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Social Media Automation: What You Can & Can’t Automate

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Have you been wondering what are the most effective tools for social media automation?

Or maybe you’ve want to discover the best ways to automate your social media and what you should and shouldn’t schedule?

Like most things in social media, the answer is IT DEPENDS. What I mean by this is, that what, when and how much you can schedule on social media will depend on a number of factors including your:

  • Industry
  • Community
  • Business goals
  • Social platforms
  • Social media strategy

And of course, how much time you have.

Social Media Automation – Do’s & Don’ts

That being said, there are some general rules that you can use as guidelines, when deciding what you can automate and what you can’t (or shouldn’t).

1. Do NOT Ever Schedule Engagement

You should never try to schedule or automate your engagement.

Social media is just that…social. When someone replies or otherwise engages with something you have posted, respond to them in real-time rather than scheduling your responses via a third party application

Think of social media as a conversation between you and your community members. Just like any other form of effective and successful communication, it requires both parties to listen to what the other is saying and then respond back in a way that makes sense and is timely in nature.

This is how you build relationships with your community and allow them to like, know and trust you, which should be a part of every businesses goals and strategy.

2. What Social Media Activities You Can Or Should Schedule

You can’t always be on social media, so it can make sense to schedule some or all of your posts (not engagement) to certain platforms.

This is particularly useful if your market is either global or not located in your local time zone. In addition to that if you plan your posts for an entire week and schedule them that frees up time for you to engage with your community in real-time each day.

For example, Twitter is one of the best platforms to schedule your tweets beforehand. You can schedule your tweets in advance that share content that is helpful and interesting to your community. These tweets can consist of content that you or others have created, great videos or images you have found, interesting statistics or inspiring quotes.

Then each day you can spend some time responding to the people who have interacted with your tweets/posts. The more engaged your community is, the more tweets you might want to schedule daily.

Automated Direct Messages on Twitter

Do NOT send these! Each day people are inundated by automated direct messages that are sent by people they have followed (often along the lines of “Thanks for following me, go to this link”). I ignore them ALL. In fact, I make a point of unfollowing these people the moment I see this.

In fact, because of vast amount of spam that comes from direct messages I ignore them completely which sometimes makes me actually miss a message from a real person. If you want to thank someone for following you, send them a tweet…in real time and skip the automation.

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Posting on LinkedIn

Posting in real time on LinkedIn is usually your best bet as you can respond right away to any comments you receive. Remember this is a professional platform and there are expectations that you will respond in a professional amount of time.

There may be times when you want to post something at a specific time where you will not be on the platform. In these cases it can be useful to schedule your status updates. That’s entirely fine to do, just ensure you pay attention to comments so that you can engage with your connections that are sharing and/or engaging with your content.

What About Instagram

Platforms like Instagram, for many businesses, work best in real time. This is because you will get the most engagement from sharing images that happen and are posted in real time. These are timely images that will inspire or emotionally connect with your community. An example might be a picture of your business during the holidays or an event that you happen to be attending.

Scheduling On Facebook

Now, I want to address both the what and the how of scheduling on Facebook.

First, I would generally avoid scheduling anything that gets posted to your personal profile. While you may post from time to time about your business on your personal profile…remember that it is a “personal” profile. Most people, especially your friends and family, do NOT want to be bombarded with your business posts in their newsfeeds.

Having said that, it does make sense to schedule to your Facebook business page. This can be particularly helpful if you know that your community is on Facebook at particular times and you are not able to post during them. Keep in mind that you will need to be ready to hop on and engage with any one who comments or posts on your posts.

Depending on your business, you may find that you can schedule most of your posts for the whole week or in some cases, maybe only for each day. For example, if you are a restaurant and you post a picture daily of that day’s special, that is not something you can schedule until that day.

I also want to address how to schedule posts on Facebook. If you are going to schedule posts, do NOT schedule them using a 3rd party application. Use Facebook’s native scheduler. Not only will the 3rd party software affect your ranking in the newsfeed but it also is visible for people to see the software you used in the post itself.

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The best way to figure out what works for you and your community in terms of what and how much you automate on what platform is to test, test, test.

3. How To Automate Your Social Media Activities

As you are figuring out what you can schedule, you will also need to decide how you are going to schedule your posts. Thankfully there are numerous options available with a variety of different features, user interfaces and price points. Many will even offer a limited free version of their software or a short free trial of the full version, so you can get a feel and see if this is a scheduling application you want to invest in.

Examples of great social media scheduling software that I use or like includes:

Check out this infographic on The 4 Best Social Media Management Tools of 2015

One drawback to using automation software versus posting on the platform itself, is that you can’t always predict what the post will look like once it is live on the platform. Where as, if you are creating the post directly on the platform, you have more control.

For example, on LinkedIn, if you want to share a link, once it has populated with the link and the image you can then remove the link from the text within your status update as the link is clickable below.

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Another example would be if you were on Facebook and wanted to include a link and picture that is not available as a thumbnail when you add the link. In this case you can add your image first and then add a link within the text section of the post.

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For a thorough explanation of what you should and shouldn’t schedule on social media, watch this video.

 

How do you use social media automation in your business? Do you think there is ever a time when scheduling engagement makes sense? Let me know in the comments below.