Humans and technology unite!
“Imagine taking a week off at the beach while your social media profiles hummed along without missing a beat.”
“Effortlessly publish content,” “maximize engagement” and “increase efficiency with suggested replies.”
Learn to “work easier and smarter by adding machine learning to the mix.”
Software companies are full of promises for social media managers and content marketers. These are just a few. Countless other platforms also say their technology will simplify your work, save you time and make life easier.
The secret is automation.
What, exactly, does that mean? With social media automation, technology is leveraged to plan and schedule social media content and management. The software platforms exist because social media managers are desperate for tools to help them manage the 24/7 demands of social media while increasing their returns on investment. Used well, social media automation can save valuable time while allowing brands to connect more efficiently with their audiences.
It’s easy to find examples of social automation gone wrong, resulting in corporate spam or embarrassing errors. When automation is mistakenly interpreted as the ability to “set it and forget it,” the risk for insensitive or unfortunately timed posts and subsequent apologies increases.
Considering the risks, is automation worth it? When it comes to digital and traditional marketing, the answer is “yes.” Automation is already showing promising results.
Why automate social media
Social media managers are busy. Thoughtful automation can help.
The biggest benefit of automation, according to Adestra’s Marketer vs. Machine report, is saving time: “Marketers say the biggest benefits of automation are saving time (74%), increased customer engagement (68%), more timely communications (58%), and increased opportunities, including up-selling (58%).”
Automation is good for marketers. But what about social media managers? What about the consumer?
“…[A]utomation can be a scary word for social media marketers. After all, many of us grew up in the field as community managers—as people tasked with creating, managing and growing relationships with our customers—which at first blush appears anathema to automation,” Chris Teso, CEO of the social customer platform Chirpify, wrote for AdWeek.
He suggests the correct automation tools can allow social media managers to do what they do best—connect with people and manage social relationships—but at scale, much like a company that uses automation to personalize mass emails.
“Currently, only 5 percent of a social media marketer’s job is automated,” Teso writes. “Yet automation has the power to drive greater customer engagement at scale while giving brand marketers important data insights to further refine their efforts.”
How to automate well
Don’t lose that human touch.
If the goal is engagement, automation can be used to enable human connection, not replace it.
“Social media automation should not be used for targeting people with whom you don’t have a relationship—it’s a way to communicate with the people you already know more efficiently,” a staffer at Hubspot wrote following an AT&T Twitter fail.
Or, as one writer for the automation and scheduling tool Buffer pleads, “Social media is not a rotisserie oven. Please don’t set it and forget it.”
Instead, social media managers must remain actively involved and aware of the automation processes they’ve selectively chosen to use. They must recognize that not all processes and tasks lend themselves to automation. Automation efforts should begin with the question, “does this benefit the user?”
With that in mind, automation may work best for:
Evergreen content. Scheduling posts from the archives adds value for the social media user by focusing on helpful content they may have missed.
Tracking hashtags and keywords. Social listening and monitoring tools can track mentions and conversations when you’re offline, saving time and increasing the speed of replies over manual search and monitoring.
What shouldn’t be automated?
Customer service. Social media users don’t want rote replies and stuffy bots in response to their questions, comments and concerns.
Sensitive posts. Posts on difficult topics or recent news are best handled by a social media manager in real-time.
By keeping the user’s needs in mind and electively choosing which tasks and processes to automate, businesses can live up to some of the promises of automation software, resulting in faster replies, greater engagement and easier publishing for social media managers.
I’d love to know: Have you tried automating any of your social media? Can you tell—or do you care—when a brand or account is using automation technology?
(GIFs sourced via Giphy.com, with the first and third authored by qualcomm.tumblr.com, and second authored by canity.com)