Social Media Automation Can Be Excellent or Awful. Learn the difference!
I actually love automation (probably not a surprise considering my husbands company designs automation systems for personal & commercial use.) These systems are easy, convenient, save time and in some cases, can even save money. And they can pretty much do it all – want the lights to turn on one step at a time as you walk downstairs? How do you feel about preheating your bathroom before you head in for your morning routine? Imagine if you could just hit one button in your kitchen and the lights come on to exactly the right brightness, the temperature is set ‘just so’ and your favourite channel comes on the TV. Sounds pretty amazing, right? It is. But like everything, it has to be done right.
Our world is focused on being productive, so it’s no surprise that automation has become a huge part of how we increase efficiency.
You’ve probably heard of Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial or Cision (just to name a few.) They all provide social media management solutions for businesses. The availability of these tools is a dream for those of us who are running a million-miles-a-minute and need the support. The key feature is the ability to mass automate content destined for social media sites; this saves mega time & optimizes our efficiency. In my own experience managing several social media programs solo, these tools have become my best ally in order to get things done. Additionally, they offer analytics so that you can see what sparks the best engagement, what tanks and how you can make better marketing decisions moving forward.
One element I also appreciate from these companies are the webinars, blogs and e-books featuring best practices; in an age when marketers help one-another avoid mistakes these resources can also save time and money. For example, Hootsuite shares posts on the Dos and Don’ts – which is extremely helpful for anyone just starting out.
Bad Automation? Auto-response messaging (and not an answering bot on Facebook, the kind designed to make you think there’s a real person on the other end… when there isn’t.)
When the ability to set up automated messaging came out, I initially thought it was pretty neat. It seemed to make sense and save time. But it wasn’t long into it that I decided that it defeated the purpose of social media: real engagement. Hootsuite claims that “…it is unlikely Hootsuite will ever support auto DMs (direct messages). Hootsuite has found very few situations in which Auto DMs were useful to recipients; on the contrary, in many cases they were spammy or malicious.”
It’s true that auto-response can save time but there’s a time and place for it. Completely fine on sites where the expectation is not engagement (e.g.: Confirmation of order from Macy’s) However, on social media channels such as LinkedIn even Twitter, the expectation is engagement. It’s a poor attempt to demonstrate sincere engagement.
Over the last few years, I’ve published articles for LinkedIn. I always love to get feedback on what I write and so I was pleased when I received the following message:
But then every time I published something new, the same person would send the same message. I thought it was a bit strange that there was no further engagement, but nonetheless moved on.
Again, I published another post. And again, received the same response:
After that I noticed that every time I published new content, I continued to get the exact same message.
Now, it’s been some time since I dabbled in auto-response, so I Googled to see if anything existed for LinkedIn. Sure enough, there are services and hacks available. The unfortunate thing is that in these types of situations, auto-responses come across as insincere; they’re likely not achieving the desired outcome you had hoped for.
“But Kat, I had really good intentions.”
I hear you. And before we start pointing fingers, it’s not necessarily the fault of the people using it. If social media isn’t your forte, you may have received mixed advice on why, how and when to engage using automation (us marketers can never seem to agree on this.)
You will never be able to personally reach out to everyone you want to through social media; there’s not enough time in the day. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is to choose interactions which can bring mutual value. When you reach out, make sure it’s something that you’re really interested in. We’re all busy and want to save time; approaching conversations this way may not save you time but it will allow you to use your time more wisely. Think about it: how much value can you get from a sincere conversation with two-way participation, rather than an automated generic message that most people will never respond to? (Unless you’re like me and keep responding until the light bulb comes on!) We all like a good pat on the back but not when it’s disingenuous.
Before you set up your auto-response I beg you to ask yourself:
What is the desired outcome?
Is this a situation where an auto-response would be expected?
Will this bring value to the other person?
If you can’t answer these questions, rethink the use of auto-response.