Marketers on both sides of the fence often argue about the merits and pitfalls of social automation, and neither side is completely right or completely wrong.
Automation by itself isn't inherently bad - it's just one approach to managing social and content campaigns. The deployment phase, on the other hand, is where marketers tend to go wrong. Ideally, you need to find a middle ground that enables you to leverage the efficiency of social automation, while maintaining real social engagement with your audience.
Here are some ways automation could be hurting your social efforts, along with some simple tips on how to reroute your social deployment back to the path of success:
1. Too Much Automation
Too much of a good thing can have negative consequences, and social automation is no exception.
If you're just automating a few curated posts during the week, then you should be fine. However, if you're automating every single post that goes up, using automated direct messaging, and relying on autoresponders, then you have a problem.
If your social automation is flooding your channels with curated updates, then you're also burying your own content. The algorithms used for channels like Twitter and Facebook won't let you spam your followers.
Roll back your post frequency a bit and try to keep your automated updates to a minimum.
2. Zero Engagement
Social automation isn't a "set it and forget it" approach. If you let automation run your social accounts, then you'll miss out on opportunities to join conversations around your content. And if you don't respond to those who try to engage you, they'll eventually notice.
Automation can never replace the human element you can offer your audience. You should actively monitor your social channels, answer questions, ask questions, and actively work to create more opportunities for engagement.
3. Eliminating Personality
Using a moderate level of automation is fine, but try to avoid making your posts sound robotic. I see this happen when marketers create autoresponders that sound incredibly generic, like they're talking to no one in particular, and it's easy to make the same mistakes when you're crafting your social updates.
Infuse some personality into your automated content to make it match your brand and capture the audience's attention.
4. Ignoring Your Automated Content Stream
I'm a big fan of tools that help with curation and automation - combining Quuu and Buffer, for example, is a great way to deliver targeted content to your audience. But even when this works exactly as it should, you still need to monitor the automated stream.
Keep an eye on what curated content is going into your queue to determine if the quality and relevancy of each piece of content is up to your standards - you don't want to accidentally promote a competitor's content or publish an editorial piece that contradicts your brand's values.
You also shouldn't automate likes and engagement. You never know when you might like or engage a post that makes you look bad.
5. Posting at the Wrong Time
You should never automate your social posts until you understand your audience well enough to know when they're most active and most likely to engage you. These factors vary by audience and also change from one social channel to another.
Your social insights can show you when your audience is most active based on historical engagement metrics - designate content to be published during those hours.
If your followers are most likely to engage you from 7pm to 11pm, for example, it would be pointless to push out automated content at 9am every day. Find the best time to post to your social channels for both automated and real-time posts.
6. Neglecting the Uniqueness of Social Channels
Every social channel is unique, and just as the timing of engagement changes from channel to channel, so does the content itself.
People use social channels in very different ways, and the tone and structure of posts should be suitable for that particular channel's users.
It's not a smart strategy to automate social to the point where the same content or update is being promoted on every single channel at the same time. Your message, tone, length, and structure should be customized for each platform to maximize the potential for engagement.
7. Ignoring the Results of Campaigns
Just because you're automating your content doesn't mean you can ignore your analytics.
Reviewing social insights should be a regular part of your marketing schedule. Use these insights to monitor the response to specific pieces of content and see how your followers reacted. Did you lose followers after you shared a specific piece? Was the engagement higher than usual for a certain curated topic?
Use the data to revise your strategy and search for more topics and content that aligns with the top-performing posts. You don't want to risk losing followers, so eliminate any topics that have previously caused people to disengage. You'll only be able to find this information if you manually monitor your analytics on a consistent basis.
The main downside of social automation comes when you rely too heavily on it as a replacement for human engagement or if you allow yourself to disengage from your followers. Automation should only be used to supplement your social strategy by streamlining your curation and promotion processes - use it to fill gaps in your engagement and content calendar, not the other way around.
Screenshot taken by Aaron Agius - September 2016. Main image by By D J Shin