Perils of automating social media marketing

Wait Before You Automate Those Social Media Posts

Sincere, honest, approachable and genuine? or fakey, disingenuous, distant and phony? We know how we want to be perceived personally and professionally, right?

People are watching us IRL (in real life), and they’re watching us online, too. What we say and how things look on our personal and business social media accounts matter. Typos, funky formatting and poor grammar — these are givens to watch out for, because we don’t want to come across as unprofessional. But have you thought about how automating your social media activities could make you look disconnected like you’re just iPhoning it in?

Automated Social Media Tools: Popular and Growing

The number of apps and tools to help make social media easier really took off more than three years ago, yet the number of options continues to grow each year. (I googled “social media automation tools” just now and got almost 95 million hits — wow!)

There are real time-savers out there. And with everything business owners and social media managers have going on (so many platforms to feed!), it makes sense to take advantage of social media marketing automation tools. Just use them strategically and with some care.

I’ve used HootSuite, Buffer and, of course, Facebook’s native scheduler for years. It can feel quite satisfying filling up those queues with blog posts, industry and customer/client news and content I created for my clients and myself. The problem is this: While I know I could be automating even more, I want to spend real time being connected to my clients’ (and my own) social channels. As much as I possibly can, I want to interact with people while they’re interacting with my content. And it’s beneficial to be able to react when the conversation is happening vs. checking in once a week when it’s time to fill up the queue again.

Social media automation tools are great ... but don't always keep things on auto-pilot. Make time to be present while online conversations are happening in real time.

Social media automation tools are great … but don’t overdo the auto-pilot. Make time to be present while online conversations are happening, so you can respond in real time. Much more human that way!

Cross-Platform Conflicts

Another thing that makes it tricky to keep it real online while automating your updates is that each social media platform is just different enough that it requires extra work to make one post’s text and image (and hashtags!) to fit all platforms. Sure, it saves time to post across multiple accounts at once.  But I often don’t like the way it looks when I’m on the receiving end of some of these messages. And sometimes it’s down-right annoying!

One thing that gets on my nerves is when people post things in Facebook groups that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic du jour of the group. At first when I saw this happening in one of the groups I managed, I thought it was because people were spamming the group with self-promotional B.S. Not every post was self-promotional, but boy were they off-topic. When I DM’d people to say, “Hi there. I wanted to let you know that your posts are not appropriate for a group focused on social media marketing for coaches,” they’d often respond with something like, “Oh, sorry. I auto-post the same thing on a bunch of groups. I’ll remove it.” (Too late. I nuked your post, Careless Person.)

Another thing that can be a no-no (depending on the type of content you share) is automatically  having everything you post on Facebook also go on Twitter. This one pains me because certain people I follow do this a lot. Friends, seeing tweet after tweet without the full context of what else you posted on Facebook (like the image you’re raving about that’s missing!) is frustrating. If you’re doing this type of automation, check your Twitter stream and you’ll see that your followers don’t likely know what you’re tweeting about.

The Perfect Social Media Tool

Sorry to tease … but there’s no perfect social media automation tool. There is, however, sage advice from an experienced marketer (moi) who has doing social media marketing for businesses for years; here you go:

  • First, thoroughly read up on the app or tool you’re considering. Google “problems with XYZ tool” and see what users are saying that you might not be aware of. (You can’t always trust the app creator to be transparent about issues and quirks.)
  • Get the opinions of a respected third-party source that publishes a round-up review of tools. Here’s one from Buffer, The 25 Top Social Media Management Tools for Businesses of All Sizes. (Yes, Buffer itself is on the list, but they do a great job of evaluating tools and other aspects of social media, so they have my trust.)
  • Ask your fellow social media managers, consultants and business owner friends what tools they use and why. Also, what tools and apps have they tried and then abandoned?
  • Don’t automate everything. Start by choosing one account, like using Buffer for Twitter. Right from tweet one that Buffer pushes out for you, go to your Twitter stream and see how the post looks. Did you notice how each link (URL) you shared has “buff.ly” on it, which shows you’re using Buffer? That’s a dead giveaway you are automating your social media. Whether that matters to you or not is a personal preference.
  • Once you’re comfortable with how the automation of a particular tool is working, regularly check in on your tweets and posts down the road to make sure the app didn’t change the appearance and context of your scheduled content.
  • Remember that things can happen IRL, like tragedies and other major news stories, that could make your pre-scheduled posts come across as uncaring or bizarre. (Read 7 Cringeworthy Social Media Fails from 2018 for … ummm … inspiration.)
  • If at first you don’t succeed with an automation tool, switch over to one of its competitor’s products. I often find these by googling something like, “What’s better than HootSuite?” — and these articles often compare the pros and cons of each tool, which can be helpful.

Set It But Don’t Forget It

Setting it and forgetting it can save you time, but just make sure that social media automation is working for you vs. against you. If you’re taking the time to use social media to market your business, you don’t want to lose points for your efforts by being in full-on auto-pilot mode.

Being thoughtful about social media automation isn’t being obsessive — it should be part of our desire to have people know, like and trust us both on and offline.

Photo: Chris Leipelt via Unsplash