Guest post by Anna Roberts:
What’s ‘social’ about automated social media?
At first glance, robotic automated replies seem the opposite to the personal, friendly, social media customers and followers are after.
So, automated social media is bad, right? Well, sometimes.
Generally, it’s a mostly harmless strategy that can sometimes go catastrophically wrong.
For example, the usually social media savvy Oreo set-up auto-replies to tweets that mentioned their Twitter handle during a promotion. Inevitably, one user with an extremely explicit username mentioned Oreo in a post – and their Twitter bot dutifully responded, leaving Oreo with a couple of highly offensive expletives on their feed. Of course, Oreo deleted the Tweet and restricted auto-replies, but the damage was done.
A more shocking example comes courtesy of one of the NRA’s former Twitter accounts. One morning, they tweeted: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” The main problem with this tweet was that it had been posted shortly after the Aurora shooting, where 12 people were murdered. The NRA claim that the their social media rep wasn’t aware of the shooting, but it’s far more likely that the tweet had been scheduled in advance.
However, these incidents don’t show that social media automation is a problem. Instead, they tell us that automation needs to be carried out carefully if it is to succeed.
Remember that thousands of businesses use automation and scheduling tools each day – so they must be useful!
By using social media automation and scheduling tools, you keep your social media feed ticking away in the background. You don’t need to spend a half hour scrolling through your feed each time you want to retweet an interesting piece of content.
Additionally, if you’re away from the keyboard, it makes sense to re-share old (but still valid!) content to help fill the gap.
Social media dashboards also let you queue up multiple tweets across a huge time period – so you could schedule tweets to share a piece of content each week while the subject is fresh in your mind.
If you’re intrigued by the prospect of automating social media content but are slightly scared by the horror stories, these rules should help you avoid catastrophe:
Rule 1: Only schedule posts – not replies or messages
Auto-replies are tricky to get right. It’s impossible to guarantee that they’ll be relevant to the original mention, and if you receive a great deal of mentions it’ll be obvious that your replies are automated instead of personalized.
Similarly, automatically sending messages to new followers is frowned upon in today’s social media sphere. This practice seems spammy and insincere – hardly the impression you want to give if you’re trying to build your network or client list.
However, given that posts don’t involve any direct interaction with individual users, they are far better suited to automation.
Rule 2: Maintain diverse feeds
The heavy use of social media automation can lead to some social media feeds looking a little stale. Often this is the case where a company has set up their Twitter account to automatically link to new website content such as news articles, using the same format each time.
Make a concerted effort to maintain a diverse feed. Schedule posts with images, videos, gifs and Vines, and intersperse them with text posts or links to your website. Remember not to monopolise your own feed – share content posted by other accounts in your network to not only keep your feed interesting, but also to get noticed by these other publishers.
Rule 3: Use automation to keep your feeds populated
Social media automation is ideal if you’re set to take a long break away from the keyboard. If you’re the only social media manager in your business, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture if your social media accounts lie dormant for weeks on end.
Therefore, automate ‘evergreen’ posts that you know will stay relevant and aren’t likely to cause any controversy or lead to too many responses.
Another effective scheduling tactic involves building up a pool of links that your followers will find interesting. Whenever you find an article that fits the bill, schedule a tweet or retweet for a later date. Again, ensure that the content isn’t time-sensitive – it would be foolish to tweet a preview of tonight’s game a day later!
Rule 4: Check, check, and check again
Although the whole point of social media automation is to set you free from menial social media tasks, it’s vital that you don’t trust your automation tools to get everything right. For example, automatically sharing content from certain RSS feeds on Twitter is a common tactic, but it’s a good idea to read each article before it’s shared on your Twitter feed – you might accidentally post broken links or spam.
As we saw at the very start of this post, automated tweets can sometimes jar with current events. If there’s been a tragedy or other significant event, it’s always wise to instantly check that any scheduled content isn’t likely to be taken the wrong way.
Another example of this in action is when Dorothy Perkins (a clothing retailer), tweeted a very upbeat #FridayFeeling tweet to start the day. However, this was the morning after the Brexit referendum result was announced – and nearly half the UK was practically in mourning after the result. The retailer admitted the tweet had been automated and quickly took the post down.
Rule 5: One size doesn’t fit all
There are plenty of tools available that automatically cross-post social media content across different social networks. However, one size doesn’t fit all – each social network has different content requirements, and followers with different preferences. A long Facebook post won’t translate well to Twitter, and your LinkedIn followers will appreciate a more professionally worded post than your Facebook followers.
Therefore, create posts specifically for each platform and schedule them separately, where possible.
Overall, many social media marketers wouldn’t be able to fulfill their job role without automation tools. There’s no doubt that these tools are incredibly powerful in the right hands, but we recommend caution when using them. The above rules should help you to avoid any huge automation catastrophes, letting you use tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer with more confidence.
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