Social media management is a full-time job for any business of reasonable size. However, if you’re marketing multiple web properties, simply keeping up with Tweets, Facebook postings, and followers can become a full-time job within a full-time job if you’re trying to do everything on your own.
So, how can you get it all done in a day while still making time for eight hours of sleep? Essentially, you have two choices: hire extra help or automate some of your tasks. If you are a social media purist, then just the mention of automation likely has you clearing your voice and getting your soap box out to deliver a speech about how all social media interactions should be genuine, how automation is akin to spamming, that conversation is more important than promotion, etc., etc.
While all that is true, social media managers have to live in the real world. And in the real world, not every Tweet can be perfect and, yes, marketing is a part of social networking. So, unless you’ve got the budget to hire additional help, using an automation service can be a good compromise. Still, it’s not perfect and definitely has its pros and cons.
There are a variety of automation tools that can simplify the process of publishing content on social media channels. Some of the most popular programs are SocialOomph, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, TwitterFeed, and Expion. They are all slightly different and, depending on your needs, you may find value in using one or more. However, in general they all have the following benefits:
- Saves Time – Obviously, freeing up time to do other things (writing, researching, returning phone calls) is the main reason to rely on an automation tool. And if you play other roles in your company besides social media manager, you undoubtedly have many more obligations.
- Grow Your Audience – Instead of posting messages at the same time everyday (when your schedule allows) and reaching essentially the same people, you can use an app to update your social pages for you at intervals throughout the day when different social users.
- Greater Exposure – Whether you’re using a service or doing your own posts, the more your brand is “out there” the more folks will start to recognize and interact with it.
- Improve Readership – Not only will some programs inform followers of new blog posts you’ve written but will remind them of older blog entries as well. This gives your content greater shelf-life and introduces it to followers who may have missed it the first time.
- Create More Social Links – With an automation service, you can streamline the process of following people. You can set up your accounts so they automatically follow users who follow you, or some services will even recommend social groups for you to join (based on similar interests).
- Be Different People at the Same Time – Ordinarily, a personality disorder is the only way to be two or more people at once, but with an automation tool you can schedule updates for multiple accounts, using different personas — at the same time. Some call this shady behavior while for others it’s borderline; ultimately, the decision is yours.
Naturally, as any social media traditionalist will tell you, automation does have its drawbacks. Here are some of the big ones:
- It’s Fake – Even if you’re pre-scheduling posts and using your own words, when they’re delivered, they aren’t responsive to what’s happening in the social sphere at the moment. Instead of being part of the flow of the conversation, you’re butting-in and it may or may not be well-received. For instance, suppose something tragic just happened in the world and everyone is tweeting about it. Then, one of your automated messages interrupts saying something like, “Don’t forget our big sale tomorrow…”. You can see how folks might think you’re a jerk.
- They Look Fake – Unlike ordinary posts that have pictures, time and date stamps, etc., scheduled updates have the distinctive “published by XYZ tool” or “via …” message at the bottom. This is a dead giveaway the post came from a computer and not a person, and many users will instinctively tune it out.
- Not Personal – Since you’ll probably send the same message across multiple platforms, it’s difficult to personalize it for specific channels, which can be a problem when you have unique niches of people in each social network. Also, some may argue each network warrants specialized content.
- Risk Becoming Repetitive – Some of your fans may follow you on all their social channels. In such cases they may get the exact same post from you on multiple networks at about the same time. When done often enough, this can feel like spam.
Considering all the pros and cons, it’s fair to say, like most things in life, balance is the key. By no means should you automate all your social interactions, but there’s nothing wrong with letting the machines do some of the work for you –just be sure to monitor what’s going on. Make sure you are still taking the time to genuinely engage with your followers (e.g. don’t get lazy) and they shouldn’t get offended by a few computerized reminders or updates.
That said, it’s important to note even a social media campaign completely done by hand can be just as terrible as one that’s fully automated if your posts suck. No matter what, you’ve got to have great content, be more about giving than receiving, and be conversational (most of the time).