Using social media automation is critical to save time and money. However, too much automation comes with a cost.
Your potential and current customers have already made it clear that too much automation takes away from authenticity. So, how do you balance automation while remaining authentic?
We’re laying the groundwork for a well-balanced social media automation strategy below.
Defining Your Social Media Automation Strategy
First, let’s define what “social media automation” means. Essentially, social media automation is the process in which you automate some of your social media activities to save time, and hopefully, optimize your results.
It includes automating things like …
- Content scheduling and publishing
- Social media engagement analysis & reporting
- Social media listening
- Social media chatbots
Automating some (or all) if the above tasks can free up hours of time for your social media team, which allows them to focus on more strategic tasks.
Second, you must decide what needs to be automated. Social media automation strategies should not be treated the same!
For instance, posting natively to each of your social media channels every day can be a huge time suck. But if you automate every single one of your replies you may come off sounding like a robot. Which doesn’t lead audiences to think you’re authentic.
Let’s dive in to each of the areas I outlined for automation above along with some best practices.
Automating Your Social Media Content (scheduling & publishing)
One of the biggest complaints we hear from clients about social media content is that they “don’t know what to post.” This is made worse if you’re a small business with no dedicated social media person or team.
By using a social media automation tool, you can upload your content calendar and schedule posts by day, time, and platform. Additionally, if you need publish posts outside of your working hours, automation will allow you to do this. See also: vacation!
We like to schedule posts anywhere from one week to one month in advance. Evergreen content is generally something we can schedule out ahead of time. For example, this blog post is “evergreen” — we could schedule this post to go out many days and times over may platforms through the end of the year.
This is also helpful when you want to ensure you have a content distribution strategy. Meaning, you want to be sure the content you’ve spent precious time and money on gets seen well beyond the day it is published.
Here’s a quick look at the B Squared Media publishing calendar for the month of September, 2022.
[source: Sprout Social]
As you can see, we can filter our views by platform (“profiles”), post types, or tags. Tags are ways for us to put our content into themes, like “Brooke featured guest” or “blog post.”
Our tool also allows us to drag and drop our posts in case we need to move things around. This is especially useful when tragedy strikes and going silent on social is key to not looking inauthentic.
Additionally, Sprout Social also offers ViralPost® technology that takes the guesswork out of social media scheduling by calculating your best times to post and surfacing them for automated or manual publishing.
Good social media automation means not even having to know WHEN to post!
Automating Your Social Media Analytics
I encourage nearly everyone to use social media automation when it comes to analysis and reporting. Social media analytics give insights on how your content is performing, including engagement rates for each platform.
The two areas I like to focus on with social media content and analysis are:
- Return on conversation (ROC). Is your content so enticing that it invokes a response? Many, MANY brands do not get a return on conversation because they’re approaching social media as a broadcast platform and not as a way to connect with current and would-be customers. I address this and provide a strategy for doing a better job with ROC in Conversations That Connect.
- Understanding which content your audience(s) prefer. We marketers like to post what we see as “good”. Or, sometimes the CEO comes to you with an “amazing” post idea. But really, we need to be posting content that resonates with our audiences. They should come first. Using automated social media reports will help you start to understand which of your posts get the most engagement and the most ROC. Once you find these areas or themes, you should double down on that kind of content.
In all honesty, we do still track some of our analytics by spreadsheet. But this is mostly to see if we meet, beat, or miss our monthly Key Performance Indicators.
[source: Sprout Social]
Take a look at a snippet of our above report for B Squared Media’s August analytics. The bottom portion is automated. However, the top portion with the Summary and KPI insights is written out by our Account Manager. While the analytics give a quick-glance view of your efforts, the summary and action items are not automated. I think this is important for authenticity and showing your value as an Account Manager (or as an agency if you provide these services for your clients).
By automating your social media analysis, you can prioritize efforts that make a difference in optimizing your social engagement, best content, and ROC.
Social Media Listening
First things first, social listening tools by nature are automated! YAY! All you’ll have to do is take the time to set up your social listening keywords, and the rest is automated. Of course, you may need to make iterations to your keyword and keywords phrases as you start to collect social listening data.
Social listening allows you to get a handle on the social conversations happening around your brand, your industry, and your competitors. It’s an incredibly valuable market research and business intelligence tool that allows you to take the voice of the customer into consideration.
Part of what makes social listening so powerful is social media sentiment analysis, which helps you understand how people feel about your brand. When people are mad, you’ll know. When people are pleased, you’ll know.
Being aware of shifts in sentiment — in real time — can allow you to respond right away and meet any uptick in feelings (good or bad) head on.
Finally, what makes this particular social media automation so useful is that it would be nearly impossible to do on your own. If you tried to manually seek out all of the conversations around your brand, industry, and competitors online it would be like drinking from a firehose. Ouch!
Automating With Social Media Chatbots
In some cases, you may want to utilize automated responses or chatbots for your social media strategy.
This is important because many customers use social media as a support channel for Customer Care. These “always on” channels allow your prospects and customers to directly converse with your brand.
Additionally, it’s important to answer these requests with speed. So, you may want to set up automated responses for messages received on your social channels. Doing so can help your social media team meet that “always on” demand.
Outside of office hours, you can improve customer care by using automated software that suggests replies to messages or chatbots that send automatic responses to questions or comments.
Here’s an example of Sprout Social’s bot builder.
However, do this with caution. We’ve seen too many instances where chatbots get things wrong or can’t answer nuanced questions. Chatbots also don’t do a great job of conveying empathy — which is key for being authentic.
Which brings me to …
The Biggest Social Media Automation Con: Empathy
Empathy means the person on the other end understands the other person’s perspective and feelings. And this is exactly what so many chatbots fail to do.
Twilio found that 75% of business-to-consumer (B2C) brands say they have a good or excellent personalized experience. However, that survey also shows only 48% of consumers surveyed agreed with that statement.
There’s an obvious gap between what brands believe chatbots can achieve and what their consumers are actually experiencing.
Finally, here are a few other cons to consider …
- You can automate your posts, but don’t leave engagement to social media automation. Show up, be human, and respond to questions and comments.
- Don’t schedule too far in advance and definitely don’t “set it and forget it!” It’s called social media for a reason.
- If you don’t have a feature like ViralPost® mentioned above, make sure you keep an eye on your best times to post.
- Tools aren’t perfect! They malfunction and go offline or don’t post what was scheduled. Always do a “discount double check” on your scheduled content to ensure it went out properly.
Social Media Automation Pros & Best Practices
Once you have your own social media automation tool, set up your own processes and best practices for saving time and optimizing results.
- PRO: Easily manage all of your social media channels in one place.
- BEST PRACTICE: Use the time you save on daily tasks to dig into your social intelligence. Use this data to create better content and have more conversations with your audience.
- PRO: You don’t have to be 24/7 (even though social media inherently is) with social media automation tools.
- BEST PRACTICE: Meet/beat social media algorithms by posting on social media often. This also helps with being noticed, reach, and content distribution.
Automating your social media efforts not only helps reduce the time it takes to create content, it also makes a difficult job just a little bit easier.
If you want more tips on how we automate or what tools we use, book a one hour social media consultation with me, Brooke Sellas!
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