Something sapping your time on social media? Chances are, you can automate it.
Got too many messages? Set up an auto-response.
Got no time to find followers? Download a tool to find them for you.
Can’t find anything interesting to share? Get a content curation app.
Social media automation quickly goes wrong, though, when it’s used to replace your own activity, rather than complement it. The result? An online presence that doesn’t really speak to anyone.
So, today’s big question: how do you get the balance right between automation and authenticity?
To answer it, we spoke to the people behind some of the best digital marketing brands in the business. We’ll be delving into the strategies and approaches that MeetEdgar, Mention, Hiplay, Rebrandly and Wishpond use to manage their own social media presence.
But first – a quick refresher on the many ways you can use social media automation to help run your accounts.
Over the past few years, the number of tools for automating your social media presence has exploded – and it’s easy to see why. They allow busy social media managers to get more done, keeping up a regular stream of engaging posts without being glued to their screens 24/7.
The most popular methods for automating social media include:
With all these time-saving tools at your disposal, automating social media has never been easier. But as with all new-fangled inventions, there is a bit of a knack to it.
‘We’re HUGE fans of social media automation – it’s literally why we created our flagship software, Edgar, in the first place!
‘Online marketing – especially on social media – moves way too quickly for posting everything live. It’s not a realistic or sustainable routine, and it’s way too easy for opportunities to fall through the cracks.
‘You can get so overwhelmed with posting your everyday content that you don’t have the time or energy for actual live interactions with your followers – and that’s what social media is all about!
‘All of our regular and ongoing promotional updates are scheduled using Edgar. That includes updates promoting blog posts, sales and discounts, guest appearances like podcasts, and so on. Because we schedule those things in advance, we have a lot more time in our day to day for actual interactions, like responding to Tweets, conducting outreach, and providing social customer service.
‘Our day-to-day process for automating is actually pretty minimal…Ordinarily, automation is a regular process of refilling a finite queue – you write and add updates to the queue, and as they get posted, the queue runs out. That’s a bit like pouring water into a barrel with a hole at the bottom. Edgar saves your updates even after they’ve been posted to social and rotates through them, so the updates you add are automatically shared again.
‘Our automation routine feels more like performing simple, regular maintenance, rather than constantly racing to avoid running out of content.’
‘We do a considerable amount of live, non-automated interacting on social media. Sometimes that takes the form of participating in Twitter chats, or reaching out to people who we think would appreciate either our software or a particular post on our blog. Most of the time, though, we’re doing things like answering customer service-related questions, and responding to shoutouts.
Our original tagline was actually “As cute and useful as a pink chainsaw, but significantly less likely to cut off your thumbs.”
— MeetEdgar (@MeetEdgar) June 30, 2017
‘The more practical, obvious benefits to that include establishing yourself as reliable by answering questions, but there’s more to it than that. Live interactions are an opportunity for you to define and demonstrate your humanity, and your brand’s identity and values.
‘The emotional connections you create with the people in your audience make an enormous difference over time, and if you aren’t carving out the space to be able to forge those connections, you’re missing major opportunities both on social media and beyond.’
‘We view automation on social media as a good thing, but which needs to be balanced with the right amount of authenticity and human engagement.’
‘Whenever we create new content, we like to share that on social media through a manual Tweet. We use tools like Buffer to send it out on Facebook, LinkedIn etc at a time that’s most effective for reaching our audience. We use SocialBee to send out and recycle some different tweets and Facebook messages with our content… Around 60 to 70% would be scheduled, and the rest would be manual engagement.
‘Using a tool like SocialBee allows us to break up what we’re sharing into different sections, blog posts from ourselves, curated content from others, mentions of our company and feedback from our customers. We rotate a social message from each different section to keep it interesting for our readers.
‘Each morning I check if our company has been mentioned anywhere online using Mention. If so, we’ll tweet a message to thank them directly from Twitter then use Buffer to send a Facebook and LinkedIn message out at the most effective time. Finally we’ll add the mention to the ‘mentions’ section on SocialBee so it will be re-published overtime.
‘Every day we’ll interact with our followers so they’re speaking with a real person. I always spend a couple of hours guaranteeing that I’m available for live interaction and making sure that users are getting responses to questions.
‘It’s essential to put a human element into your social media presence… People want to deal with people, but you also need to be efficient in the work you’re doing.’
‘We have users all over the world and it’s just not possible for us to manually post social messages that we hit all their time zones, so we’ll always rely on automation here. But at the core we always want to make sure that users who are interested in engaging get to – albeit a few hours later if we’re in vastly different time zones.
‘Of course, based on the product we offer, we find adding branded links into our automated and authentic interactions to be highly effective for engaging with readers and ensuring they trust the content we share.’
‘Automation is invaluable for us. Because our marketing team is relatively small, utilizing automation where we can allows us to maintain our presence on social media without needing to dedicate significant amounts of time to it on a daily basis.
‘Over 90% of our posts are automated. Most of our social media posts are links to the content on our blog, which we schedule in advance using Buffer.
‘Though we don’t use other tools to automate social media, we have integrated our social platforms with Intercom, which pushes Twitter DMs and Facebook messages to Intercom’s support inbox. This allows our customer success team to respond to customer inquiries from social media using the same platform they do most of their other work on.
