thing struck me as quite odd. Food Network has a very impressive website; and they’ve made some steps toward the whole social media scene so there’s obviously some thought going into their online presence (though note the last login date on that MySpace page…)

Now your website probably isn’t registering users so that they can save recipes. But there’s a good chance your agency has a form or two that, once the visitor hits the submit button, triggers an automatic e-mail response. Does that response reflect how your agency wants to communicate with your constituents?

So my question for the larger group is this. If one of our main goals in engaging in Web 2.0 technologies to better connect and communicate with the folks who are need information from us or are simply interested in something we’re talking about, should we first go back to some of our 1.0 resources and make sure that they’re up to speed? I imagine that Food Network’s registration email autoresponder is one of those things that’s just been overlooked or forgotten over the months or the years–what other aspects of our communication may be running on autopilot that need an overhaul? And can we use these autoresponse emails as a way to introduce and drive traffic back to our more cutting-edge Web offerings?

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Amy Hooker

If it were elves, I think they would come up with something a little more welcoming than ‘new user’ as the subject line 😉

Dennis McDonald

This points out how labor-intensive (read: expensive) implementing personalized social media can be. I’m not saying that social media shouldn’t be used, but there are costs involved in keeping up with all those new and ongoing conversations.

Still, I’m one of those who would rather receive no communication than something that’s obviously mass produced and automated. But is that a universal feeling?

Amy Hooker

That’s a good point, Dennis–social media can be labor intensive and expensive. But once you’ve made some of the initial investment, doesn’t it get less so? Think about Twitter–getting an idea of how things work and following/building up your own followers can be really time consuming, but once you get the hang of it, it’s just a few moments here and there throughout your day.

Perhaps the problem with the autogenerated email replies (and other things like that) is that it’s ‘obviously mass produced’ which for me, means it lacks any cleverness or personality–it lacks emotion. As a reader, I understand that I can’t receive a personal reply every time. But an autoresponse that sounds like it’s been written by a human being–rather than a committee or a legal department–goes a long way toward building a stronger relationship with me.