When to Automate and When Not to Automate Your Social Media

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Creating content for social media channels is hard sometimes. Even people who’ve been on social media for years sometimes struggle to find the time to create good articles. I am guilty of that myself sometimes and by now, I really should know better.

So it’s tempting to sign up for an automated service that promises to go out there and do it all for you. After all, we can automate so many things in our busy lives these days, why on earth would you want to do social media manually? There are ways to streamline and automate social media feeds but fully automating them is not the answer. Here’s my own views on the whole subject.

Automating social media channels is a contentious subject. By it’s very definition, the ‘social’ part of social media is something that expects you to be present. If you see some of the prodigious outputs from some of the big social media people out there such as Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s tempting to think that such a high rate of output must surely be automated.

If fact, it’s not. Indeed Gary is often asked how he does it. In truth, these days he has a team of people creating content with him and helping queue it up, but ultimately, everything goes across Gary’s phone as it’s posted. And if you see a reply, it’s not from one of his team, it’s from him. He talks about it in this video.

Very often, I talk to brands and individuals who have simply set up some social media channels, added some initial content and then signed up with some of the many automated content generators to recycle that content and repost that of others. They think that is the end of thier involvelemnt and that the job is done.

In fact, thats just the start. And chances are that you are doing more harm than good.

Because today, people on social media can spot an automated channel from several miles away. The recycling of content on a time line, the endless RT with a dumb comment attached like GREAT TIP over and over just gives the game away.

People may follow you for a while, but they will quickly realise that there’s nobody there. If nobody is engaging, why bother following?

So, given that we live in a globally connected world and we all have to sleep sometime, when is it OK to automate some social media services?

When it’s OK to automate – your mileage may vary.

It’s actually OK to go quiet when your marketplace or geographical location is sleeping. No reasonable person expects you to be there all the time. So don’t automate in those periods, it’s OK to not post. But the times when scheduling does work is when you are busy with other tasks but have things to say. Here’s my own rules that I adhere to both for my own posts and also that of clients I work with.

1. Using a service such as Buffer to automate social media will allow you to schedule posts ahead and let them roll out. I will use Buffer when I’m perhaps going to be in a meeting all day, on track instructing, flying or perhaps deep within a feature writing session. I know that I’m never very far away should I need to respond. In my view that is perfectly fine, but I would urge caution by making sure you’re not too far away to deal with any responses you may trigger.

2. Don’t schedule too far ahead. In a world with fast changing media headlines, your joke about a cartoon bomb scheduled four days ahead could possibly be overtaken by the drama world events. If you’d forgotten about it, you are creating a problem of triggering a backlash of offended people.

3. Don’t set reposting software to recycle content. Curate and choose it manually. Some services offer the ability to set a huge library of content up online then set times and days to push it out. At the end of the cycle, it starts over again. The cycle can be anything from a few days to weeks, even months, should you choose to. But the issue that I have personally is that it’s very easy to forget about a system like that and be caught out when it churns out something that collides with current events.

So ultimately, your social media is, I’m afraid, going to take effort. For those who invest, put the work in, either by themselves or by hooking up with someone like myself, the rewards can be beyond a scale you would ever get from traditional print spending.

It just depends on how committed you are to it.

Author: Neill Watson

Neill Watson is a professional writer, photographer and driver coach. He is the founder and editor of Historic Racer and the popular Car Photographer blog. Learn more about him and connect with him on the social media channel of your choice using the symbols below or sign up for Neill's regular email newsletter.

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