Automation vs. Auto-Posting

Automation

Good social media marketing takes time. You’ve got to put in the hours to build a community and make yourself seen and heard in the never-ending onslaught of noise. You’ve got to reach out to new people, be personable and share great information.¬†There’s no way around that. But you can automate a portion of your social media in order to manage and control your time.

For many people, “automate” is a dirty word. “You sound like a robot!” they cry. “It’s about interaction–how can you interact if you’re not actually there?” they wail. And I agree with them. But there’s an important distinction here between auto-posting, which is bad, and automating, which is what you make it.

Auto-posting is the process of using some utility to share a piece of contact without human intervention. This falls into two broad categories. The first is setting up a tool that, for example, tweets a new blog post link. There are dozens of these plugins and programs that spew the title of a blog post and its first line or two into Twitter or onto Facebook without any consideration for crafting a catchy message around it, making sure it’s under 140 character or that it otherwise makes any sense for the medium. Yes, you make sure the link gets tweeted, but usually in a format ¬†which ensures no one will be clicking on the link.

The second form of auto-posting is blasting one message to multiple platforms without customizing them for each one. This might be pushing a WordPress blog to Tumblr without bothering to format or tag it properly or it might be shoving a tweet onto Facebook, #s and @s and all. It’s sloppy and comes across as ungainly and, frankly, lazy.

Automation, on the other hand, is getting content ready in advance. It’s content you’ve touched, seen, approved and written just for each platform. Maybe you gather links to interesting news articles and schedule them to publish throughout the day so you don’t spend your workday hunting for links. We use this strategy at Roundpeg. It’s more effective for us to collect interesting links and schedule them to post throughout the day than to stop what we’re doing to locate appropriate content every few hours. We read every article, we customize every headline and we monitor for responses. We also schedule posts to go out at times we aren’t sitting at our desks, like nights and weekends. With proper oversight, it helps manage both our working hours and our work-life balance. To me, it’s no different than scheduling a blog post to go out at 6:00 a.m. rather than pushing a button to do it manually.

There are a few keys to doing automation well:

1. Touch every piece of content. Don’t take generic descriptions pulled from metadata or the first line of a blog post. Think about the content you’re sharing and craft a unique headline that fits the medium you’re posting in.

2. Be ready for responses. Even if you aren’t going to be sitting at your computer with bated breath, you should push notifications on your phone or otherwise be ready to respond to comments or questions.

3. Be vigilant about what’s in your scheduled posts. There is nothing more awkward than being in the midst of a tragedy–Aurora, Newton, even the Indiana State Fair stage collapse–and tweeting about your new sale on widgets. It makes you look out of touch and insensitive. Keep close tabs on what’s in your scheduled posts and make sure you amend or cancel as needed to match the current sentiment of social media.

Do you have any tips for automating smartly, or are you against the whole affair? We’d love to hear your thoughts.