Social Media Automation: What You Can & Can’t Automate
Do you wonder what the most effective tools for social media automation are?
Or maybe you are unsure about 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:
- 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 business’s goals and strategy.
People want to deal with real people that aren’t scheduling engagement.
2. What Social Media Activities You Can or Should Schedule
You can’t (and shouldn’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, if you plan your posts for an entire week and schedule them, this 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 to share content that is helpful and interesting to your community. These tweets can consist of content that you or others have created, videos or images you have found, interesting statistics or inspiring quotes.
Then each day you can spend 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.
Scheduling Posts on LinkedIn
While posting in real time on LinkedIn is usually your best bet, as you can respond right away to any comments you receive, many have only a very small window of time in which to post content on LinkedIn.
If you only have a small window of time for your LinkedIn activities, you may want to preplan and schedule your daily status updates each week to allow for more time to engage with connections who have commented or shared your updates. There may also be times when you want to post something at a specific time when you will not be on the platform. In this case as well, it can be useful to schedule your posts on LinkedIn.
Automated & Mass Messages on LinkedIn
Do NOT send automated messages on LinkedIn!
The term spam means different things to different people. To me, spam is anything that the receiver doesn’t find value in. Make sure that any message you send to a connection is personalized and entirely relevant to them, otherwise don’t be surprised when they don’t respond or mark it as spam.
For example, I often get messages from people who ask if I am interested in learning how to use LinkedIn for business and inviting me to their “LinkedIn Basics” webinar. They have not taken the time to read my profile or learn that I have a #1 bestselling book on LinkedIn, I’ve created multiple online courses on LinkedIn and that I speak and train globally on the topic.
Also, I regularly get messages from people inviting me to attend their lunch-time networking event in a city 5,000 miles away.
Some people use automation tools that send mass messages to all of their connections. These can be dangerous on LinkedIn for this exact reason. With the use of these automation tools, people send their entire LinkedIn network a message that is irrelevant to 90 percent or more of their entire network. Nothing can diminish the possibility of a relationship with a potential prospect faster than receiving inappropriate messages from you.
What About Instagram
Platforms like Instagram, for many businesses get the best results 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.
Again, you can preplan and schedule some posts on Instagram, when you are unavailable to post in real-time, but these posts may not get the same response as those shared in the moment. If you do schedule posts on Instagram, be sure to make sure you are replying to the comments and engaging with your community in a timely fashion.
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 anyone 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. This may not work for all businesses, for example, if you are a restaurant and you post a picture daily of that day’s special, you may not be able to do it in advance if it’s an item not normally on the menu.
I also want to address how to schedule posts on Facebook. If you are going to schedule posts, I recommend using Facebook’s native scheduler. There has been some evidence that 3rd party software can affect your ranking in the newsfeed.
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 recommend are:
- Agorapulse (Get 2 months free with Agorapulse here.)
- Sprout Social
Check out this post on 8 Top Social Media Scheduling Tools for 2018.
One drawback to using automation 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. Whereas, if you are creating the post directly on the platform, you have more control.
Sometimes you need to post directly to a platform to ensure the post shows up the way you want it to.
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.
Another example would be if you were on Facebook and wanted to include a link and picture that is not available as a thumbnail after you have added the link. In this case you can add your image and text first, then add a link within the text section of the post.
When it is posted, it allows you to showcase the image of your choice, while also providing the link where people can get more information.
Social Media Automation Wrap Up
Social media automation provides busy business owners, professional service providers, salespeople, and marketers with a way to make sharing content more manageable in terms of planning, time commitment and effort, but it must be used with care.
When using automation, you must always be aware of current events that might change what or how you are posting. It is important that you can change, adapt or stop your scheduled posts to best reflect the things that are happening in real time, good or bad.
The true benefit of the time you save scheduling your posts, is that you can reinvest that saved time into your engagement with your clients, prospects and community members who are engaging with you.
How do you use social media automation in your business? What are your favorite social media automation tools? Let me know in the comments below.