Automation gets a bad rap. Usually when you hear about social media automation, you picture the cringe-worthy automatic direct message that sometimes happens after you follow a new account. “Thanks for the follow, Bob! Check out our new product at this yourwebsitehere.”
When done right, automation isn’t awkward or off-putting. It may not even look automatic to an outside observer.
If you’re considering automation as part of your social media marketing efforts, there are a few key questions to ask yourself:
- Why do I want to automate? Is it because you want to cut down on time? Is it because you forget to send blog posts out? Or perhaps it’s to make sure your fans know your customer care hours.
- Do I still have time to check into social media? Repeat after us: automation is not a “schedule and walk away” strategy. You still need to check in on messages and your community.
- What am I spending the most time on? If it’s sitting at a computer, constantly refreshing Twitter for some new content, then automation might be helpful for you. Generally, if it’s a repetitive process, it could be a better automated.
Why You Should Consider Social Media Automation
Let’s get something straight first. When we talk about automation, we’re talking about scheduling posts, sending out company content promotion on a regular schedule and having keyword alerts set up.
The pros of automation include:
- Scheduling posts allows you more creative freedom in other posts. If you know that you have four Tweets going out daily, then you can spend more time responding to questions and connecting with your community.
- Takes out the repetitive tasks. If your favorite company publishes a blog post and you share it every time, then could you not automatically share that? What if you manually compile a weekly social media report? Instead, could you automate the email? P.S. We offer automated emails on reports.
- Saves time. This is the biggest pro of them all. The whole point of automating processes is to save you time to focus on other work.
What Happens When Social Media Automation Goes Wrong
There are a few times when automation can go wrong. If you’re not monitoring your networks and checking in, then you may find that your community is not as engaged as when you walked away.
Automatic Direct Messages in Twitter are often frowned upon because they make you look like you don’t care about your followers. They sound like generic marketing messages that could be directed at anyone. There’s no personalization and customers are savvy enough today to tell.
Among the many reasons that a customer would unfollow a brand, “spammy” and “annoying” behavior ranks high, according to the Q1 2017 Sprout Social Index.
If you’re automating to thank new followers, a big mistake that can happen is using their username in the middle of the Tweet, instead of at the beginning. So all of your followers see the same type of message over and over again.
— BC Startups (@BC_Startups) April 11, 2017
— BC Startups (@BC_Startups) April 11, 2017
Walking away from your accounts is a bad idea. Whenever you put an automation in place, you need to check and monitor it to make sure it’s operating correctly. In addition, you should be able to turn off your posts in case of emergencies or times of tragedy.
Automate Your Social Media Posts
If you manage several accounts and want to use the same content, you can save yourself some time by posting to multiple networks from multiple accounts.
When you’re managing campaigns or events, it’s easier to schedule out your posts so you know you won’t miss thanking an important partner.
Do you have content from a year or two ago that’s still relevant today? This is evergreen content and can be scheduled into your calendar. Bon Appétit’s recipe is three years old but still useful today.
— Bon Appétit (@bonappetit) April 11, 2017
In the end, we’re big fans of batching your posts. Take a few hours each week to schedule out your posts in advance or to fill in gaps in the month. You’ll worry less on if you posted today on Instagram and spend important time engaging with your community.
Automate Your RSS Feeds
Perhaps every time you publish a blog post on your website, you want to share the post immediately with your followers. Or maybe another company has an excellent blog and you want to queue their posts automatically.
Some social media managers also utilize tools like IFTTT and Zapier to handle these functions. When you’re playing around with the programming, make sure you add some personalization. Otherwise, your post will look just like very other post out there.
Instagram vs. Snapchat: Which Is Best for Your Business? https://t.co/MCJKhTwFaO
— Social Media 4u (@mediatools4u) April 2, 2017
— GossipTable (@GossipTable) April 8, 2017
Instagram vs. Snapchat: Which Is Best for Your Business? https://t.co/GLj8aOYCK4
— The Content Files (@thecontentfiles) April 6, 2017
Automate Your Reports
From generating your weekly social report to making sure you’re tracking all of your branded keywords, why not automate those processes?
Use our Smart Inbox feature or set up a trigger in Zapier to make sure you’re on top of all the times your brand is mentioned.
Instead of clicking through every Instagram photo tagged as #coffee, you could load them all in one place and scroll through them at the same time.
What are people talking about when they’re mentioning your brand? What about when they’re talking about your competitor? Track these keywords automatically so you can spend more time strategizing.
Our social listening tools can give you a great look into what your network is talking about.
Automate Your Answering Service
Both Facebook and Twitter offer brands a chance to set up their customer service hours. In Facebook, you can set an away message for when you’re not around. You can also automatically welcome people with Instant Replies or a Messenger Greeting.
In Twitter, businesses can set support hours and a welcome message when customers open up a Direct Message to them. Just like with the Messenger Greeting, this would be useful for saying a quick hello to customers and providing a FAQ page link.
And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you could try creating your own Facebook Messenger chatbot.
Automate Your Content Curation
One of the biggest time sucks for social media management is having enough content to post. Your content curation can be automated through a number of services like RSS feeds, Feedly (which is integrated into Sprout), Google Alerts, Medium subscriptions or any number of relevant newsletters.
Once you have the content, schedule away. If it’s especially relevant, make sure you schedule it multiple times to have the maximum number of impressions.
Takeaways for Social Automation
Social automation can be a tricky area to wade through but it can also save you time on repetitive tasks. Take a moment during your day to see what you’re manually doing. Are you searching for influencers when you could use a service to find potential influencers for you? Maybe you’re a surf shop and you find yourself sending out daily weather reports that you could automatically post instead.
- Articles from RSS feeds that you trust will always put out key content
- Check in on your network
- Your evergreen content
- Posts on an optimal schedule
- Personalize your content
- Twitter Direct Messages
- Comments or likes on Instagram posts
- Customer service interactions
- Any engagement, such as Retweets, Favorites or Follows
- Posts from one network to another. For example, posting on Instagram and sharing it to Twitter will post a link to Twitter instead of showing the photo.
Which processes do you like to automate for social media? What have you learned not to do? Share in the comments below!