How To Master The Benefits And Pitfalls Of Social Media Automation


If you’ve been reading our marketing automation hub, you’ve seen lots about the right ways to automate your marketing. Welcome messages, auto responders, drip campaigns, customized messages. All these are great to automate, easy to maintain once you’re over the content creation hump. But we’ve not addressed automation for email marketing’s bosom buddy – social media marketing.

Just like email marketing automation, social automation has its benefits and its pitfalls. The trick is to know how to rock the benefits, and avoid the pitfalls. In short, a dos and don’ts list for automating social media.


The benefits


1) Saving time

Social media is a HUGE time suck. And you can’t be at your computer or on your phone 24 hours a day. Sleep and showers are good things. Find a social media scheduling platform, and use it to automate your outgoing social media posts. But only outgoing posts. You have to be ready to take part in any conversations that result in real time. Social media, remember?


2) Posting at the optimal times for your audience

How do you know this? Analytics! Look for when you get the most engagement, and schedule your posts for those times. A good scheduling tool will be able to help with this. (My personal favorites are BufferTailwind, and Social Champ.) You could live in New York, but your most engaged fans live in Italy. Your scheduling tool will be able to post your social updates while you’re asleep. You’ll be ready to engage when you wake up.

great scheduling tool will learn and adapt your posting times as engagement levels or audience changes. Choose wisely.


3) Deliver content consistently

Automation lets you maintain a steady stream of outgoing content. This helps your exposure. The more you post, the more likely it is that a wider audience will see your content. And, if you’re sharing a lot of valuable content to your audience, it helps you build your thought leadership.


4) Planning ahead

Scheduling your social media helps you develop consistent content that fits with your marketing initiatives. This is especially important when social is one component in a marketing campaign. There’s always room for posting on-the-fly if something important happens, like you win an award, or you need to deal with a crisis that requires a social response. Or there’s a big snafu at a giant-sized event and you want to capitalize on it. Like Oreo did with Superbowl 47’s blackout.

There are many ways that you can harness these benefits to both make your life easier and to help your brand’s marketing goals. How you implement any or all these benefits will be up to you and your company.


The pitfalls

The pitfalls of automation are a list of what not to do. Emphasis on the “don’t do this!” with large, bold, red text. Really, if you automate your social media, just don’t do any of these.


1) You come across as being impersonal

In this, I am specifically thinking of Twitter auto-direct messages (DM). I hate them. Hate with the fire of a thousand suns. In fact, I’ve seen only ONE auto-DM I’ve liked, ever. And that’s because it was both hilarious and acknowledged that it was a form of spam.


Way to go, Andrew and Pete, for creating the best auto-DM! If you can make your DM as funny as theirs, go ahead & automate it. The humor factor does a lot to counteract the distastefulness of an auto-DM.


2) You sound robotic, not human

Have you ever tweeted to complain, say to an airline, about a problem with your flight? Or your opinion of their service? And received a rather upbeat (automated) response that completely disregards your complaint? Not cool. American Airlines did that once… and the Twitterverse caught on. The airline got some negative press when Twitter users started taunting the airline over the automated upbeat tweets.


3) You lose flexibility in times of tragedy

It’s bad form to keep up your business as usual posting during a time of crisis or tragedy. (And even worse to capitalize on it, but that’s a different topic). Rule number one for social media during a tragedy is stay silent. The exception to this rule is if the tragedy occurs a city/state/geographic area where a company is based. In that case, it’s okay to post your brand’s concerns because the tragedy affected your company’s community.)

Pause all your scheduled social media posts for 24 hours.


4) You send identical messaging to different social channels

It’s also bad form to have your messaging read identically across all your social platforms. Hashtags don’t function on LinkedIn the same way they do on other platforms, for example. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to include a hashtag on a LinkedIn update, but it makes tons of sense to use them on Twitter. Not to mention that posting etiquette varies from platform to platform. So it makes sense (even when you automate posts) to customize your messages for each network.

Do any of these sound familiar? Anything like the general “don’ts” of email marketing automation? With an adaptation for the real-time nature of social media, of course. That goes to show that different forms of marketing automation follow the same general rules. It only needs adaptation for the individual channels.

What do you think about automating some of your social media efforts? Have you noticed any benefits, or run into any pitfalls, after implementing social media automation in your business? Share your story in the comments!

  • Great article! It’s hilarious when someone posts “What a beautiful day” locally, and it’s totally raining haha

  • Krista Wiltbank

    Are you looking out my window now? Because it *is* raining, and that’s a beautiful day to me because I like (and we need) the rain.

  • Topio1

    I liked your article, I would have loved it more if below each of the pitfalls you had taken to time to show us what to do instead, It makes it more useful and you have both the know how and the experience to make it better. Regards

  • Krista Wiltbank

    Thanks very much for the feedback. To address the 2 pitfalls where I didn’t say what to do instead… I’d say don’t do auto-DMs, period, unless you can make them funny so the recipients enjoy them. A personal DM is much more appropriate if you’re seeking to build relationships. I’m also not a fan of auto-response tweets, because it can easily come off so wrong. Twitter is a great avenue for social customer service, and those cases need to be handled individually. An auto-response, especially one that’s really out of tune with the original tweet, defeats the whole purpose of social customer service.

    I hope this helps!

  • Yes, it’s true. Social media automation has many benefits but we must remember it has many drawbacks too. Knowing the benefits and pitfalls of social media automation allows you to better decide if such method is right for your business. By being aware of the two, any business can increase their social media effectiveness.