Using tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Expion and SocialOomph you can automate the task of publishing content over social media channels. Social media automation sounds like a bad idea if you're from the "keeping it real" school. The mantra goes something like this - be yourself, be real and be transparent in social media - or die! Scheduling tweets and Facebook status updates is something only spammers and marketing people (same thing?) do, right? For me it's not quite so black and white. Here are my pros and cons of social media automation and a few tips on keeping it "between the lines".
- Saves time - this is the most obvious benefit of scheduling and reusing social media updates. You don't have to be actively tweeting during business hours when you should be making money.
- Reaches more people - not everybody is online at 8AM or 9PM. By scheduling updates throughout the day, you have an opportunity of catching more attention from more people.
- Recycles content - you wrote a brilliant blog post last month, but who remembers it? How many people actually read it last month? By recycling periodically, you can improve that readership.
- Improves visibility - the fact is, the more you tweet or post, the more exposure you have to a wider audience. Assuming your posts are helpful or entertaining, you have the opportunity to increase your social media reach and influence.
- Allows you to multitask - marketers love this one and purists hate it. In principle, you can represent several different personas at once by scheduling updates from multiple accounts.
- Not "real" - scheduled updates may come from you, and in that sense they are "real", but they don't necessarily represent your state of mind when they are published.
- Not transparent - scheduled updates don't say when (or why) they were scheduled, but they do say "how". You can usually tell that a tweet was scheduled by looking at its source (the bottom line where it says "via...").
- Not personal - one school of thought is that you should always be engaging in conversations, not publishing or promoting content. If that were the case, how would you learn anything other than to receive an answer to a question you pose?
- Marketing - the dirty word in "social media marketing". Yes, businesses and marketing agencies use social media for promoting their products and services. That's the way of the world folks, and by the way, it keeps the Twitters and Facebooks of the world in business and free of charge.
- Not genuine - it's a sneaky way to have a social media presence when you're actually doing something else. Well, if it didn't work, marketers wouldn't do this. If no one ever responded to advertising, there wouldn't be any advertising. Sorry, but we're all guilty of supporting the things we claim to hate.
Seeking a Balance
Like drinking and any other "vice", social media automation can be done responsibly, providing benefits without much collateral damage. The key is to mix it up. Sprinkle in real engagements with your automated updates. Add new content to your schedule frequently. Err on the side of educational posts, as opposed to promotional posts, and don't be too repetitive. Change or randomize your schedule every week so that your content keeps varying and at least appears to be fresh. I know, this seems like a very cynical approach to what should be a spontaneous medium for communication. We can agree to disagree about that.
Your thoughts, as always, are welcome below.
Photo credit: smaedli