Automation is one of the most hotly contested topics in social media. Bring it up online and you’re sure to find yourself amidst a passionate debate.
In fact, that happened yesterday when I shared an article on Twitter about a Chrome extension that allows you to schedule updates on Google Plus. I thought that was pretty nifty.
But, some people will tell you that all forms of scheduling and automation for social media is wrong. That it removes the “social” aspect of the platform. Or, that it turns you into a robot.
Scheduling or automating social media is not inherently wrong. It can help you be more efficient on social networks, which is especially important for small businesses short on time.
For instance, I do all of my reading either early in the morning or late at night. Instead of sending updates all at once at those odd hours, I use tools like Buffer, Timely and Hootsuite to schedule updates at optimal times throughout the day.
That works well for me.
But, the problem is that it’s so easy (and common) for businesses to screw this up. If you’re not careful, automation and scheduling can be a disaster.
Automation isn’t the only thing to ruin engagement
Let me be clear. There are plenty of businesses that have set their social profiles on complete autopilot, and as a result, lack responsiveness and engagement.
But, there are also businesses that fail in the engagement department even WITHOUT scheduling or automation.
If your business never takes the time to respond to questions or invite a dialogue — whether you use automation or not — your company may not be suited for social media. After all, the point is to engage with your customers, prospects and peers. But all too often, company culture gets in the way of that.
Automating Done Right
Whether you decide to schedule posts on social networks or use tools to automatically follow people on Twitter, there are some things you should keep in mind to approach automation the right way:
- Pay attention to timing. If you do schedule your posts, keep it during hours when someone is able to respond. Even if you’re not on social channels all day long, it helps to be available should something arise that needs your attention.
- Continue to engage. A “set-it-and-forget-it” solution becomes little more than an RSS feed. If you’re going to schedule or automate updates, make sue you still take the time to engage with your audience. After all, if you never respond or talk to people on the social web, why would someone tune in?
- Don’t oversell. Whether you’re scheduling updates or automating tweets, make sure you’re not just sharing your own content. No one likes non-stop promotion.
- Watch out for spam. If you decide to use a tool to auto follow people on Twitter, be mindful that you may end up following a bunch of bots and unsavory characters. Before you go this route, think about which is more important — your time or who you choose to follow.
- Be picky. Tools like Triberr and Twitterfeed allow you to automatically share posts from designated blogs. Even if there are sites you share regularly, chances are you won’t always agree with everything they write. That’s something to keep in mind before you go down this path.
The Bottom Line
Not all scheduling and automation is bad. There are definitely some practical applications for many of these tools if used properly.
The bottom line is that you need to look at your social media strategy and determine the approach that’s right for YOUR business, not someone else’s.
It’s Your Turn
I’d love to know what you think. Let’s create a healthy discussion about the pros and cons of using scheduling or automation for social media.
Do you automate or schedule any of your social media activities? Why or why not? Do you think this approach helps or hurts a business?
Image credit: randychiu