What You Should and Shouldn’t Automate on Social Media

How can well-established brands like Oreo and even the New England Patriots make mistakes like accidentally tweeting racial slurs for their thousands of followers? Because building relationships takes time and energy. Building relationships online is no different, which is why people love the idea of social media automation. Why do it yourself when you can get a bot to do it for you? Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer give you a whole stream of pre-constructed, prescheduled tweets at the push of a button. Tools like Instamacro and Crowdfire let you automate the process of liking and following completely. It’s simple, easy, and cost-effective…

And therein lies one of the biggest traps of social media marketing: tactless automation. How many times have you responded to a tweet, never to get a response? How many times have you posted a selfie on Instagram, only to be met with generic comments like “Cool!” and “100%”? (What does “100%” even mean?!) Or worse, accidentally tweeted something that can’t ever be undone?

Automation should be in any savvy social media marketer’s toolkit, but there’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way. Doing it the wrong way can be downright destructive to your brand. (We’ve made many Facebook videos poking fun at what not to do. Many videos. See them here.) Now, a basic rundown of some automation do’s and don’ts:

Do: automate content scheduling.

A majority of your social media posts should be planned ahead of time and scheduled to be published when your audience is most active. Hootsuite and Buffer are prime favorites for social media scheduling and analytics. (Just be wary of the “suggested content” feature!) In addition, be sure to check your accounts daily to respond to comments and engage with users in a timely manner.

Do: automate conversation monitoring.

This one’s Twitter specific. At any given time, there are conversations happening around topics related to your brand and industry. With tools like Hootsuite’s “Streams” feature, you can monitor and participate in these conversations from one convenient dashboard.

Don’t: automate commenting, direct messaging, or anything of the sorts.

Automated comments are rampant on Instagram, and automated direct messages and tweets are notorious on Twitter. It’s become so commonplace by now, that most of us can tell a mass-produced interaction from a genuine, organic one. While it might be tempting to blast a message to each new follower with a link to your book, this method doesn’t convert, and you know it. So, don’t do it.

Don’t: automate mass following.

This may sound hypocritical coming from me, especially if you’ve been following my career since my early magazine days. At one point in time, mass following users was the tactic of choice for many people looking to “growth hack” their Twitter account. I was no different. In fact, a large part of the valuation I got from the sale of my first business came from the fact that my magazine had a hefty Twitter following. My personal account, @juliannekeu, has over 25,000 thousand followers — among whom are well-known brands, politicians, and D-list celebrities (true story). So who am I to tell you not to use the same tactic I used to grow my following way back when?

Because over the years, I’ve noticed engagement on my content go from buzzing to near zero; from hundreds of likes on a tweet to five — on a good day. We’ve arrived at a time when social media is heavily saturated, and organic content is almost dead. A follower today isn’t necessarily a fan. You want fans, not followers. And the way to win them is the old fashioned way: create good content, promote it, and invite people to respond.

All in all, social media is about relationships, and automation will only get you so far. As a rule of thumb, automate management, not engagement.