Social media is a powerful marketing tool for increasing the awareness of your brand.

It is not however, one of the best online sales avenues. That is why some businesses don’t place that much effort into their social media updates and instead automate their entire output.

This has caused some problems in the past. Tesco, the UK supermarket giant, had to make an apology and pay for expensive adverts to convey that apology when they inadvertently made a reference to horses on the same day as the horse meat scandal broke in the UK. This was highly embarrassing for the company. Investigations into how this happened found that the majority of Tesco social media campaigns were pre-programmed and these were not checked regularly for necessary changes.

Yet, manually entering in all you social media content can also be a mistake. This article looks at the advantages and disadvantages of automating your social media publishing and best practices.

 

The Advantages

There are many advantages of automating your social media content. The first advantage is that automation is a huge time saver and prevents you from becoming addicted to social media. When you use social media for too long, it does reduce your businesses productivity and possibly the quality of the work. Therefore, while some level of social media activity has been proven to increase your production levels, without automation you could end up using it too much.

Also, automation allows you to produce a significant amount of social media content output without having to randomly go online and interrupt other work. This can also allow you to ensure that no matter how busy you are, you will always publish content at the optimum times for your target audience while still being able to work efficiently. This should increase the number of interactions and responses you get from any social media update.

Another benefit for you to automate your social media output is that it is the ideal way to create content and then edit it. When content is created by artistic people they tend to get attached to what they create. This can be very good as passion can sell your products. However, passion can also blind content creators into not seeing mistakes that would be obvious to others.

Creating content prior to release and then scheduling it in allows for other members of the marketing or management team to review, edit and approve the content. This can be beneficial in other ways as well. Their input can help develop campaigns which are able to target your business’ ideal customers better.

 

The Disadvantages

Before we highlighted that social media can be addictive and automation can solve this. That is very true. However, social media automation can also be highly addictive. When you are using automation too much there is no personality or real time content produced.

What will happen is that users will start to see your streams as intrusive and this can damage your online reputation. A damaged online reputation can spiral out of control and cost your business significant amounts of money in public relation improvement programmes. When you are creating your automated content, be sure that you are limiting the amount you are publishing.

In relation to this, too many updates will leave no room for responses to customer queries, complaints or other third party updates that need your response. This can be damaging as a bad update about your brand can reach potentially thousands of eyes and reputation is one of the main purchasing influencers.

So always ensure that you have room in your schedule to check social media channels for direct or indirect references to your brand and space to respond.

As was seen in the Tesco incident mentioned above, automation also encourages you to create content and then leave it to be published. While the majority of the time this will okay, at times it can cause problems, especially if content is too close to recently released news articles.

It isn’t just Tesco that have fallen foul of this. Airlines have published updates about their premium services and timely flights on days when staff are on strike and the National Rifle Association has released updates about gun sales after mass shootings. While in some cases this is amusing, in many the humour is directed at the organisation and can damage reputations or the update is insensitive.

One of the biggest mistakes that can be made when automating social media updates is that they sound robotic. That is because automation is done en-masse and therefore, by the end of the creation process, the creativity you once possessed has gone and you just want to finish the work. This can be avoided by limited the number of updates you schedule in any one period.

Finally, scheduling messages means that you are tempted to create content that is similar for all social media networks. This is a cardinal sin as every network has a complex set of best practices. For instance, short content on Twitter is not often well received on Facebook or Google Plus.

 

What Is A Good Practice?

Automation can be good for your business; but only if you follow the best practices on the market. These guidelines are not universal as each brand will find their own strategy to reach their unique target audience. However, they are a good starting point from which you can experiment and develop your own successful campaigns.

A good practice would be to limit the scheduling to a weekly task and enter in no more than 20-35 messages at a time. This should allow you to complete the task within 15-20 minutes, not get bored and still be highly productive. It is also a level that when spread out over 7 days is good enough to maintain a presence online while leaving opportunities for real-time updates.

Also, you should maintain a regular review of content for errors and check the content could not embarrass the company should breaking news stories be released by the media.

Following these guidelines should help you reduce the time you are spending on social media and increase the return on investment that you make on social media.

Jake Burdess

Director at Aflua
This post is by Jake Burdess, the founder of Aflua and HEROIC. Jake is an English designer who lives in New Zealand with his wife and three kids.

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