‘Luckily, we have an extensive library of amazing content, which gives us a veritable sea of content to draw from. When scheduling, we try to put together a mix of new content (our most recently published posts) and our old, but popular content (based on Buffer’s in-platform analytics). We usually schedule 7 Tweets a day and a single Facebook post.
‘Though we have tried using social to more actively engage with followers, we’ve found the space we operate in can be quite saturated and that our potential customers tend to react more positively to other methods. As a result, we’ve leaned more towards other methods (content, webinars and newsletters) to engage fans.
‘I’ve found the biggest benefit of non-automated activity (for us specifically) comes from being able to keep a finger on the pulse of our customers and fans. Whether that’s being able to quickly answer questions or respond to feedback (both positive and negative!) from our users, we highly value the organic interactions that take place on social media.’
‘We see automation on social media as a helpful way to boost productivity. If there are activities that you would do by hand even if there were no automation options – we see it as a good way to use tools and save time.
‘The time we can spend on social media is very limited. Scheduling tools let us stay active on social media while we are busy with other important tasks. Buffer helps us post constantly on a set schedule. Occasionally we add posts by hand but most of the content is scheduled in advance.
‘Content creation and content curation are very time consuming tasks. At the same time, they bring great results. When we create a blog post that brings value to our audience, we want to reach as many people as possible.
‘The tool we created helps to share the same post multiple times automatically. Hiplay integrates with Buffer and increase our content reach. We also use Quuu for content curation…All we have to do is occasionally log in to Buffer and adjust posts in the queue if needed.
‘We like to interact with our followers on Twitter – comment their tweets, thank for mentioning us in the blog post. We also participate in the #bufferchat and other discussions about social media or content marketing.
— Hiplay (@hiplayapp) August 5, 2017
‘We love when someone writes us a personal message or comment. We like to do the same. It creates relationship – you can never automate that. And you don’t need to. You should automate other tasks to have more time for non-automated activities.’
‘We try to engage with our followers at least a few days per week, and we follow the #bufferchat schedule to participate there.
‘Some people still feel bad when they automate things. They invest time in creating content and share it only once or twice manually. There is nothing bad about trying reach more people, automating some tasks to save time.’
‘We love automation on social media! It helps us keep our community engaged without losing our minds 🙂
‘80% of our activity is scheduled. We use HubSpot’s social media tools and Smarterqueue – which allows us to share evergreen content continuously to our community. We also use Quuu Promote to promote key articles to a bigger audience.
‘Every time we have a new blog post, we schedule social posts on HubSpot for the first round of promotion. And then we’ll put it on SmarterQueue to be shared regularly. If it’s a special blog post that we want to give some extra push to, we’ll submit it to Quuu Promote.
‘About 20% of our activity is live. We participate in Twitter Chats and our community managers respond to customers every day directly. Non-automated activity is super important! It helps create engagement and shows people that there are real people behind the brand.
‘A brand that automates 100% of their social media posts are only doing one-way communication, and missing a large part of what makes social media fun.’
We have a dedicated community management team that is responsible for checking every single mention – we do it directly from the Mention app. For things like Twitter chats or other live events the marketing team is responsible. And we always plan ahead for those live events!’
Automation can help you be authentic
Many people see social media automation as the antithesis to genuine interaction. But, for these brands, that’s not the case. Rather than being opposites, automation enables real social networking – by giving them more time to invest in it.
As Aure from Hiplay put it: ‘The key to gaining authenticity is engaging with your audience in an meaningful way. Automation helps you find time for that.’
Aim for an 80/20 split
If you’re reading this and worry you don’t socialise enough – don’t worry! Many of the brands we spoke to recommended around a 80/20 split between automated and non-automated content. That sounds pretty achievable to us.
So, how do they get this perfect ratio? By planning their time well. Here’s what Joei from Mention suggests:
‘For automated posts, set aside an hour or two a week to do all of them in one go. For non-automated activity, I recommend spending 15-30 minutes every day to go through your social media feeds or use a social media monitoring tool (like Mention!) to prioritize engaging with top influencers or disgruntled customers.’
Find what works for you
There are so many automation tools to choose from – so it’s not surprising that all the brands we spoke to used different ones. James from Wishpond recommends some experimentation to get things just right:
‘Test multiple methods and find what works best for you. Not everyone can be Buffer, and that’s okay. Put some time into setting up automation, as well as interacting organically with users on your social platforms, and see what drives the best results for your business.’
Don’t worry if your automation isn’t ‘invisible’
Does it matter if people notice that you’re using automation? Here’s what Tom from MeetEdgar had to say:
‘Nobody pays closer attention to your social media marketing than you. Your audience, however engaged it may be, is not tracking your every movement on social, keeping score, and waiting for “gotcha” moments!
‘If you want to share something you’ve already shared before, or you want to automate your promotional updates, most people won’t even notice – and anyone who does won’t really care, because that’s just what brands and content creators do.’
Now it’s over to you. Do you disagree with any of these tips? Let us know your stance on social media automation in the comments.