by Brittany McSorley
Participating in social media can feel like a job, even for those who don’t use it for work. Fortunately for those of us who have to keep up with the Facebook engagement of it all, there’s the option to automate social media posting. This mostly involves scheduling posts ahead of time, planning what you’ll be sharing days or even weeks in advance.
Many scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Feedly, allow users to get a welcome head start on social activity. But there can be downsides to social media automation. Here’s our roundup of the pros and cons of the automation game.
Even if you manage just one account, making sure you post to social can eat up a lot of time. Collecting a batch of posts and scheduling them week by week, or even month by month, will free up the time you would spend sharing posts one by one. (It will also spare you the panic that comes with realizing you forgot to share some time-sensitive content.)
Posting sporadically is not good, I repeat, not good for engagement. The algorithms on Facebook, Instagram and the gang do not take kindly to accounts that share content just whenever. It may work for your schedule to only post on every third Tuesday when the moon is waxing, but this game plan will make your reach plummet. Keep your followers engaged by posting on a reliable, scheduled basis, and your content will be featured more prominently on their feeds.
For the same mysterious algorithm reasons, automated social media content can often have a longer shelf life than its random counterparts. Consistency means staying in the feed longer and getting more eyes on your content.
Did you know you can use social media tools to figure out what time of day the majority of your followers are using social platforms? Did you know that if you happen to be at your bowling league, or asleep, or committing felonies during those peak times, you can still post and get the best bang for your buck? Thank you, automation.
Peace of Mind
The benefit here really can’t be emphasized enough. If you automate, you won’t forget to post to social. If you don’t automate, chances are you will, at some point, forget. Trust us.
The Spam Factor
Posting in a pattern can seem robot-y, and anything resembling spam is an instant turnoff for followers and potential customers. The fix for this is making sure your content has a personal touch. Don’t let automating overshadow the actual human being behind your business. The fussy algorithm gods also don’t take kindly to rigidly patterned posting, so if you do automate, try not to post every other weekday at exactly 9:17 am… you get the picture.
I know, I just told you that automating can boost engagement. But repetitive formatting in your posts can lead to fewer comments from followers. If you automate, make sure the content you’re sharing isn’t going to seem redundant to those who see it. For example, don’t post fourteen similar photos from the same project in a row. And it never hurts to throw in a pet picture once in a while.
While automating can save you a lot of time, it can sometimes result in posts that aren’t taking advantage of the of-the-moment opportunities social media provides. Even if you have a big batch of posts lined up, if a particular meme or news story is making waves on a specific day, consider swapping out your pre-planned content for something that reminds your followers you’re paying attention.
The Tattletale Problem
Some automation tools will tell on you, stamping your posts with a message like “Published via Hootsuite,” or “Lazy Business Owner Alert.” While many followers don’t care how content gets to them, a reminder like this can be distracting, or make your posts look a bit off. Do some tests runs to make sure the finished product looks the way you intended.
If you schedule posts ahead of time, you run the risk of the scheduling tool possibly messing up any tags you include with your content—this applies to tagging other profiles and including hashtags. Since these are very important for engagement, particularly on Instagram, be sure to keep an eye on your tags when scheduled posts go live.
It can be difficult to personalize content that your followers won’t be seeing for several days. To combat this, try dedicating a day of the week to a more intimate, behind-the-scenes post, a candid photo of your team, or, again, a pet picture. Seriously, guys, there is no marketing problem that can’t be solved with a photo of your pet.
So, with these pros and cons in mind, what should you do? For many marketers, automation comes with more good than bad. If you’re ready to take the plunge, be sure to go forward with automation in a measured way, rather than a set-it-and-forget-it approach. No matter what tools come along to assist us in social media marketing, the personal touch remains the most important part of an online presence. Automation will not help you like or comment on the content that other businesses share, for example, and this kind of interaction is vital to social marketing.
The verdict: You have to stay engaged, but automation can lend a significant helping hand.