Every social media marketer knows how time-consuming social media management can be.
To generate the best returns, your brand likely needs to be active on at least two or three social media channels - but, of course, it's better to go beyond that if you can. And it's not enough to simply post once a week - you have to do it every day, or better, a couple of times a day. It's not enough to react to a notification - you have to monitor mentions of your brand and provide excellent customer service whatever the situation is.
All of this takes time, and if you're a business owner, forced by the world to keep up the online presence of your brand, it can quickly become overwhelming.
How can you reduce the time spent while still meeting the necessary activity, responsiveness and awareness requirements? The answer is social media automation.
When social media marketing gets overwhelming, the robots can come to the rescue. These days, we have a number of tools to choose from for every (or almost every) social media task. There are social media management tools, social media monitoring tools, scheduling tools, apps that connect everything to everything (read: IFTTT), and many, many more.
These apps make our lives easier, but more than that. automation, when done right, makes your work more organized and, therefore, more effective.
But 'done right' is the key - here are some key automation guide rules to ensure you're getting the most out of your automation tools.
Rule #1: Never automate direct messages
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this one.
Automatic messages are extremely common, and they're not only pointless, but they can actually be harmful to your brand. Automated messages are always seen as spam by users - and for a good reason, they've got all the spam characteristics.
These automated messages are all pretty much the same, saying something along the lines of "Thanks for the follow, check out my product...". Moreover, they often include a signature of the tool they're sent from, making them even more spammy.
For most, it means they simply won't open the message - but for some, it also means deleting the author of direct message from the following/database completely.
If you want to thank someone for following you, send them a tweet in real time. Start a conversation, if you're serious about connecting with this person.
Rule #2 Don't automate comments & likes
I get it - every possible social media marketing guide tells you to start engaging with every customer. Reply to their every mention of your brand, they say. Thank them for sharing your content. Engage. And as noted, this all takes time - far too much time in mos instances.
While the temptation to automate engagement is clear, don't do it. It's a trap. It's a rare customer who won't figure out that your mass tweeting isn't automated, and that's not what they're looking for from a good company.
If you have your 'thank-you's automated, your customers will probably just discard them, and you won't glean any benefit from being engaged. But what's worse, if you've reacted to a serious complaint with a series of automated comments, that could significantly reduce your brand standing.
Now, as always, engagement requires human interaction, ideally in real-time. You can simplify the process, by finding all the people you want to engage with (the ones who've mentioned your brand online) with a social media monitoring tool. However, the replies themselves should be tailored to each question asked.
A different, but related, problem lies in automatically liking and sharing content from certain people or business. For example, the influencers you want to connect with might post interesting articles relevant to your product that are worth liking, and you might set up an auto-like or re-tweet system to help boost your activity. But these profiles are still run by people, and their opinions can shift.
Once in a while they might post a political opinion that you don't approve of, for example, or a personal issue that you won't want to get involved in. You don't want to be liking or re-tweeting that content.
Remember, that your online actions are public - such mistakes can do significant damage to your brand.
Rule #3: Don't automate RSS feeds
One of the main guidelines of social media marketing in general is that 80% of your posts should be shares of useful, interesting content, with the remaining 20% left for promotional messages. In order to facilitate this, you'll browse the web for relevant, fruitful works from other companies (preferably, not your competitors), influencers and experts in the field - for example, if you own a small coffee shop, you might want to find bloggers that write stories about the history of coffee, and share their articles. And when you find a blog that seems to be completely relevant, like a perfect fit, it can appear beneficial to automate its RSS feed, so you share all their posts without any effort.
But that's the wrong approach. And you can probably guess why.
Most blogs exist to promote someone's product or someone's personal brand - they'll share promotional content much more often than you'd expect from them. You'll be selling someone else's product and redirecting your traffic to them before you know it.
What should you do instead? Use an app like Feedly - all you have to do is upload your chosen blogs on there, and share articles from one dashboard after looking them through. Feedly shows you the preview of every article you're about to share.
Rule #4: Automate posts on an optimal schedule
Automating your social posts can help improve organization, and optimize the performance of your strategy, as you can ensure your updates are going out at optimal times for your audience. It takes some preparation, but it'll ensure your social updates go through smoothly, with minimal time investment on your behalf.
First, come up with a calendar. For example, you could share useful articles Monday to Wednesday, a promotional post on Thursday and something humorous on Friday.
Second, find or craft this content. Then make an account in Buffer, or a similar tool and schedule at the times when the majority of your audience is active and responsive (based on your analytics).
The only exceptions to be aware of are that you'll need to pause your schedule in case of any crisis, and you shouldn't schedule for too far ahead to ensure your posts remain relevant.
Rule #5: Automate social media analytics
There are some things that you simply can't do manually, and social media analytics is one of those things - and probably the most important one.
You have to know if all your efforts, scheduled content, and social media campaigns are producing results. You can use a social management tool to track mentions growth, compare your social media results to your competitors', and calculate the results from your social media campaigns.
By now you should see how social media automation is supposed to work to bring success to your brand. Anything that can be automated without causing harm, anything repetitive and mindless should be automated, while things that involve human contact, attention and engagement should not be. In fact, you should make a point of not automating those things.