There’s been some debate around this topic and for those of you that are umming and ahhing about the choice, I thought I would lay it all out along with my view point…
Some people disagree with social media automation with very valid reason.
Jonathan Crossfield from the Content Marketing Institute raises some good points about how social media automation can hurt your brand. Here are a few of his main points:
- Automating social media takes the point out of social media, it’s supposed to be social but if everything’s automated, there’s nobody at home – and this is true. Leaving everything to automation is a rookie way of dealing with your social media. Being unable to provide responses to your fans and followers damages your brand name and creates a poor impression with people, especially if they want to communicate with you about a problem.
- You can’t use automation to replace your social activity but he does go on to say how it can be used to enhance it. Rather than sending out a burst of tweets or updates during your lunch break,, or when you get five minutes, you can use automation to spread them out at intervals and by analysing your followers, even send updates during their most active hours – this is particularly useful if some of your fan-base is in a different country with an outrageous time zone.
- Nothing compares to being in the moment. Crossfield uses the Oreo tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl as an example, which shows how giving live and in the moment updates can have a massive social impact (15,861 retweets – that’s a lot of retweets)
- His final point relates to automated updates that interfere with world tragedies. Posting inappropriate social media updates during the Boston Marathon tragedy is one of his examples, and it wouldn’t take long to come up with a few, like the time Livenation Ontario had to cancel the Radiohead performance after the stage collapsed and injured three people (also killing one) but failed to their automation off, yes as you can guess they then tweeted out asking people to post their photos on Instagram and tag them!
So although Crossfield raises some good points, I wouldn’t say these are reasons you shouldn’t at least attempt some form of automation. I’m going to tell you why I think automation is useful, and this is for those of you who may have hobbies as well as jobs.
For me, my writing is a part-time hobby, and whilst I’m at my day job, my access to social media is particularly limited. I may be able to post on Instagram – the only social media platform to not allow automation – and I may even be able to post a tweet or two but I have no access to Facebook whatsoever.
So in this situation, my organic posting is limited to my lunch breaks and after work. For some, this isn’t great, especially when many of my followers are UK and then many of them are international. I need to be able to reach as many people as possible as often as possible, but that doesn’t mean posting consistent and irrelevant spam.
There are a number of free automation tools out there and Ann Smarty runs through the best of them in her ultimate guide.
How do I automate?
I pay $40 a year for the tools of Post Planner and for me this is the best option. It took a little time setting it up but after inputting my favourite streams from Facebook, Twitter and the web, I can search through the most shared content in the past week at the touch of a button in topics that are relevant to me. I’m able to find a bottomless list of fun book and writing related images and memes, topical points of discussion and it even provides me with a few ideas for those boring statuses.
In half an hour, I’m able to schedule enough content for a month.
It sounds like cheating, I know. But it’s not. My content is 95% book related and 5% stuff that interests me. Which makes it 100% authentic to my brand. By posting it at different times of the day – when I might not be able to get to my social media pages – I can reach out to all my fans far and wide.
Now some will say that this loses the ‘voice’ of my brand and yes you may be right, but I always take the time to respond to all my interactions. I do post in between the stuff that’s schedule to give my fans an update on me.
My Facebook page is probably the most active of my social media, and that’s because I can automate as much or as little content as I like – generally around 2-3 posts a day. It has detracted from my authentic voice but added to it, kept it live and in people’s newsfeeds. I don’t get very many ‘hide’s from followers, or even many ‘unlikes’. Everything that is posted is true to my brand and my personality but is able to actually reach someone, and it’s mainly entertaining. The stuff I post in between is the added bonus (and generally gets more views/interactions).
It’s definitely worth being cautious when you’re thinking about automation but I don’t think you should be so cautious as to ignore it. As long as you’re sourcing the right content, your brand will flourish. It’s all about what you post and when. Don’t spam your followers, enrichen their day with a joke or funny picture.