Social media automation that doesn’t bug you

Machines are better suited for some tasks than people — with one big exception.

Machines are better suited for some tasks than people — with one big exception.

The term “social media automation” alone is likely to raise someone´s hackles. After all, there are enough bad examples of meaningless and impersonal Instagram comments that companies have used in an attempt to gain attention. Or, for some people, it may conjure up thoughts of automatically sent direct messages as soon as they follow someone on Twitter. The truth, however, is that many tasks can actually be performed better by machines than by people. It is just important to observe an essential rule of thumb: people should interact with people. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be on the right track.

By the same token, automation should only be used in one’s own social media profiles as a tool to gain more time to engage with users. Simply switching all accounts to autopilot is not the solution. After all, social media is all about sharing and personal exchange.

Examples of tools and their “dark side”

Tools like Buffer or HootSuite help with automation. They provide a central platform for managing your social media profiles. You can schedule content to be displayed automatically at defined times. Statistical evaluations as well as responses and inquiries are visible at a glance. Tools like these can save a lot of time and often make meaningful teamwork possible in the first place.

The same example, however, also shows the negative side. Posting the same content in the same form on all platforms is not a good idea. Of course, it is possible and seductively simple. The dark side of automation, so to speak.

Another disadvantage is that, in many cases, these tools cannot provide all the features available on the respective social network. However, it is precisely these special features that often make the difference between success and failure. Examples of this include Facebook Live or surveys on Twitter, both of which can help you stand out among the crowd.

In this respect, tools like this can take on some of the work load. But they should be no more than a means to an end.

Another example consists of posting content more than once. I personally use Bulkly, which works hand in hand with Buffer. Bulkly can be used to manage lists of social posts, which are then published via Buffer according to various criteria. For example, you can advertise your particularly successful “evergreen” articles again and again in this way. This can actually be quite successful, but works better on Twitter than on Facebook, for example. Ideally, the content should not always be advertised with the same text, but emphasize different aspects. In this way, you can also find out which point is actually the most interesting and best received by your target group.

Tasks such as social listening can definitely be automated, but you will hopefully engage in the resulting interaction personally. Another issue is the selection of topics. The so-called alert features of Google, Linkfluence or Talkwalker can be helpful in this regard. Nuzzel can provide you with an overview of what your contacts (and their contacts) are posting on Twitter. You can also find thematic newsletters here. Those who find all this too mechanical can use Scope, Piqd or the “Inside” newsletter, the offerings of which are all made by actual people. They deliver the content ideas, but you should then implement them yourself.

And one last tip: if you do use a bot to greet new followers on Twitter, for example, at least be honest. Don’t let the machine pretend to be human. Google has just taught this to its forthcoming Duplex Assistant.

In summary:

Social media automation can be a powerful and helpful tool for you, if you use it in a targeted way. It can save you a lot of work, as machines are much better than people at performing repetitive tasks. Ultimately, this can save you the time needed for real communication from person to person. And that’s what it should be about, even if you don’t have much time and resources for your social media activities.