Robot (Photo credit: ewen and donabel)

Are You a Robot?

We have heard a lot of talk lately about the risks of automation in social media. Many people seem to believe that automating tweets, or posts work against social media best practices. In particular, genuine communication.

I think that the key to assessing this is in knowing the objective of your social media activities. In addition, the role that your social accounts are playing for the community they serve.

Manpower is a huge issue in this as well. Do you have a community manager who is dedicated to only running social media, or do you have social media as a “part” of the person’s role?

Automation used right doesn’t mean “impersonal”

There are positive ways that automation can be used which also respect and maintain the human touch. Here are some examples:

1. Scheduling Updates that contain photos, videos or your own posts to strategically appropriate times on both Facebook and Twitter

This content should be generally in line with your objectives, and the message you want to share within your community. There is no reason not to schedule these things. It allows you to be consistent. A huge factor in establishing a strong social media presence.

2. Scheduling distribution of articles via Twitter or Facebook so that the proper exposure is attained on peak hours in multiple time zones.

In the Social Climate, if you are successful, there is a good chance that your main activities providing value to your organization will be in the response and dialogue around your automated postings. As long as you respond, and the posts provide value, the fact that the posts were automated is irrelevant.

3. Automation responds to various needs and can help teams work together

It is also worth noting that people responsible for creating content, may not be the same in the organization who will respond to content. Creators can brief the “service” people, the front line “responders” on what is coming up on the editorial calendar and schedule that content. The “responders” can then take the ball from there. It’s a matter of opening your mind to the possibilities, it is not just about loading up a schedule and taking a walk.

Automation lends a Helping Hand in Time Management

People who don’t know how to manage their time fail in elaborate project management. If you don’t think Social Media management is elaborate, you really don’t understand it.
Using mild automation of items that are hand selected and vetted, clears up time for social media managers to spend more time responding. Its a matter of time management and efficiency.
In fact, if more time is spent responding and reaching out, than struggling with finding things to post, the social media activities of any company or individual will benefit.

Where “Automation Is Anti-Social” – What Not to Do.

Where things go wrong is when people automate messages, take no personal interest in reading them (to see if they align with their brand) and disseminate information simply for the purpose of broadcasting content. This type of behavior is in fact robotic and will alienate your community.
A key component of Social Media is the interactive nature of the communication. If there is no dialog or response to automated activity, then the program or campaign is a failure. Given this, posting status updates (that are more conversational in nature) should be strongly reviewed before putting in an automated cue. I personally would not recommend this.

It’s all about Balance

You can’t do it all. In an effective social media strategy, several areas of activity have to be planned:
  • Time for Blogging or other content creation
  • Time for broadcasting the content
  • Time for dialog and interaction based on the content & Identifying Opportunities for engagement elsewhere (ex: Social Search) <;- The most important aspects
  • Time for analysis of interaction and results
If you can automate the broadcasting and spend quality time with the other areas, then you will be ahead of the game.

The Appropriate Use of Automation

If you think automation alone is how you will succeed in Social Media, you will find yourself with little engagement and sharing ultimately setting yourself up to fail.
Understand that automation is something to be used with your strategy, and with your social media goals and objectives in mind, not as a strategy in itself. If you do this, you will become more efficient and reach more people by opening up your time to spend conversing, reacting, and making the “friends” and followers you need to see your success.
It’s not a replacement for the human touch of social.

Automation does not Equal Auto-Pilot

Come up with your own policy on Social Media Expectations to address automation. Include the following:
  • What is the acceptable delay to respond to comments on Facebook, Twitter, Your Blog?
    • This will depend on the nature of your business, and the role your sites play.
  • Itemize the type of content your organization is willing to automate.
    • Example, blog posts, photos, videos, status updates, Direct Messages. Make sure to answer the question for yourself, what value does automating the selected items give your public, and your company. What are the potential risks?
  • Ensure that there is a regular check point to follow through on these automated posts.
    • Will it be every day, every hour? Set an expectation so you don’t lose yourself in the automated process. You want to respect the whole reason you are using automation – to stay connected. Leaving it on Auto-Pilot is not acceptable, and in theory does not meet the reasons you are doing it in the first place!

Providing Value

Everything you do has to always tie back to the question, how is what we are doing providing value to our community? The answer in automation should be: It is allowing us to spend more time interacting, and less time pushing posts.

Do you use automation to expand your capabilities in social, or were you thinking it could just put your activities on auto- pilot while you head out to the beach?

What do you think?

Do you have any tips to add?

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