Social media automation can be a lifesaver for marketing teams, though it comes with its fair share of problems.
When marketers turn to automation, they can eliminate a lot of the “grunt work” from their routines. Instead of dedicating hours to setting up (and carrying out) post schedules, most of the work can be offloaded onto software suites that coordinate and perform with little to no user action.
But social media automation is like any other habit – it should be done in moderation. Using too much automation can result in jilted users, crippled campaigns, and reputation damage. Alternatively, too little automation can push an overworked team into the red zone and what the campaign gains in authenticity it will lose in effectiveness.
Reaping the rewards of social media automation can be a delicate, but not impossible, balance. Brands need to combine the right amount of automated solutions with an equal amount of real, human interaction across social media. While your brand may ultimately need more automation than authenticity or vice versa, aiming for an even distribution is an ideal starting place until you find your specific niche.
So with that in mind, let’s dive into four of the most popular automation tools available for social media marketing and why you should – or shouldn’t – use them.
Buffer is almost ubiquitous in its software category. You can’t open a software review set without seeing Buffer in the top few slots, and there are good reasons for that. Founded in 2010, Buffer has become the right-hand man of many a social media marketer’s operation. This program does more than just send out a brand’s posts – it automates the scheduling to make sure your posts go out at the optimal time.
Its analytic reports, although limited compared to some other software options, easily allow users to examine which posts work and which don’t on a given platform. It also allows you to track your campaign and comes at a tidy price point for most business needs. For entrepreneurs, there’s a free level service for personal feeds, and for businesses, $10 a month offers 10 accounts across six platforms with up to 100 scheduled posts per account.
While Buffer excels in many ways, it falls somewhat short against the competition in the depth of its analytics, its team collaboration support, and search functions. Still, with a price point that’s less than two coffee runs, Buffer can be an excellent first choice to facilitate a social media campaign.
Where Buffer falls short, Hootsuite picks up the slack. Combining social listening functionality with publishing, this software suite offers most of the perks that Buffer provides and throws in a few sprinkles on top. Hootsuite’s Auto Schedule function allows it to easily queue up your posts for optimal posting times and doesn’t discriminate against the kind of content. Websites, pictures, or pithy quotes – Hootsuite can handle it all. Not, unfortunately, without a price difference.
While Hootsuite is among the most popular social media programs and provides superior search functionality over other software of its kind, it carries a heavier price tag than some of its competition. To reap the full benefits of Hootsuite’s team collaboration functions, you’ll have to pay at least $99 a month to work with three other users. More users than that and the price will continue to climb. However, if your social media marketing team is remote, as so many are, the price point may be worth it.
Zapier is an automated workflow tool that can bridge the gap between your different social media apps. The automation process follows a format like Excel’s “IF” formula, responding to different variables based on predetermined conditions that you select. For instance, these can be used to provide automatic post backups when publishing a post through a WordPress blog or to trigger an automatic upload of that post to your Google Drive. It can also be used to coordinate posts across multiple platforms, such as a tweet triggering a simultaneous Facebook post.
These processes, called “zaps”, can be run between three or more services.
Unfortunately, Zapier is not without its flaws. It doesn’t have the most user-friendly dashboard or seamless management experience and may present a steeper learning curve. But what it loses in interface, it gains in functionality, as Zapier’s work flow can also be used to facilitate data entry.
Scoop.it is another name that pops up frequently on top-ten lists. Although it’s not as robust as other social media automation programs, it cuts down content research time significantly. When you enter in keywords for your content, you’ll be shown a list of the most popular content available and suggestions for alternative keywords that may be more effective with your audience. This makes Scoop.it a fantastic tool for niche content, allowing you to tailor your keywords to make sure they reach your target demographic.
But more impressive than its keyword functionality is the level of guidance that it provides when generating content. From reminding you of tasks to providing thoughtful suggestions for performance improvements, Scoop.it facilitates content creation from start to share.
Scoop.it’s downsides include somewhat limited search functionality (within a certain time frame, for instance), slower response time due to its use of cloud technology, and its price point. To enjoy all its features, you can expect to pay $804 annually, which may put it outside of some small business owners’ reach.
Best Practices for Social Media Automation
Regardless of what automation tools you use, you’ll want to follow social media best practices and bear the following principles in mind:
• Balance your automation with authenticity. Relying too heavily on social media triggers can alienate your followers and make your brand seem disingenuous.
• Recycle posts, but only when they’re relevant. Some material is timeless, while other content has its fifteen minutes of fame and ceases to be pertinent. Periodically comb through your material to make sure you’re not perpetuating irrelevant content.
• Consider scheduling multiple posts, tweets, et cetera, if your follower base is global. If your users are active on social media in different time zones, it may be worth it to automate a second posting session.
• Avoid turning triggers into spam. Canned messages can make your followers feel disregarded, especially if they’re voicing a concern. If you set social media triggers, make sure that your responses indicate when and how future interactions with a real human will take place.
• And lastly, schedule sharing other relevant content by organizations outside of yours. Not only will this expand your influence, but it will provide your follows with new material at no creation cost to you.