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3 Times You Shouldn’t Automate Social Media (and 2 times you should)

by DA, posted 1 month ago
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To automate or not to automate, that is the question. Well, maybe Shakespeare’s original version went a little differently, but today, in a world where social media plays an important role for both individuals and businesses, the question of whether or not to automate isn’t just about saving time, but about how you choose to approach your brand.

Automation has a bad rap, and for good reason. Some companies have managed to miss the point of social media entirely and create the 21st-century version of the form letter:

social media automation

social media automation

No one liked getting those letters in the 80s and no one likes getting them now. The golden rule of social media is that it’s social.

The golden rule of social media is that it’s social.

There needs to be a real person behind the accounts, a person interacting with, and responding to, the audience. Social media isn’t a monologue, and it’s definitely not a megaphone; it’s a multi-way exchange. So does that mean any and all automation is offside? No way! Automation can be a great tool to save time, freeing you up for more important parts of the biz, but like any tool, it should be used thoughtfully and precisely for best results. Here are three times it’s not okay to automate social media, and two times you should.

DON’T TREAT AUTOMATION AS AN ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ SOLUTION

500.
600.
63,206.
BINGO!

Kidding. Those are the character limits for Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Facebook respectively.

social media automation

Different social media platforms have different character limits for a reason because they each have a different purpose and a different audience. Nobody wants to read your soliloquy on Twitter (not to mention it will get cut off after line one), so even though technically you can, don’t automate the same message to post across all networks, it’s lazy and unprofessional. It tells your audience you don’t care, and it might be the reason some people have unliked your Facebook page or stopped following you on Twitter. Pretty much the opposite of your goal, right?

Tailor your message to each platform – not only will it make better use of the platform’s particular strengths, but it’s also more considerate for people who follow you across multiple networks; they’ll be thankful they don’t have to read the same post five times in five different places. Even if the gist of the message stays the same, change the wording slightly, keep it fresh.

DON’T AUTOMATE DIRECT MESSAGES OR REPLIES

Social media specialists don’t always agree, but on this point, there is a definite consensus – do not automate direct messages or replies. At best it becomes repetitive and inauthentic. At worst it becomes a public relations nightmare as with the case of American Airlines when they ended up thanking a user for a less-than-complimentary post.

social media automation 

Automating direct messages and replies is dangerous. There are too many variables to account for, too many unknowns. So much of social media marketing requires a human presence to consider the context and tone, so when it comes to replies and direct messages, take the time to craft individual responses. Your followers will appreciate it and you’ll avoid any potentially embarrassing situations.

DON’T SET IT AND FORGET IT

Automating social media frees you up to attend to other things, but a lot can happen between the time you write a message and the time it’s scheduled to post – there can be a breaking news story about your brand, a world event, even just a change in the weather. “Set it and forget it” is a recipe for social media disaster.

Stay on top of what’s scheduled to post to your accounts, and, just like a good sailor, making real-time adjustments on the fly. Tools like Twitter Counters’ social media analytics will help you track and measure how your posts are performing, equipping you with the information you need to hone and refine as you move ahead.

 

WHEN IT’S OKAY TO AUTOMATE

Alright, brave social media warriors, you now know when not to automate, but automation isn’t the devil – there are some times when it can be incredibly helpful to manage your time and maximize the utility of your platforms. Here’s how.

DO AUTOMATE TO FILL YOUR EDITORIAL CALENDAR

As a social media marketer, one of your most important jobs is managing the editorial calendar for your channels, making sure you’ve got engaging, relevant, and regular content in the hopper. Doing this ad hoc (post by post) is a novice move (and a guaranteed way to ensure that you waste hours every day lining up posts) – instead, with a social media automation tool like Hootsuite or Buffer you can line up posts for the day, the week, or the month, making sure you’ve covered your main themes, time frames, and any gaps between posts.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we “set it and forget it” (ahem, a gentle reminder to read over the don’ts above) – think of automation as the main pieces of furniture in a living room, the sofa, the coffee table, the chairs. The accessories (lamps, pillows, blankets, rug, books, tchotchkes, etc.) are the more specific, personalized, messages that pull the entire scene together, giving it personality.

social media automation

If you’re not sure how to balance the two, try this: spend a few hours each week scheduling the bulk of your posts. Then, each day, do a quick review to make sure things are still relevant and appropriate, and when you have a free minute or a burst of inspiration, add in a little something extra. Bingo Bango – social media done!

DO USE AUTOMATION TOOLS TO FIND THE BEST TIME TO POST

Social media is part art, part science, and, as we like to say around the TC offices, all fun! The science part can be super useful for maximizing the reach and engagement of your posts. For instance, the Twitter Counter algorithm gives you actionable Twitter stats, including when your followers are most active online, so you can publish content when it’s most likely to be seen.

Once you know the “when”, automating your posts for those times will help ensure your message reaches the most amount of eyeballs in the least amount of time. And, after all, isn’t that the point?

social media automation

Share your thoughts on social media automation with us. Do you automate your social activity? What do you think are the DOs & DON’Ts of this approach? Tweet us at @thecounter and we promise not to automate a response 😉

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