One of the biggest challenges for small businesses who want to use social media is finding the time.
So it’s not surprising that a whole bunch of automation tools have appeared to help people manage their social media.
But automating postings on Twitter, Facebook and the rest does come with some downsides. And opinions vary wildly – some people will say you should NEVER automate social media while others embrace it wholeheartedly.
I believe productivity tools have a place – after all, we’re running a business and not simply doing social media for our own amusement. But do proceed with caution. And remember that you can’t just “set and forget” – you must monitor your accounts and make sure you get involved in conversations and interact with people.
Here are my views on what you should and shouldn’t automate.
Post your latest blog article across your social media accounts. However it’s best to schedule your posts at different times and vary the description according to what works best for each network. And remember that while it’s OK to tweet your latest blog post more than once at different times of the day, you shouldn’t do this with Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.
Use a tool like Buffer to drip feed interesting articles you find across the web rather than post several in a short burst.
Schedule your planned updates, e.g. promoting an upcoming event, series of tips & advice
Send an automated direct message to new followers on Twitter. It’s great if you can thank new followers personally, but don’t automate this – it just comes across as false. And don’t use direct messages – if you do want to acknowledge people, do so publicly (and don’t use it as an excuse to sell something).
Link twitter and Facebook so that all your tweets are automatically posted on Facebook. The other way round isn’t quite so bad but it’s usually more effective to adapt your content individually for each social network.
Apps that send automated tweets for you – like horoscopes and online newspapers like paper.li
Auto-tweeting old blog posts. This sounds like a good idea in theory. In practice, it can result in things which were only relevant at the time being posted years later. I’ve seen things like predictions for 2012 – published in 2015 and previews of events that happened months before.
Basically it’s OK to schedule social media posts. That way you can manage your time better and also post things at the most appropriate time of day for your audience.
But automating postings is full of pitfalls and can make you look very stupid (or more likely, simply dull and unprofessional).
One word of caution – if you have posts scheduled and a major event happens, be prepared to pause everything. Your tweets about your latest product launch can look very out of place if everyone on Twitter is talking about a terrorist attack.