Have you been wondering about which are the most effective tools for social media automation? Or maybe you want to understand the best ways to automate your social media presence and what you should and shouldn't schedule?
Like most things in social media, the answer is 'it depends'.
What I mean by this is, the 'what', 'when' and 'how much' you can automate in social depends on a number of case-specific factors including:
- Your industry
- Your community
- Your overall business goals
- Which social platforms you're active on
- Your over-arching social media strategy
And of course, the other factor is time - how much time do you have to commit to the task?
Social Media Automation - Do's & Don'ts
While the true answers relate to these specific factors, there are some general rules that you can use as guides when deciding what you can and can't (or shouldn't) automate. Here's the basics:
1. Do NOT Ever Schedule Engagement
You should never try to schedule or automate your engagement.
Social media is just that, social. When someone replies or otherwise engages with something you've posted, respond to them in real-time rather than scheduling your responses via a third party application
Think of social media as a conversation between you and your community members. Just like any other form of effective and successful interaction, it requires both parties to listen to what the other is saying, then respond back in a way that makes sense and is timely in nature.
This is how you build relationships with your community and allow them to like, know and trust you - which should be a part of every business' goals and strategy.
2. What Social Media Activities You Can Or Should Schedule
You can't always be on social media, so it can make sense to schedule some or all of your posts (not engagement) to certain platforms.
This is particularly useful if your market is either global or not located in your local time zone. In addition, if you plan your posts and schedule your posts, that frees up time for you to engage with your community in real-time each day.
For example, Twitter is one of the best platforms to schedule your tweets beforehand. You can schedule your tweets in advance, sharing content that's helpful and interesting to your community. These tweets can consist of content that you or others have created, great videos or images you've found, interesting statistics or inspiring quotes.
Then each day you can spend some time responding to the people who have interacted with those tweets/posts. The more engaged your community is, the more tweets you might want to schedule daily.
Automated Direct Messages on Twitter
Do NOT send these! Each day people are inundated by automated direct messages that are sent by people they have followed (often along the lines of "Thanks for following me, go to this link"). I ignore them ALL. In fact, I make a point of unfollowing these people the moment I see this.
In fact, because of vast amount of spam that comes from direct messages I ignore them completely which sometimes makes me actually miss a message from a real person. If you want to thank someone for following you, send them a tweet...in real time and skip the automation.
Posting on LinkedIn
Posting in real-time on LinkedIn is usually your best bet as you can respond right away to any comments you receive. Remember, this is a professional platform and there are expectations that you will respond in a professional amount of time.
There may be cases where you want to post something at a specific time in which you won't be available to do so. In such events, it can be useful to schedule your status updates, and that's entirely fine to do, just ensure you pay attention to comments so that you can engage with your connections that are sharing and/or engaging with your content.
What About Instagram?
Platforms like Instagram, for many businesses, work best in real-time. This is because you'll get the most engagement from sharing images that happen and are posted in real-time. These are timely images that'll inspire or emotionally connect with your community. An example might be a picture of your business during the holidays or an event that you happen to be attending.
Scheduling On Facebook
Now, I want to address both the 'what' and the 'how' of scheduling on Facebook.
First, I would generally avoid scheduling anything that gets posted to your personal profile. While you may post from time to time about your business on your personal profile, remember that it's a "personal" profile. Most people, especially your friends and family, do NOT want to be bombarded with your business posts in their News Feeds.
Having said that, it does make sense to schedule to your Facebook business page. This can be particularly helpful if you know that your community is on Facebook at particular times and you're not able to post during them. Keep in mind that you'll need to be ready to hop on and engage with any one who comments or posts on your posts.
Depending on your business, you may find that you can schedule most of your posts for the whole week, or in some cases maybe only for each day. For example, if you're a restaurant and you post a picture daily of that day's special, that is not something you can schedule until that day.
I also want to address how to schedule posts on Facebook. If you're going to schedule posts, do NOT schedule them using a 3rd party application. Use Facebook's native scheduler. Not only will the 3rd party software affect your ranking in the News Feed, but it's also visible for people to see the software you used in the post itself.
The best way to figure out what works for you and your community in terms of what and how much you automate on what platform is to test, test, test.
3. How To Automate Your Social Media Activities
As you're figuring out what you can schedule, you'll also need to decide how you're going to do so. Thankfully, there are numerous options available with a variety of different features, user interfaces and price points. Many will even offer a limited free version of their software or a short free trial of the full version, so you can get a feel and see if this is a scheduling application you want to invest in.
Examples of great social media scheduling software that I use or like are:
- AgoraPulse - Check out their free trial
- Sprout Social
One drawback to using automation software versus posting on the platform itself, is that you can't always predict what the post will look like once it goes live on the platform, whereas if you're creating the post directly on the platform, you have more control.
For example, on LinkedIn, if you want to share a link, once it's populated with the link and the image you can then remove the link from the text within your status update, as the link will be clickable below.
Another example would be if you were on Facebook and wanted to include a link and picture that's not available as a thumbnail when you add the link. In this case you can add your image first and then add a link within the text section of the post.
For a thorough explanation of what you should and shouldn't schedule on social media, watch this video.
This post was originally published on the Top Dog Social Media blog