Never automate social media posting!! Never!!

If you’ve read much about social media automation, you’ve probably heard that before.   I follow a lot of the social media experts so I listen to their podcasts, watch videos and read articles. It’s part of staying informed and learning new techniques. Everything changes so fast with social.  You HAVE to pay attention.  I’ve heard at least 8-10 of the best social marketers explain why you should never automate social media.  Here is one example:

Never Automate a Tweet

When the gurus all agree, it’s a good idea to listen.

Most of the time, they are talking about automation in the context of posting links from sites.  You can use a variety of social media tools to automatically post a site’s content using RSS feeds, In other words, you are posting articles without even reading them first.  You set it and forget it…a way to blindly curate content.

social media set it and forget it

Let me explain a bit more about this technique.

Let’s say you have a site about clowns.  Feeding your twitter account with articles from greatclowns.com and awesomeclowns.com makes sense.  It should be something your followers want to see.  What is the harm? Why not automate your posts?

The obvious problem is that it you are  disengaged with your followers so you aren’t providing much value. It will be difficult to build a strong following if your only approach is automated posting.

When you are automating your posts, you really aren’t controlling what gets posted.   It seems to work great when you post 3 really good articles on a topic. However,  most sites will eventually throw you a curve ball and post something irrelevant.  I’ve seen posts that wish staff members happy birthday or posts giving instructions to visitors on how to retrieve their password.  A

Also, your post can come out at an inappropriate time. A cheerful post gets scheduled while something bad happens in the media.  This can be distasteful and embarrassing.

So…you have been warned.  Never automate social media posting. Understand?

OK.

Well…

I confess…I do automate some social media.

Despite all the warnings there are times when it just makes sense to automate. Between our own sites and clients businesses, I have too much to handle if I have to manually post everything.  I need to take some shortcuts. If you do it right, it works well, you save a lot of time, and it can be very safe.

When Automating Social Media Posting Works

Redistribution of Your Own Content

We have several content websites that put out helpful information.  We have two in particular that are at least 8 years old and have thousands of posts each.  This isn’t news or other time sensitive material so it doesn’t matter that it was created 3, 5 or 10 years ago.

I happen to use a tool called Sendible which is similar to Hootsuite.  We set up  RSS feeds from our own sites and use these feeds to resubmit this content to our followers.    Someone that didn’t follow us years ago might have missed something we originally submitted.

For example, we have a business form and organizational document site that provides free PDF, Word and Excel downloads.  We automate posts to Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.  We post 1-3 posts a day from a different category.  We set it up so it won’t ever repeat a post that was submitted in the last 30 days.  I’m also careful to check the posts in the category to make sure they don’t have anything inappropriate for our followers.  Certainly avoid posts that are time sensitive.  We have calendars on that site.  Posting a 2009 calendar today wouldn’t be the biggest mistake but its unnecessary and has no value.   So I take those forms and move them to an archived category so they won’t show up in the feed.

These reposts produce nice traffic for us and they are valuable to our visitors. Since we use a fairly large thumbnail, the re-pin traffic we get from Pinterest  is excellent.

pinterest re-pins

Scheduling Optimization

Many social media analysis tools help you optimize the best days and times to post.  I dig into our reports and figure out optimal time zones for each account.  Then I set up a scheduling queue to post at various times that fit our optimal time slots.   I usually wait until late morning before I browse articles on various topics to find relevant posts for my subscribers (I use Digg Reader, Feedspot and BuzzSumo).  I skim through the articles and identify that ones that are the most valuable for my followers.  Then I set them up in my queue to schedule the content.

This has led to a lot more interaction with my followers.  It also spreads out the content delivery. Instead of posting 10 articles in 2 minutes, you can deliver it periodically through the day.

Yes, if you are an extremely large account and current events affect your brand’s image then you should avoid scheduling.  No one that follows our document site is going to care if I post a business form during bad news.  If you post about your visiting your wonderful, safe city during a riot…not good.

Be aware of your schedule, use common sense and check your accounts to look for engagement opportunities. Posting in this manner is a baseball pitch.  If you just stand there, you strike out.  You need to be ready to step up to plate, swing the bat and hit a few out of the park.

social automation home run

Helper Accounts on Twitter

We have a few secondary Twitter accounts that we use to provide additional assistance to our “main” account.  For example, we own several Twitter accounts that follow musicians and music news services.  These accounts have thousands of followers.

We post automated RSS feeds related to the topic and since we don’t really tie it directly to a site or client, we don’t mind if we occasionally post something irrelevant from the RSS.   We set these up with sites we trust and use stop words to avoid as many issues as possible.    Yes, if the site we trust makes a mistake, this account would take some damage.   Since it’s not tied to any business, losing some followers will only hurt for a short time.  The rewards outweigh the risks.

If we had time to engage, performance and reach would dramatically improve.  Still… I can tell you that we get at least some reach.   On one account, we were getting about 4-5 retweets of per day.  And without engagement, the account ends up with 200 new followers a month.

Helper accounts serve their purpose.  They allow us to re-tweet client posts which get re-tweeted and expands reach.  They serve their purpose.

This isn’t something I suggest for anything other than Twitter.

Automation – The Final Judgment

The social media gurus are right. Engagement trumps all.  If you just passively post items then you’re followers won’t get a feel for your personality or brand.

If you are careful and use common sense, you can automate some of your posting and still expand reach.  Use automation as part of a complete social media marketing strategy and you’ll be able to turn followers into customers.